This file contains details of the following names: click on a name to go straight there:-
Beacon Point Bear Pit Beara Blythe's Cove Bowden Brimlands Broadstrand Beach Buggy Pit Cable Pit Chambercombe Comyn Donkey Island Fishing Rock Haggington Hele Hillsborough Hockey Lane Hole Ilfracombe Joe Moon's Keypit Killicleave Kitstone Hill Larkstone Littleton Pig's Gut Rapparee Rillage Point Samson's Bay Slew Swallows Hole Tom Norman's Hole Trayne Warmscombe Widmouth Winsham Yarde
Beacon Point is about half a kilometre north of Hele at the northern tip of Hillsborough. Although now closed to the public it can still be reached off the South West Coastal Path just past Blythe's Cove. There was a Artillery battery here from 1876-1914 and there were paths, all now gone, down to Blythe's Cove, Broadstrand Beach and through Joe Moon's. The area is very overgrown and subject to coastal erosion; half of the battery's gun platform has fallen into the sea together with one of the gun-mounting rails.
A beacon here is the most likely origin of the place name. A possible beacon is the metal pole (still there) upon which a red flag was shown when the battery was in use, but the name may predate the battery. There is a Light House shown here on Greenways' map of 1827, but this is probably an error and meant to refer to Lantern Hill.
Roughly in the centre of the battery complex is what appears to be a simple kiln. This could have been used to make lime for the battery but it does seem to be older. It is too small and inaccessible to burn lime for agricultural use and may have been used as a beacon, rather than a kiln, to aid vessels navigate into Ilfracombe harbour.
A Light Ho. is shown at the tip of Hillsborough on Greenwoods' map of 1827. This is probably an error and meant to refer to Lantern Hill which is not shown as a light house, although it is so marked on the Ordnance Survey maps of 1809 and 1889.
Beacon Point is so-called on the first detailed OS map of 1889.This map shows the Volunteer Battery complex and marks an F.S. (firing signal?) beside the top of the old path to Broadstrand Beach, where there is still a metal pole - the Volunteers are said to have flown a red flag on this pole when the battery was in use.
One derivation of Old English bēacn meaning 'sign, portent or ensign' is the Middle English usage meaning "Any conspicuous object, as a lighthouse etc., placed upon the coast or at sea, to warn or direct" (SOED 1987 Vol.1 p 168)
The Bear Pit is a small quarry about half a kilometre from Hele on the right hand side of Watermouth Road just before the Coastguard cottages. It was quarried for limestone, probably burnt in kilns on Rillage. The origin of the place name is unknown but by local tradition, travelling bears were sometimes shown there.
Bear Pit is shown as Quarry (not Old Quarry) on the OS map of 1891, but is not named.
The small quarry on the main road, nearly opposite the Coastguards, is known as Bear Pit and is said to have been used to show 'performing bears'. (A Galliver)
Beara farm is about half a kilometre to the south-east of Hele, just off the old road from Hele to Berrynarbor. Beara, along with West Haggington and possibly Little Town, probably belonged to the Saxon Manor of West Haggington. In 1408 Beara was probably occupied by Michael atte Beare. The origin of the place name is Old English bearu, meaning 'a grove', and is very common in Devon with over 100 examples found in early documents. Many smaller local settlements have a descriptive name with a Saxon origin, for example Hele, Bowden, Trayne, Hole and Slew.
Beera is so-called on the OS map of 1809; Greenwoods' map of 1827; Ilfracombe Tithe Map 1839 (Transcription Beera, Owner John Huxtable, held by John Read, part in hand to John Gammon); Berra or Beara in the 1851 Census; and Beara on the first detailed OS map of 1889.
Beera was probably the home of Michael atte Beare (1408 Ass) v. Bearu (Gover et al 1932 p 48)
"The constantly recurring beer, which is found in the varying forms bera, berah, beer, bear and bere. It enters into the names of only seven parishes, Aylesbeare, Beer (E Devon), Beer Ferrers, Kentisbeare, Loxbere, Rockbeare and Shebbear; but it is found in at least eighty other instances in every part of the county. ...The word is plainly the Saxon beera, 'a grove'" (Worth 1888 p 293)
"Bearu in the forms Beara, Beare, Beer(e), etc., is very common in Devon (as common as wudu) and one of its most characteristic place name elements. Over 100 examples are found in early documents. The same element, with similar phonological development, but in far less frequent use, is found in Somerset, Dorset and E Cornwall." (Gover et al 1932 p 675)
Blythe's Cove is about half a kilometre north of Hele on the north-east side of Hillsborough. It can be accessed from Hele Beach at low tide, although there used to be a path, now gone, down from Beacon Point. It is said to be named after a local Gentleman who enjoyed sun-bathing here in the early 19th century. This may refer to Richard Bligh who lived at Quayfield House in 1851 (which later became the Cliffe Hydro) and was a local benefactor. The Ilfracombe Gazette of 1895 refers to Bligh's Cove and the place name may have been wrongly spelt when it was put onto the 1889 Ordnance Survey map.
In the 1839 Ilfracombe Tithe, Richard Bligh held Larkstone Cottage Summer house & garden from Catherine Copner (Ilfracombe Museum); In 1850 Bligh, R Esq, lived at Castle House (Genuki 1850 White's Devonshire Directory): In the 1851 Census Richard Bligh lived at Keyfield House and was a "landed proprietor of houses etc" (Ilfracombe Museum).
Blythe's Cove is so-called on the first detailed OS map of 1889 and from Beacon Point (now closed to public access) the map shows two northern paths, one down to the beach at Blythe's, now gone, and the other, after a scramble, to the north-west of Blythe's which provides access to Fishing Rock.
"Bathing for gentlemen may also be had at Hele Beach and in a quiet cove named Bligh's Cove, at the eastern side of Hillsborough Hill, but there are no attendants or any conveniences at these latter, and is not perhaps desirable that strangers to the locality, unless expert swimmers, should use them. The usual regulations with regard to bathing at open beaches is in force at Ilfracombe" (The Ilfracombe Gazette & Observer June 1st 1895, from typed copy in Hillsborough folder, Ilfracombe Museum)
"Blythe's Cove took its name from a Capt. Blythe who lived in Ilfracombe and who used to bathe at that part of the coast at all seasons of the year. He was a prominent local gentleman, and it is fitting that this cove, bearing his name should perpetuate his memory." (Ilfracombe Chronicle Sept. 1st 1933 p 6)
"Quayfield House was situated on Hillsborough Road next to Castle House. In the 1851 census it was the home of Richard Bligh and his wife Anne who gave the land for St Philip and St James’ Church" (Pullen & Harding 2003 p 116) Caption to photo of Quayfield House before it became the Cliffe Hydro.
