In July 1907 the magazine London Society published a long anonymous article on Ilfracombe.
It began ‘Since I was here last a vast hotel has sprung up like Aladdin’s palace. It is one of the most magnificent of its kind, and of an imposing magnitude for a little town like Ilfracombe.’
It was described in glowing terms; its dining room was ‘vast’, its drawing room ‘delightful’ and its prices ‘moderate’.
Sadly the writer then went on to say ‘It must be owned that in itself the town of Ilfracombe is not of the most cheering and attractive kind’ with its main street apparently consisting of ‘second rate inns’ and ‘shops moderately good’.
Add to this the smallness of the public baths and ‘public reading rooms not over well supplied with periodicals’ and one clearly gets the impression of seediness. The only saving grace were the many churches and chapels.
They in fact end their list of shortcomings with the memorable sentence ‘Ilfracombe is not a gem set in a rude casket, but it is something rude and unformed set in the loveliest and most glorious of caskets’.
This being the surrounding countryside with its breath-taking views.
One oddity that has probably now declined was the importance placed on natural history the writer noting ‘Socially it is everything here. You are hardly fit to live unless you know everything about anemones’.
Every house was said to have its aquarium and there was laver on every table if the writer is to be believed.
After a day of beachcombing for specimens to fill their aquariums Edwardians apparently liked nothing better than a stroll around Capstone Hill ‘which is the joy and delight of the people of Ilfracombe’.
Also highly recommended were the local beaches with the writer commenting on the beauty and utility of the ‘Tunnel’ leading to two coves, segregated by sex.
The article finishes with a very contemporary-sounding discussion as to how the hoteliers and shopkeepers of the town were trying to extend the ‘season’ all through the year.
The writer reckoned that they shouldn’t hide the fact that strong winds were common - rather they should be made much of and referred to as ‘bracing’ in advertisements!
So ended this account - clearly he found both good and bad points about Ilfracombe - one wonders what he would write today if he could somehow return 110 years on?