Devon coastal gothic house on national Endangered Buildings list 2024

St Martins (formerly Roslyn Hoe), Ilfracombe, Devon Grade II, WM Robbins of Ilfracombe, 1880


A fine Grade II villa in Ilfracombe is on The Victorian Society’s Top Ten Endangered Buildings list 2024 that has been launched by Griff Rhys Jones, the Society’s President. The building needs urgent restoration to preserve its historic structure.

Griff Rhys Jones, Victorian Society President, said: ‘In a desperate housing environment this house deserves to be a house and a dwelling for a new family or families. I hope that the owners see sense here. Don’t let one of the pages of the story of Ilfracombe be wiped through indifference and neglect.’

This Gothic coastal villa, designed by a local architect, stands as one of Ilfracombe’s finest houses and is notable for its fine decorative detail. Built speculatively on a plot bought by a local builder, Roslyn Hoe, as it was originally called, represents the growing popularity of new coastal bathing resorts following the expansion of railway links. As early as 1885 it began to serve as a small school for girls with Mrs Walcott Harris, formerly of Brighton, advertising in the Western Morning News for 8 young ladies. She added that “Delicate girls” could “be received for change of air by special arrangement.” By the 1930s St Martins had become a small hotel.


St Martins (formerly Roslyn Hoe) c1880 to 1890s Photo © : Ilfracombe Museum

St Martins was described as an ‘exercise in symmetry’ by later local architect Alan Hussell and is one of the best houses in this most exclusive part of this charming town. The Wesleyan owners in the 1930s were related to Mr Hussell, who appreciated its fine design.

The building’s condition since the last owner’s passing has been concerning local civic groups, and the lack of regular maintenance is beginning to tell on the fabric. The Society encourages the owners of the property to consider selling the property if they no longer feel able to bear the responsibility and cost of upkeep of what is undoubtedly a substantial building. Ilfracombe has been identified by newspapers’ property sections as the next St Ives, and given the building’s enormous charm, a sale seems perfectly conceivable.

James Hughes, Director of the Victorian Society, said: ‘The poor condition of this splendid High Victorian house is a cause for profound concern. Examples of domestic architecture of this date and particular quality are rare and of national importance.’

Torrs Park Ilfracombe c1880 to 1890s 2 Photo credit copyright Ilfracombe Museum

Torrs Park Ilfracombe c1880 to 1890s 2 Photo credit copyright Ilfracombe Museum

The full Top Ten list can be read here and includes a requisitioned school where author Vera Brittain nursed during WWI, the last of one of the world’s first purpose-built amusement parks, a banqueting hall for the workers, one of the first tennis pavilions in the world, and a building where the first £1m cheque was signed. The listed buildings include a Scheduled Monument and two Grade II*- listed buildings

The list is based on public nominations from across England and Wales, and the buildings selected represent industrial, religious, domestic, and civic architecture from across the nation with unique historical and community significance and value. Nominated buildings must be dated between 1837 and 1914. The Victorian Society has announced its list of Top Ten Endangered buildings fourteen times.

June 1862 Ilfracombe advert Photo credit Ilfracombe Museum

Extract from the North Devon Journal, June 1862, an advertisement for ‘Eligible building sites, for detached and other residences, at this healthy and attractive watering place, may now be obtained on the property named Torrs Park’.

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