"Richard Bligh, described as a landed proprietor of houses, and his wife Ann, provided Score church and burial ground in 1855" (Pullen & Harding 2003 p 79)
Bowden Farm is to the south-west of Hele, between Comyn Hill and Shield Tor, just off the Old Barnstaple Road from Ilfracombe. The 1889 Ordnance Survey map shows that it was approached along the (presumably sarcastically) named Featherbed Lane. It was probably once part of the Saxon Manor of Ilfracombe.
The 1889 Ordnance Survey map shows Bowden to the west of an elongated oval group of fields which include Shield Tor and extend east to below Killicleave farm. Bowden is probably from Old English boga, meaning 'curved' and dun meaning 'hill', no doubt a reference to the topography around Shield Tor. The first element of the name is common in Devon place names; where it is used 17 times with dun and 13 times with wudu. Many smaller local settlements have a descriptive place name with a Saxon origin, for example Hele, Beara, Hole, Trayne and Slew.
Bowden is shown on OS 1809 map and Greenwoods' 1827 map, but is not named. Called Bowden on the 1839 Ilfracombe Tithe map (transcription: Bowden is owned by William Vye and held by John Tucker); In the 1841 Census Bouden is occupied by John Tucker & family; Called Bowden in the 1851 census; Bowden farm and Featherbed Lane are so-called on the OS map of 1891. The field boundaries indicate that the main road may have once taken an alternative route to Ilfracombe south of Shield Tor and past Bowden.
"Bowden is Northbughedon 1262 FF, Lyttell Bowden 1503 Ipmv. Bowden supra 37" (Gover et al 1932 p 48)
"Bowden [in Braunton] is Boghedon 1333 SR(p), cf Bowden (Ch), DB Bogadone. The first element is very common in Devon place names. It is found 17 times with dun, 13 times with wudu and occasionally with bearu, clif, cumb, hyll, mor, weg. It is noteworthy that in every case the second element is some word denoting a natural feature, not a place of habitation, so that we should look for a descriptive term rather than a personal name as the source of the first element. Bow (infra 315) and Bow (Mx,Wo) clearly contain the OE boga, 'bow, arch, curve', probably with reference in each case to an arched bridge. Probably we have this word also in most or all of the above-noted compounds, the meaning being 'curved, well-rounded, or arched' according to the significance of the following word. The frequency of the element in Devon place names need not be surprising to those acquainted with the topography of the County." (Gover et al 1932 p 37)
"Bowden [in Berrynarbor] is Bowedon 1270 Ass 'curved hill'. (Gover et al 1932 p 28)
Brimlands playing fields are about a third of a kilometre west of Hele, on the southern slopes of Hillsborough. They are bordered to the north by the Iron Age promontory fort on Hillsborough and to the south by the main road from Ilfracombe to Combe Martin. The playing fields were levelled in the 1930's; before that the land was arable and was known as Brimlin's Fields. A building on the site of the current pavilion was called Brimland Barn on the first detailed Ordnance Survey map of 1889.
The first element of the place name probably comes from the Middle English meaning of brim, the "border, margin, edge or brink, as of the sea or any piece of water". Another possibility is from brimble, local dialect for bramble, but the fields here were probably cultivated until recently (Gosse wrote in 1853 that the fields were then growing corn).
"Down the slope of the Quay fields, over the rustic bridge that strides the deep road leading to Larkstone cove, between hedges full of blossom, on which the gay tortoise-shell butterfly is fluttering, and scores of banded and yellow snails are crawling, and along the foot-path through the corn beside Brimlin's Fields to the high road" (Gosse 1853 p 129)
Brimland Barn is so-called on the OS map of 1891, where the rugby and cricket pavilion is now.
The original Middle English use of brim is "The border, margin, edge or brink, as of the sea or any piece of water" (SOED 1987 Vol.1 p238)
Linn (and lin) Cornish, 1 A waterfall; 2 A pool, especially into which a cataract falls 1577; 3 A ravine 1799 (SOED 1987 Vol 1 p 1219)
Broadstrand Beach is about half a kilometre north of Hele on the north-west side of Hillsborough. It was created by a massive landslip in 1851, when the side of Hillsborough facing the harbour fell into the sea. The 1889 Ordnance Survey map names Broadstrand Beach and Swallows Hole and shows a path down to the beach from Beacon Point (the lower part has since eroded and the path is closed).
Strand is an Old English word meaning 'the shore between high and low water'. Since this is also the meaning of the later usage of the word beach, then Broadstrand Beach should perhaps more properly be called Broadstrand.
"This hill affords an instructive example of the formation of a shingle beach. About two years ago, one winters night, the inhabitants of the town were affrighted by a tremendous and unaccountable noise, and in the morning perceived that a large portion of old Hillsborough had fallen.... A wide beach was formed by the debris settling itself into the sea; the projecting rocks are quite covered by it; and the fragments of the fallen mountain are already worn into round and smooth pebbles by the rolling surf" (Gosse 1853 p 266-7)
Broadstrand Beach is so-called on the first detailed OS map of 1889. There is a path shown down to Broadstrand from Beacon Point, now closed due to erosion.
One of the meanings of Old English strand is "that part of a shore which lies between the tide marks" (SOED 1987 Vol 2 p 2144)
One of the meanings of beach is "The shore of the sea, the strand; specifically the part lying between high- and low-water mark" (SOED 1987 Vol 1 p 168)
The Buggy Pit is just over half a kilometre north of Hele, about 100 yards off the right hand side of Hele Beach. It can often be seen in rough weather looking like a large stationary wave running from east to west and is where a ridge of rocks come relatively close to the surface, causing some strange currents. Sailing vessels under full sail and with a favourable wind have been known to be stranded here until the tide changes. I have no idea why it is called the Buggy Pit; one meaning of buggy is a type of boat fitted with wheels, another meaning is a plough fitted with a seat.
Buggy Pit Overfalls are so-called on the OS map of 1809.
