Ilfracomb, or Ilfordcomb, is one hundred and eighty-six miles from London. A populous, rich, trading sea-port, especially with herrings, in the Bristol Channel. Noted for maintaining constant lights to direct the sailors; for its convenience of building and repairing ships; and for the safe shelter ships from Ireland find here, when it is extremely dangerous for them to run into the mouth of the Taw, which they call Barnstaple Water; and this is one reason why the Barnstaple merchants do so much of their business at this port.
The harbour, with its quay, warp-house*, light house, pilot boats and tow boats was formerly maintained at the expense of the ancestors of the lord of the manor; and then it had a quay or pier, eight hundred and fifty feet long, but, by time, and the violence of the sea, all went to decay; for remedy of which, the parliament passed an act in 1731 for both repairing and enlarging the piers, harbour &c.
The town is governed by a mayor, bailiffs &c, though it never sent members to parliament. Its market is on Saturday. The parish is large, containing several tythings and manors. It is a pleasant and convenient place for bathing, and much resorted to by the gentry for that purpose.
The following are the principal inhabitants:
Down, Lieutenant Edward, Royal Navy
Clark, Isaac, Surgeon and Apothecary
Blackmore, William, rope maker
Eames, Richard, anchor smith
Higher, William, grocer & corn factor
Lee, James, Merchant and ship builder
Lock, Walter, merchant and ship builder
Lovering, William, soap boiler and tallow chandler
Sutton, John, Innholder and maltster
Walters, S. boat builder & block maker
Sir Bouchier Wrey has built a summer house close to the sea-shore, on an high point near the bay, from whence there is a very extensive prospect of the ocean. Near the rocks is plenty of white samphire**.
A little to the eastward of Ilfordcomb lies Comb Martin or, according to the custom of this county, as it is sometimes called, Martin's Comb, so named from its ancient owners, the Martins; which at present has only a cove for boats but is very capable of being improved. It is chiefly remarkable for a lead mine discovered in the reign of Edward I, and out of the contents of which considerable quantities of silver were extracted; but by degrees, or through ill- management, it was in no time exhausted. However, in the reign of Edward III, it was again wrought, and that to larger profit than before. In some short space after this, through the civil wars between the houses of York and Lancaster, these works were discontinued, but revived with stronger hopes in the reign of Queen Elizabeth by Sir Bevis Bulmer, a skilful engineer, in great credit with that princess. Mr. Bushel, who valued himself on being servant and pupil to the famous Lord Bacon, made some proposals for recovering it a fourth time, a little before the Restoration; and towards the close of the last century it was actually opened, with mighty expectations but with little effect.