Although documented in written records dating back to 1416,
it is believed that St. Nicholas Chapel was built around 1321
when Walter Stapleton (who was the Bishop of Exeter) ordered
the Parish Church to the enlarged. In 1416 records state that
Bishop Stafford licensed a gentleman called Hugh Herie, Rector
of Ilfracombe, to celebrate mass at the chapel.
it's life it has served many different purposes. During the
middle ages for example, the chapel may well have been used
as a refuge for local residents when pirates based at Lundy
island threatened. Furthermore, pilgrims who were travelling
by sea to the Shrine of St. Nectan at Hartland may well have
taken shelter at the chaptel (in 1419 Bishop Lacey granted
indulgence of 40 days to pilgrims to the chapel).
Nicholas Chapel was Secularised at the Reformation and subsequently
became a 'dwelling' house but was used primarily as a lighthouse.
Between 1835 and 1871 the lighthouse keeper John Davie not
only lived there, but also raised a family over over 10 children,
their 14th being noted in the Births' column of the May 30th,
1849 edition of the 'North Devon Journal'. It read: "May
29th at St. Nicholas Chapel Lighthouse, Lantern Hill, Ilfracombe,
the wife of Mr. John Davie, or a daughter, fourteenth child.
Two of them in the Churchyard lie and two are gone to sea,
and ten of these olive plants are round about his table, with
flattering prospects of an indefinite increase."
Sadly, in the late 19th century
blasting work in connection with the building of a new pier
made the chapel inhabitable. It was still made useful however
and was used as a reading room, a laundry and also a practice
room for the Band of the Artillery Volunteers. However, after
the Second World War the chapel fell into disrepair
Ilfracombe Rotary Club soon
restored the building however, completing work in 1962. Today
it is reputed to be the oldest working lighthouse in the UK
- a beacon has shone from it for over 650 years!
Currently, no paranormal stories are known in connection with
the chapel. If you know of any then please get in touch either
by email or the message forum. Thank you!
St. Nicholas Chapel is small and tranquil with fabulous views.
Here are a selection of photos taken during Mike's visit.
The imposing St. Nicholas Chapel standing atop Lantern Hill.
This is a side-view of the chapel.
Looking up at the chapel, showing Lantern Hill under it.
The entrance to the chapel.
The old Chapel Stoup.
The second entrance as seen through the doorframe into the
This is the main chapel area.
Looking down to the altar.
The living area complete with the original fireplace.
The steps that carry up to the beacon.
"We hope you enjoyed your visit..."
This is a view of the dramatic Ilfracombe coastline from the
This is the other view from the chapel, showing the harbour
How to get there:
Ilfracombe is easy to find as it's right up on the North Devon
coast. There are a number of carparks in the area that're
all within walking distance to the chapel (including one right
at the base). Travel past the harbour towards the Aquarium
and Harbour Masters office and you can't miss it.
Ordinance Survey Map Reference:
- The Wikipedia Entry