"Out there, a mile up-channel, is a nasty place called Buggy Pit, where the chart shows overfalls, that is, a fierce tide-rip over a rocky bottom only submerged two fathoms. I shall never forget watching from this point, the Capstone, the Old ketch Maude, sailed by her owner, Cap’t Stoneman as she headed westwards bound for Appledore one day in 1920. She had all sail set, including a huge brown foresail boomed out to port, for a good easterly breeze was in her favour. She must have been going through the water, laden, at four knots, yet she stood still, like a ship in a glass case; and there she remained for a full hour, for the flood tide was running eastwards, and that was at four knots too. Gradually the tide slackened, and the Maude was free to forge ahead for home" (Boyle & Payne 1952 p 198)
One meaning of overfall is "A turbulent surface of water with short breaking waves, caused by a strong tide or current setting over a submarine ridge or shoal, or by the meeting of contrary currents" (SOED 1987 Vol 2 p 1481)
One meaning of buggy is "a plough having a seat for the ploughman to ride on" (SOED 1987 Vol 1 p 248). The Buggy Pit does sometimes look like a giant ploughed furrow.
One meaning of buggy is "a boat made so that wheels can be fastened to it, for use on land" (SOED Vol 1 p 248).
The Cable Pit, just to the west of the Coastguard cottages, is so-called because there is said to have been a cable here to bring limestone up from West Haggington Beach.
Cable Pit is shown as a Quarry (not Old Quarry) on the OS map of 1891, but is not named.
A quarry near the Bear Pit, between the SW Coast Path and the sea, used to be called Cable Pit and there is said to have been a cable here to bring limestone up from Haggington Beach (A Galliver)
Chambercombe Manor is just under a kilometre to the south of Hele, in the bottom of Hele valley. It is accessed by road from the Thatched Inn along Chambercombe Lane and through Chambercombe Woods. Chambercombe Manor is a historic house open to the public and there are several legends associated with the Manor: Lady Jane Grey, Queen for nine days, is said to have stayed there; in 1865 a skeleton was supposedly found concealed in a 'hidden chamber' and there is said to be a smuggler's tunnel to the beach.
The place name probably dates back to c1160 when Ilfracombe Manor was split into two and the Champernon's, were granted Hele Manor and the Borough Manor of Ilfracombe. Tristram Risdon wrote in 1630 that "the manor of Ilfracombe anciently belonged to the Chambernons, who had a seat in this parish, called Chambernon's Wike" (wike is presumably the same as wick, meaning dwelling place or hamlet). It appears that Chambercombe came from Champernon's Combe.
The manor of Ilfracombe anciently belonged to the Chambernons, who had a seat in this parish, called Chambernon's Wike. (Risdon 1811 p 430)
Wick - Now only local. [OE wic] 1 An abode, dwelling, dwelling-place - ME 2 A town, village or hamlet. obs or dial. - OE (SOED 1987 Vol 2 p 2545)
Chambercombe is so-called on the first OS map of 1809; Underdowne on Greenwoods' 1827 map; Chambercombe on the 1840 Ilfracombe Tithe map; Chambercombe and Chambercombe Lane on the first detailed OS map of 1889.
"Chambercombe is Champernounyscomb 1439 Exon, Chambercomb 1525 AOMB and is to be associated with the family of Henry de Chambernon (1321 Exon), probably a descendent of the Oliver de Campo Ernulfi whose heirs held the manor of Ilfracombe in 1242 (Fees 784)" (Gover et al 1932 p 46)
"The Manor was established by the Champernon family, from whom the name probably derives. Combe is the Devon dialect for valley; so the original is probably Champernon's Combe, shortened, at some point, to Champercombe and then, for ease of pronunciation, to Chambercombe." (Wheeler p 1)
1162 - Sir Henri Champernowne has Chambercombe Manor (IMN 2000 p 2)
Comyn farm is about a kilometre south of Hele, near Chambercombe Manor. It is beside the river crossing of Cat Lane and Chambercombe Lane, which may have originated as a wet-weather route used when the stream was flooded lower down the valley. To the south of Comyn farm are Comyn Woods and some fields called Yarde (from Saxon gyrt, meaning an area of cultivated land). Comyn Hill is a kilometre or so to the west, beside the Old Barnstaple Road.
Comyn farm was called Common on the Ordnance Survey map of 1809 and on the 1839 Ilfracombe Tithe map, it is likely that this was the original spelling, and probably the original meaning. It is possible that when Chambercombe Manor was built sometime after 1160, the existing farm became the common farm, i.e. that farmed by the villagers for their own benefit, as opposed to the demesne farm of the Manor.
Common is so-called on the OS map of 1809; It is shown (slightly too far south), but not named, on Greenwoods' 1827 map; Called Common on the 1839 Ilfracombe Tithe map (transcription Common House etc owned by Nathaniel Vye, held by Richard Jewell); In the 1851 Census Common Farm is still occupied by Richard Jewell; Comyn farm, Comyn Woods and Comyn Hill are so-called on the OS map of 1891.
"Passing the farm house at Chambercombe, the visitor can extend his walk to Common Farm, which is situated at the spur dividing two valleys, each of which forms a pleasant ramble for the lover of quiet sylvan scenery. The walk to Chambercombe and Common may be varied on the return by taking the lane on the right - just at the farm yard of the latter, which leads to the hamlet of Hele, thence home by turnpike road." (Walters 1884 p 31-32)
One meaning of common (from kọmən, partly representative of French commune and Medieval Latin communa, communia; partly Latin commune) is "A common land or estate; the undivided land held in joint occupation by a community" (SOED 1987 Vol 1 p 379)
Donkey Island is a large outcrop to the north-east of Hele Beach, about half a kilometre north-east of Hele. It is not really an island at all, but is topographically slightly separate from the mainland. The 1889 Ordnance Survey map shows a path up to Donkey Island from the beach below, now gone. Donkey Island is so-called because the local families kept donkeys here in the late 19th century. The donkeys were used to carry laundry and pull donkey-chairs for tourists.
The 1889 OS map does not name Donkey Island, but does show a path up from the beach, now gone. The path was still used after WW2, but its use lessened from 1904 when the new sewer outflow made access to the path difficult.
"Donkey Island was so called because the old washer-women of the village used to leave their donkeys there when not employed in delivering the laundry linen." (Ilfracombe Chronicle Sept. 1st 1933 p 6)
Fishing Rock is about half a kilometre north of Hele, on the north-east side of Hillsborough, near Blythe's Cove. It is frequently used for fishing. It is only accessible at low tide and fishermen often remain on the Rock until the next low tide. Their lights can be seen at night and visitors to the Holiday Park often ask if they should call out the Coastguard to rescue them!
