St Nicholas Chapel Ilfracombe

St Nicholas Chapel

Located on Lantern Hill in Ilfracombe, St Nicholas Chapel originates from the 14th century.  The current tower dates back to around 1800.  It is reputed to be the oldest continuously exhibited light in the country.

Ilfracombe has the largest harbour in North Devon, although parts of it dry out at low water.  The western entrance is dotted with rocky outcrops presenting a hazard to navigation.

St Nicholas Chapel was built in 1321 by order of the Bishop of Exeter, Walter Stapleton. It was built on the summit of Lantern Hill as a place of worship for mariners and was named after the patron saint of sailors.

The chapel ceased use as a chapel in 1540 when the monasteries were dissolved by Henry VIII.

Lantern Hill Chapel

A light may have been exhibited from the chapel from about 1650.  A light was also displayed at its western end to warn of the rocks near the harbour entrance.

Trinity House took over the light and added a lantern to the roof in 1819.  The light was later converted to gas power.  The 37 feet high lantern displays a green flashing light.

John Davie was the Lighthouse Keeper between 1835 and 1871 and lived at the chapel with his wife and fourteen children.  The chapel was also used as a reading room during this time.

St Nicholas Chapel fell into disrepair after the Second World War.  The local Rotary Club restored it in 1962 and it is now open to the public between Easter and October. They continue to staff it as custodians, although North Devon Council own and maintain the chapel.

St Nicholas Ilfracombe

Ilfracombe Harbour also has lights on the North and South Promenade Piers and Inner Pier Head.  Leading lights are located on the southeastern end of the harbour.

Established: 1819 (current tower)
Tower Height: 11 metres
Light Character: Fl (2) G 5 s
Light Range: 6 miles
Elevation: 39 metres