Ilfracombe came to national prominence as a tourist resort in the middle years of the 19th century – a development that was cemented by the construction of the Ilfracombe Hotel.
Opened in May 1867 it allowed the town to ‘boast of a building which for size, sumptuousness, and convenience of arrangement is not surpassed by any of the monster hotels in the kingdom’.
The building was 150 feet long, had 210 rooms and was of coloured brick ‘constructed in the French Gothic style’ to plans by C Horne, a London architect.
Entering the main doorway you would see the ‘telegraph office’ which ‘in the present day of rapid communication’ was ‘an almost indispensable convenience’.
Also on the ground floor was a large bar, a ‘gorgeously decorated and handsomely finished’ restaurant and a vast ‘Coffee Room’ decorated in green and gold with crimson borders, the colour scheme being set off by ‘immense burnished chandeliers’ which gave ‘quite a brilliant appearance to the room’.
There were two kitchens with a 25-foot-long cooking range along with baking ovens, a scullery, a ‘confectionery department fitted with stone slabs’ and massive steam boilers.
Running off from the restaurant was ‘an elegant series of Ladies’ Rooms’ decorated in ‘drab and gold, blocked with crimson which is relieved by pink and blue ornaments’.
Ladies had their own dining room and their Drawing Room was ‘fitted up most luxuriously’ with ‘a piano, chess tables and other requisites of modern refinement’.
In addition to these rooms there was a smoking room, a library and a reading room. The bedrooms were equally comfortable where ‘another luxury of modern times is provided – capacious hot and cold water baths’ which were ‘always available for use’.
If you couldn’t manage the stairs ‘two powerful lifts’ were available.
The hotel sounds an amazing place, but sadly as times changed and tourist destinations altered so the Ilfracombe Hotel fell on hard times.
It eventually fell into such disrepair that it became unsafe and was demolished in 1976 - a sad end to such a confident expression of Victorian values.