Fishing Rock is so-called on the first detailed OS map of 1889
Fishing is Middle English. Fish is from Old English fisćian, Old Frisian fiskia, Old Saxon fiskon, Old High German fiskôn, Old Norse fiska, Gothic fiskôn (SOED 1987 Vol. 1 p 757)
There are two Haggington's, East and West, either side of the ridgeway to Widmouth Hill, which is also the parish boundary. West Haggington farm is about a kilometre to the south-east of Hele, off the old road to Berrynarbor. West Haggington Beach is on the western side of Rillage Point.
Further along the old road to Berrynarbor, the 1891 Ordnance Survey map records East Haggington, Remains of a Manor House, just to the west of the present East Haggington Farm. The hill overlooking the road down to Berrynarbor is called Haggington Hill and the mill below was Haggington Mill. Both East and West Haggington were Saxon Manors, and both had licensed chapels in Bishop Lacy's register of 1439.
The Doomsday survey suggests that Haggington was once a single Manor, but was divided during the late Saxon period. The name is probably from Old English Hœcga's ton or farm. Many local place names are from Old English, often with a Saxon personal name as their first element, for example Berrynarbor (originally Hurtesburie), Ilfracombe, Campscott, Mullacot, Winsham and Warmscombe.
West Haggington is called Haggington on the OS map of 1809; Lockington on Greenwoods' 1827 map; Haggington on the 1839 Ilfracombe Tithe map (Transcription West Haggington, owned by Pincombe Charity, held by Henry Watts); 1841 Census Haggington occupied by Henry Watts family; West Haggington on the OS map of 1891.
East Haggington is confusingly called West on the OS map of 1809 (Haggington Hill and Haggington Mill are so-called) and Greenwoods' map of 1827; East Haggington is shown slightly to the west of the present East Haggington farm and is marked Remains of a Manor House on the OS map of 1891. This also names Haggington Hill and Haggington Mill.
"Hagi(n)tona 1086 DB (Exon), Haintone (Exch), Haginton(a) 1167 P, west- 1300 Ipm, Est- 1326 Ipm, Haggington 1213 FF, Akinton 1197 FF, Hakynton' 1242 Fees 784, Est Hagyngton 1316 FA. Probably 'Hœcga's farm' v. ingtun. This may, as Blomé suggests, be a pet form for such an OE name as Heardgār. See further PN Wo 292 s.n. Hagley" (Gover et al 1932 p 28)
Hele was first recorded as Hela in the Doomsday survey of 1086. It is a common place name in Devon and comes from the Old English healh, meaning 'sheltered valley'. Hela is the dative form, meaning 'at Hele'. Many smaller local settlements have a descriptive name with a Saxon origin, for example Beara, Bowden, Trayne, Hole and Slew.
The sheltered valley of Hele was probably a couple of kilometres inland, where there are some fields called Yarde on the first detailed Ordnance Survey map of 1889. Yarde is from the Old English gyrt, meaning an area of land of about 30 acres. These fields were almost certainly part of the Saxon settlement of Hele and were probably the demesne land (i.e. worked for the benefit of the Manor). The Saxon Manor may have been nearby, perhaps at Littletown or Comyn farm.
About 100 years after the Norman Conquest, the Champernon's took possession of Hele Manor, which became known as Chambercombe. The name Hele survived in Hillsborough, thought to be from Heles-Burrow. In the early 16th century Helemyll was built in the valley near the sea and in 1525 the miller of Heyle had to pay 12p a year for water. A few cottages were added to the west of the mill around the river crossing. The village expanded northwards to the sea from the early 19th century. In the 1850's the path to the beach was known as Hele Close and the top of Hillside Road was known as Hele Cross.
Helemyll and the miller of the mill of Heyle are mentioned in the 1525 Survey of the holdings of Cecily, Marchioness of Dorset. Hele Cove is so-called on Dunn's map of 1765. Hele (village) is so-called on the first OS map of 1809 and Greenwoods' map of 1827. The 1839 Ilfracombe Tithe map shows Hele Bay (transcription has the addresses Hele Cross, at the top of Hillside Road, and Hele Close, possibly referring to both Beach Road and Hockey Lane); The 1841 Ilfracombe Census refers often to Heale, as does the 1851 Census; Hele Bay, Hele Beach and Hele are shown on the first detailed OS map of 1889.
An engraving of c1850 calls Hele Heal (Ilfracombe Museum, Topographic prints box, ILFCM 8048)
There are three principal historical references to Hele: in Doomsday 1086 (Hela); in 1311 Assize Rolls (unpublished) for Devon (PRO) nos174-181, 188, 189, 191, 192, 193, 195, 196, 198 (Hele); and in 1525 Augmentation Office, Miscellaneous Books (PRO) (Helemyll). Hele or heale is very common in Devon and is occasionally found in Somerset. None of the Devon examples are found in pre-conquest form, but Heale in Curry Rivel (Somerset) is found in a charter of Athelstan in the Muchelney Carthlary in the form (of) East Heale, and this makes it clear that the name goes back to OE [Old English] hēale, the dative singular of healh. Hele would be the natural ME [Middle English] development of this in a stressed syllable, though in an unstressed syllable, with shortening of the vowel, OE hēale might become ME Hale. Elsewhere in England in the fairly numerous places simply called Hale or Hales we have the distinctly Anglian form going back to OE Hāle, without breaking of æ to ea before original lh. In non-Anglian England the hale-forms go back to an unlengthened OE Hěale or are due to the influence of the extremely numerous names with final unstressed -hale. We have a few examples of Hale in Devon. There is a Hale Farm in Honiton infra. 640, which shows curious variation between the specifically Devon types and the more common one found elsewhere. So also we have traces of the hale forms in unstressed syllables in Cripple, Black Hall and Worthele, infra. 170, 304, 274 (Gover et al 1932 p46-7)
"healh - this element is very common. In the uncompounded form Hele, Heale it is of frequent occurrence in the County, far more common than the corresponding form Hale in other parts of England. Two examples have, however, been noted in Cornwall and five in West Somerset. Compounds with healh as the final element are exceedingly rare in Devon, thus reversing the position found in the rest of England, where compound names in healh are far more common than uncompounded ones" (Gover et al 1932 p 678)
Hillsborough is a 447' high promontory between Hele Bay and Ilfracombe. It is crossed by the South West Coastal Path and was declared a Nature Reserve in 1993. The northern tip of the headland is known as Beacon Point and there was a Volunteer Artillery gun battery here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. To the east are some limestone quarries and caves known as Joe Moon's. The inland slope was heavily fortified during the Iron Age when two massive ramparts were built, creating a hill-fort of the type known as a promontory fort or cliff castle.
