Special award for iconic Ilfracombe sketcher

Joseph Bulmer

A special Pride in Ilfracombe award was presented by the Mayor of Ilfracombe to Reverend Jim Bates as a going away present on Monday to recognise his services to the neighbourhood and his iconic drawings of it!

Presented the day before his departure from Ilfracombe, the award described “his inspirational insights into the history of our town ensuring a detailed and well-loved record of our architecture is available to all.”

Reverend Bates is a well-known figure in Ilfracombe, active in the church, a stalwart of the Civic Society and member of the University of the 3rd Age - but his interest in Ilfracombe began with the love of a girl!

“It all started when I fell in love with a schoolmaster’s daughter from Woolacombe more than 60 years ago,” he said at the ceremony.

“The ‘girl’ - now his wife for more than half a century - was Jean Bidgood. Jean was studying at the College of Art in Bristol when they first met and her book detailing the history of Mortehoe and Woolacombe sparked his interest in the architecture of the area.

After being chaplain at a college campus in Wimbledon, the couple retired to Ilfracombe in 1989 and the first of Jim’s pencil drawings of one of Ilfracombe’s buildings was born.

This was the first of 50 drawings together with historical and architectural narrative to appear in the town’s Focus magazine. He published a book - Ilfracombe Buildings - which deputy mayor, Councillor John Swan described as a legacy for the town.

“So much of Ilfracombe’s history would have been lost if Jim hadn’t taken the time over the years to document these buildings.” he said.

Presenting the award, the Mayor, Councillor Donovan said: “You have done so much to highlight our town’s outstanding architecture and will leave a large gap in the community.”

A second book More Ilfracombe Buildings is due to be published imminently and can be purchased from Kingsley Printers, Ilfracombe Book Shop, Ilfracombe Museum and the Tourist Information Centre.