Hillsborough was said to have been called Elsborrow in 1690. It was called Ellisborough on Donn's map of 1765 and Helesborough on the Ordnance Survey map of 1809. It was almost certainly named after the nearby village of Hele. The 'borough' element is either from burrow or barrow, both used locally to mean 'hill or mound'.
Ellisborough is so-called on the Dunn map of 1765. Helesborough is so-called on the first OS map of 1809. Hillsborough is so-called on Greenwoods' 1827 map. The 1840 Ilfracombe Tithe map calls it Hillsboro' Hill, as does Walters 1884; It is Hillsborough on the first detailed OS map of 1889. On the latter, the Iron Age earthwork (Remains of) is shown on the southern slopes and a tumulus is shown at the summit, now thought to be natural.
"The most remarkable object in this neighbourhood is the noble mountain-mass that forms the eastern headland of the harbour of Ilfracombe. Its name is now spelled and pronounced Hillsborough, but there can be little doubt that the essential part of this word is cognate with Hele, the village that lies at the foot of the hill. The element borough or burrow is commonly found hereabouts in the names of elevated rounded hills, especially such as are tenanted by rabbits. thus we have Saxon's Burrow, at the entrance to Watermouth, and Braunton Burrows; and the word is continually used as an appellative, synonymous with rabbit-warren." (Gosse 1853 p 261)
"Towering over Hele and sheltering it from the winter gales is Hillsborough Hill. This is a favourite walk with tourists to whom it is thrown open, the Local Board having rented it from the owner so that the public may have the privilege of enjoying the glorious panorama from its summit, comprising the Bristol Channel from far below Lundy Island on the west to the Foreland on the east, the Welsh hills northwards, together, with a bird's-eye view of Ilfracombe and the hills surrounding it." (Walters 1884 p 31-32)
Article written about a possible burial cyst was found in 1937 "On Hillsborough is a promontory fort or cliff castle of probable Cornish origin...this finding supports the theory that Hillsborough should more properly be called Hele Barrow as it was known in earlier times. The Donn map of 1765 calls it Ellisborough and the OS 1809 map (first OS for the area) says Helesborough" (Probably either by Mervyn Palmer or J Longhurst, Hillsborough folder, Ilfracombe Museum)
"On Mr Eddy's [clerk to Ilfracombe council] desk were deeds and documents relating to Hillsborough which went back nearly three centuries. In 1690 Hillsborough, then called Elsborrow, was owned by a local resident called Simon Somers. In the 18th century this 50-acre property was conveyed to the Bowen family, a member of which, Miss Elizabeth Bowen, later married the Rev. James May of Marwood." (Undated newspaper cutting, probably from when Hillsborough was Scheduled in 1978, Hillsborough folder, Ilfracombe Museum)
"The Iron Age Celts, known as the Dumnoni, built a defended settlement round the crest of the hill known as Hele-barrow, or burrow - now called Hillsborough" (ICTG 1985-6 p 1)
Burrow, used in local dialect, especially in Cornwall, meaning heap or mound, hillock, from OE beorg, meaning hill. (SOED 1987 p 255)
Barrow, from OE beorg, meaning a mountain, hill or hillock, still in use in local dialect (SOED 1987 p 160)
Hockey Lane was the name of the old coastal path running east from Hele. It led to the edge of Hele Bay Estate, where there were two fields called Oakey in the 1839 Ilfracombe Tithe. The lane was obliterated by the Turnpike road from Ilfracombe to Combe Martin, opened in 1868. This crossed the two fields in a sharp bend, known locally as Hockey Corner. The bend was straightened out in the early 1970's, but the old road is still there.
The Oakey spelling suggests oak trees, which is possible, since the fields are in a little valley (hence the bend in the road), but spellings in the Tithe are often inaccurate. Assuming that it should start with an 'H', then there are two possibilities. It could be from hockey or harvest home, a medieval celebration of the close of the harvest; the last of the harvest was brought home in the hock-cart. Alternatively, and more likely, it is from Old English hok, describing a Mallow or Hollyhock.
The fields either side of Watermouth Road, and Galliver's plot beside the stream, all had the address Hele Close in the 1851 Census, but the fields at the end of what Gosse 1853 called Hockey Road are arable fields called Oakey in the transcription of the Ilfracombe 1839 Tithe, owned by Joseph & Thomas Waters & William Holse, held by Edward Lovering.
"Leaving behind me the pretty little village of Hele, with its neat houses and cottages, its trim gardens sloping up the side of old Hillsborough, and its hedges covered with white garments put out by the laundresses for the benefit of this brilliant sun, - I pass over a brook by a rustic one-arched bridge, and wind up Hockey Lane to the lofty downs. The lane, barely wide enough for a wheelbarrow, has been scarped out of the soft slatey rock; but the ruggedness of its sides is concealed by a profusion of verdure....On the edge of the down at the top of this lane is a limekiln for the burning of the blue limestone which is so rare on this side of the country, but a little vein of which occurs just here in the almost universal grauwacke. Here I stood awhile to look out upon the beautiful Bristol Channel" (Gosse 1853 p 104-5)
"Hock [OE hok, now only in Hollyhock]. A name for malveceous plants, especially the common and marsh mallow and the hollyhock (SOED 1987 Vol 1 p 970)
"Hockey, hawkey, horkey 1555 [Origin and etymological form unknown; cf hock-cart] The feast at harvest-home (local)" (SOED 1987 Vol.1 p 971)
"Hock-cart Now only Hist. 1648 [cf hockey] The cart which carried home the last load of the harvest" (SOED 1987 Vol.1 p 971)
"Harvest-home 1573 1. The fact, occasion or time of bringing home the last of the harvest; the close of the harvesting. Also fig. 1596 2. The festival to celebrate the successful homing of the corn (now rarely held) 1573" (SOED 1987 Vol.1 p 930)
"Hock-day Now only Hist. ME [of unknown origin] The second Tuesday after Easter Sunday (or, according to some, Easter week); an important term day, and, from the 14th century, a popular festival; also plural, including the preceding Monday (SOED 1987 Vol.1 p 970-971)
Hole farm is about one and a half kilometres east of Hele, just off the old road from Hele to Berrynarbour and near the junction with Oxenpark Lane. Hole farm was probably part of the late Saxon Manor of West Haggington, although it may previously have belonged to East Haggington. It may be the site of the first recorded gold mine in the Country, La Hole mine of 1262. In 1330 it was probably the home of John atte Hole.
The name probably comes from Old English hol, describing its position in a hollow. Many smaller local settlements have a descriptive place name with a Saxon origin, for example Beara, Bowden, Trayne, Hele and Slew.
Hole is so-called on the OS map of 1809; Greenwoods' map of 1827; Ilfracombe Tithe map 1839; Hole Beer occupied by John Reed in 1841Census.
Hole was probably the home of John atte Hole (1330 SR) (Gover et al 1932 p 28)
Hole, from Old English hol, the ultimate form of IE (Indo-European) kel, meaning 'cover, conceal' which is the same root as the words hele, hell, helm, hollow. (SOED 1987 p 973)
Holl, from OE hol, meaning 'deeply excavated or depressed; lying in a hollow'. (SOED 1987 p 974)
Hole as a verb, from OE holian, has the following meanings: 1. To make a hole or cavity in 2. To sink (a shaft), drive (a tunnel) through 1798 3. To undercut the coal in a seam so as to release it from the other strata 1829 4. To make a hole, to dig ME. (SOED 1987 p 974)
Holy Trinity church is thought to incorporate the foundations of a Saxon lookout tower and the Saxon Manor of Ilfracombe was probably nearby. It was called Alfreincoma in the Doomsday survey, which is Old English for 'Alfred's valley', although the exact form of the personal name is unclear. Local tradition links the name to Alfred the Great, but it was probably the name of a local lord. Many other local place names have a Saxon personal name as their first element, for example Berrynarbor (originally Hurtesburie), Haggington, Campscott, Mullacot, Winsham and Warmscombe.
Ilfarcomb is so-called on Saxton's map of 1575. Ilfracombe is so-called on Dunn's map of 1765 and on the first OS map of 1809.
"It is conceivable that the name was derived from the Norse illr, bad; Anglo-Saxon yfel, evil and ford; Anglo-Saxon ford-faran, a place where water must be crossed on foot; and combe, Anglo-Saxon cumb, a valley or bottom The valley with the bad ford." (Bowring 1931 p 16)
"Alfreincoma 1086 DB, Alferdingcoma 1167 P, Aufredyncomb 1208 PatR, Alfrede(s)cumbe 1234 C1, 1249 FF, Alfrithecumb 1219 Ass, Aufrithcumbe 1244 Ass, Aufridecumbe 1233 Ch, 1261 Exon (p), 1269 Exon, Alf- 1249 Ass, Aufricum(be) 1244 Ass, 1262-76 Exon, Aufridycombe 1291 Tax, Alfrincumbe 1242 Fees 784, Hilfardescumbe 1244 Ass, Ilfredecumb(e) 1262-76 Exon, 1274 Ipm, 1294 Ass, 1309 Ipm, Ilfridec(o)umbe 1279 Ch,1305 Ipm, Ildefrithecumbe 1290 Ch, Ilfradiscombe 1328 FF, Hilfrincombe 1262-76 Exon, Ilvercombe 1302 C1, Ilfercomb 1480 IpmR, Ylfrycomb 1346 FA, Elvertecombe 1322 C1, Ilfordcomb 1667 Cai, Ilfarcomb vulg. Ilfracomb 1675 Ogilby Probably Alfred’s combe....The exact form of the personal name involved is not certain" (Gover et al 1932 p 46)
"Is it possible that the name Ilfracombe was derived from Norse ILLF (bad), Anglo-Saxon YFEL (evil, ford), Anglo-Saxon FORD=FARAN (a place where water must be crossed on foot) and Anglo-Saxon CUMB (valley or bottom)? In 1724 Daniel Defoe called the Town ILFARCOMB, following the spelling by Speede 1620 map and Ogilby 1675 map" (Longhurst 1978)
"The history of Ilfracombe can be traced back to Anglo-Saxon times. Tradition ascribes the origin of the name to King Alfred the Great. On the authority of Risdon, about a thousand years ago Ilfracombe was known as Alfrincombe or Ilfridscombe" (from Ilfracombe Official guide c 1935 IMN 2000 p 1)
Joe Moon's is a gully about 100 metres long running from east to west about half a kilometre north of Hele on the north-east side of Hillsborough. The gully is parallel to the South-West Coastal Path and although very overgrown and difficult to access, the top can be reached from above Blythe's Cove and the bottom from the beach. The first detailed Ordnance Survey map of 1889 shows a path through Joe Moon's to Beacon Point.
Joe Moon's follows a thin seam of limestone, probably quarried in the 19th century, and burnt in kilns beside the beach. The top of the gully terminates in two unusual caves, where columns of unworked limestone have been left to hold up the roof. The caves are roughly lens shaped, with steeply sloping floors. Although not ancient, they are thought to resemble in shape the early medieval silver mines at Combe Martin. The caves are said to be named after a local character called Joe Moon (or Joan Moon) who ran the lime-burning at Hele.
The only Joe or Joseph Moon I have come across is the 1851 Census: Joseph Moon farm servant, aged 14, at Shelfin Barton
The 1889 OS map shows a path through Joe Moon's (which it does not name) to Beacon Point. This path is still accessible but is difficult.
"There is one big cave under Hillsborough, on the Hele side, which was dug out for lime stone by old Hele worthies, and is known as Joe Moon's Cave. Joe Moon was a well-known local character" (Ilfracombe Chronicle Sept. 1st 1933 p 6)
Joe Moon should actually be Joan Moon, who is said to have run the early lime-burning at Hele. There were 2 Jane Moons in the C18th, from burial records one died 17th August 1758, the other 29th October 1760. It is unknown where they lived but it may have been Winsham. (Jane Hardwick, personal communication 29/1/04)
Keypit farm is about two kilometres to the south and slightly to the east of Hele, off Oxenpark Road. It is currently an attraction specialising in quad bike racing. There are several small quarries shown nearby on the 1891 ordnance Survey map.
It was called Kippit on the 1891 Ordnance survey map but before that it was known as Kibbit. This is probably from Cyppi's (or Cybbi's) pit, or hollow. Many other local place names are from Old English, often with a Saxon personal name as their first element, for example Berrynarbor (originally Hurtesburie), Ilfracombe, Campscott, Mullacot, Winsham and Warmscombe. Another possible, but unlikely, explanation is from Devon dialect where a kibbit is 'a short thick stick, or cudgel', Perhaps it was a good place to find such sticks!
Keypit is called Kibbit on the OS map of 1809; and the 1839 Ilfracombe Tithe, also mentioning Kibbitland, now Butterfly farmhouse (Transcription Kibbit, owned by Pincombe Charity, held by John Chugg, part in hand to Hugh Sloley); Keypit in 1841 Ilfracombe Census (occupied by families John Chugg, Ley and Hoby or Holey); Keypitt in the 1851 Census; Kippit on the OS map of 1891, where there is a quarry slightly to the north and several others nearby.
"Kipscombe [Braunton Hundred] is Kyppescomb 1249 Ass (p), Kybbescomb(e) 1330 SR, 1359 Ass, Kyppyscombe 1492 Ipm. The second element is OE cumb. The first is either Cyppi as demonstrated for Kipson (PN Sx 71) or Cybbi as suggested by Blome." (Gover et al 1932 Vol 1 p 31)
"Kipscott [Witheridge Hundred] is Kippingescota 1235 Bracton, -coth' 1242 Fees 759, Kippyngescot(e) 1281 Ass, 1316 Ipm 'Cyppings's cot(e)' cf Kipscombe." (Gover et al 1932 Vol 2 p 384)
"Luppit [Axminster Hundred] lovapit 1086 DB, Loweputte 1257 Pat, Lovepette 1267 Exon, Loveputte 1267 Abbr, -pytte`1291 Tax, -pitte 1303 FA, Loveputt nowe called Luppitt c 1630 Pole, Luuepuet 1175 P, -pit 1238 Ass, -putte 1334 Pat, Lippitt 1767 Recov. 'Lufa's pit or hollow'." (Gover et al 1932 Vol 2 p 641)
"Warmpit Copse [Teignbridge Hundred] is Warmepitte 1330 SR 'warm hollow' " (Gover et al 1932 Vol 2 p 469)
One meaning of kip is "the hide of a young or small beast (as a calf, a lamb, etc) as used for leather 1530" (SOED 1978 Vol 1 P 1156)
kibbit, a short thick stick, a cudgel, in Devon dialect, referred to in TDA 1939 and William Rock, Jim & Nell, London 1867 (Lamplugh 1999 p 102)
Killicleave farm is one and a half kilometres south of Hele off the New Barnstaple Road, opposite the recycling station. Killicleave Woods are between Killicleave farm and Chambercombe.
The first references are Kellicleave, from a deed of 1734; and Kellecleave, from the Ordnance Survey map of 1809. The second element of the name, cleave, is a local Middle English variation of Old English clif, a steep hill slope. This no doubt relates to the very steep hillside between Killicleave and Chambercombe. The first element is probably from a Saxon personal name, perhaps 'Cylla'. Many other local place names are from Old English, often with a Saxon personal name as their first element, for example Berrynarbor (originally Hurtesburie), Ilfracombe, Campscott, Mullacot, Winsham and Warmscombe.
Kellicleave 1734 deed, v. clif. (Gover et al 1932 p 48)
Kellecleave is so-called on the first OS map of 1809; Killicleave on the Ilfracombe Tithe map 1839 (transcription Killicleave farm, owned by Rev St Vincent Bowen, held by John Bryant, The Hills Killicleave, pasture, held by John Reed); The 1841 Ilfracombe Census has John Bryant's, the Brooks & Nichols families at Killacleave; The 1851 Census called it Killycleave; Called Killicleave farm and Killicleave Wood on OS 1891map
"Kilbury Ho [Stanborough Hundred] is Killebiria t Hy 2 Oliver 135, -byry 13th Buckfast, -byre 1242 Fees 771, Kyllebery, Kilebyre 13th Buckfast, Kellebir' 1275 RH, Kilebury juxta Bokfasteneslegh 1314 Ass 'Cylla's burh'." (Gover et al 1932 Vol 2 p 294)
"Killatree is Kiletre 1242 Fees 775, Killetruwe 1249 Ass, -trewe 1303 FA, Kyletra 1330 SR, Keletre or Kylketre 1492 Ipm, Kelytre t Hy 8 FF 'Cylla's tree' " (Gover et al 1932 Vol 1 p 163)
One meaning of kell is an obsolete form of kiln (SOED 1987 p 1149) One meaning of kill is an obsolete form of kiln (SOED 1987 p 1153). There is no kiln or quarry marked here on the 1840 Tithe map or the OS 1891 map.
Cleve, cleeve from ME cleof, cleove, variation of clif founded on OE cleofu, cleofum (Occasionally erroneously cleave). Frequent in local names (SOED 1987 p 349)
Kitstone Hill is about one and a half kilometres south-east of Hele, near Lower Trayne. The Ordnance Survey map of 1891 shows an Old Quarry just to the south-west of the summit. The place name kitstone probably originates in the quarry, since kit is an obsolete form of cut.
Kitstone Hill is called Kitson Hill on the first OS map of 1809; Transcription of 1839 Ilfracombe Tithe has Kitstone, pasture owned by Pincombe Charity, held by Henry Watts; Kitstone Hill on the OS map of 1891, where an Old Quarry is shown just to the south-west of the summit.
kit, obsolete, infinitive past tense and past participle of cut (SOED 1987 p1157)
Larkstone Beach is about a kilometre to the north-west of Hele, near the entrance to Ilfracombe harbour. There is an old lime kiln here, no doubt serviced from the sea. Coal was delivered here for the Gas Works at Hele until 1962 when the works closed. Nearby are Larkstone Terrace and Laston House.
The earlier spellings show that the origin of the place name is probably from Lastage, one meaning of which is 'ships ballast'. Ballast was required to make up an empty load and was simply dumped when it was no longer required. Larkstone Beach, just outside the harbour, would have been a convenient dumping ground and there are said to be many unusual stones on the beach there.
Lathstone [sic] is so-called on the first OS map of 1809, probably in error. The 1839 Tithe transcription refers to Larkstone; The Ilfracombe 1841 Census has Lastone [house?] and Lastone [cottage?]; The 1851 Census has Lastone House, Larkstone Farm House and Larkstone Cottage; Stewart's map of Ilfracombe from end of 19th century shows Larkstone Kiln, Lastone House and Lastone cottage; Larkstone Beach, Larkstone Lime Kiln, Laston Terrace and Laston House are so-called on the OS map of 1891, where Larkstone Cottage is called Hillsborough Cottage.
"Chambercombe, the site of the mansions of the Champernons erewhile lords of the manor of Ilfracombe, is a beautiful valley, reached by passing along the road at the back of Lastone Terrace (a row of large houses overlooking the harbour), and after reaching a thatched cottage close to the road, taking the first turning to the right." (Walters 1884 p 31-32)
"The word Larkstone is from last stone or lastage stone; that is ballast; and some pretty geological specimens from foreign parts can be found there where ships dumped them long ago" (Boyle & Payne 1952 p201)
Lastage, Middle English 1. A toll payable by traders attending fairs and markets. 2. The ballast of a ship 3. A port duty for liberty to load a ship, levied at so much per last 4. An impost levied on the catch of herrings at so much per last 5. Tonnage 6 Garbage (SOED 1987 Vol 1 p 1180)
Little Town or Littleton farm is about half a kilometre south-east of Hele, between the farms of Comyn and Beara. It may be the site of the original Saxon manor of Hela, or have been part of the Manor of West Haggington. The first element of the place name no doubt comes from its small size relative to its neighbours. The second element, town, is often used in Devon to describe farms near or in a village or hamlet, often the demesne farm itself.
Lit. Town is so-called on the 1809 OS map; Little Town is so-called on the 1840 Ilfracombe Tithe map (Transcription Little Town in hand to Phillip Watts); In the 1841 Ilfracombe census, Little Town is occupied by James Corney; In the 1851 Census James Corney occupied Higher Little Farm and Charles Fisher occupied Lower Little Town Farm; Littletown is so-called on the first detailed OS map of 1889.
"A word may be added in conclusion with regard to the common frequency of town in Devon farm names such as Town Farm (frequent) Southtown, Townsend, etc. These are nearly all found in the immediate neighbourhood of some village or hamlet, in some cases actually inside the village in question" (Gover et al 1932 p675)
Pig's Gut is a gully about half a kilometre north of Hele, just seaward of Joe Moon's gully, on the west side of Hele Beach. Some blast marks suggest that it may may have been quarried or mined.
One explanation for the place name is that pigs were once kept there, which seems unlikely, given that the tide comes right in. I have however heard of pigs being kept at Joe Moon's, which seems much more likely. Another explanation is that good ore, that could be made into 'pigs', was found here; if so, the gully could have been mined for galena, or silver-lead. This is quite possible since Galena has been found on Broadstrand Beach on the other side of Hillsborough.
The gully on the beach next to that leading to Joe Moon’s is called Pig’s Gut, but he doesn’t know of pigs being kept there (A Galliver)
Rapparee Cove is about a kilometre north-west of Hele, between Hillsborough and Ilfracombe. Over a dozen gold coins have been found on the beach here and a large number of human bones were found behind the collapsed wall at the back of the beach. These are thought to come from the transport ship London that was wrecked at the entrance to Rapparee Cove in October 1796.
A rapparee is, loosly, an 'Irish bandit'. Rapparee Cove is traditionally associated with the Earl of Rhone festival in Combe Martin, which celebrates the capture of the Earl of Tyrone, said to have landed at Rapparee Cove in the early 17th century after a failed rebellion in Ireland. However, the Earl is known to have escaped to the continent. Furthermore, a rapparee is more specifically an Irish bandit or irregular soldier 'armed with a half-pike or rapary' and was not used until the 1680's, nearly a hundred years after Tyrone's defeat.
The rapparees of Rapparee Cove were probably the bandits or scoundrels, who landed in Ilfracombe in 1685, after the failure of the Monmouth rebellion, and seized a ship, but when pursued were forced to land at Lynmouth and were later captured on Exmoor. The association with the Earl of Tyrone may be because Ilfracombe provided food and shipping in 1585 for 800 soldiers to fight the Tyrone rebellion.
"The name Raparee Cove, at the entrance of the harbour, and the mock hunting of the Earl of Tyrone, yearly celebrated till within a few years, in the adjoining parish of Combmartin, are to be traced up to the great Irish Rebellion of 1598" (Slade-King 1879 p 167)
It is called Rapary on Greenwoods map (or battery?) - but is shown on the east of Hillsborough rather than the west. Rapparee Cove is so-called on the OS map of 1891
"Rapparee - A wild Irish plunderer, so called from his being armed with a rapary or half-pike (Irish rappire, a robber)" (E Cobham Brewer 1898 The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable Philadelphia, Henry Artemus 1898 and New York, www.bartleby.com 2000)
Rapparee is from Irish rapaire, plural rapairidhe, meaning short pike. 1 A half-pike (rare) 2 "An Irish pikeman or irregular soldier, of the kind prominent during the war of 1688-92; hence, an Irish robber, bandit or freebooter" (SOED 1987 Vol 2 p 1747)
Rillage Point is a coastal promontory about one and a half kilometres north-east of Hele. The Ordnance Survey map of 1891 shows an Old Limekiln (now gone) on top of the headland and there is a limestone quarry to the north-east and another to the south-west beside the Coastal Path. The quarries here are well known for their fossils which date from early in the development of life on earth. The Coastguard cottages were built beside the main road in the early 1930's, ironically placed above a cave which by local tradition is said to have been used by smugglers.
The name Rillage is probably from Norman rilla. There is no stream here, so the meaning is probably a 'narrow trench'. This could be the limestone quarries, but the name probably predates these and relates to the trenches or gully's between the rocks going out to sea.
Rillage Point is so-called on the Dunn map of 1765; called Rillage on the first OS map of 1809; Rillage Point on the OS map of 1891.
Rill (ril) 1538 [probably of Low Dutch origin, compare with Medieval Latin (Norman) rilla from the 12th century] 1. A small stream; a brook, runnel, rivulet 2. A small narrow trench; a drill (SOED 1987 Vol 2 p 1833)
Samson's Bay is about one and a half kilometres north-east of Hele, between Rillage Point and Widmouth Head. Samson's Beach is accessible at low tide via a donkey-path down from the north-east of Rillage Point. The path leads to a vertical vein of blue limestone, extensively quarried, probably in the late 19th century. On the beach are Samson's Caves.
In the late 19th century the spelling was Sampson's. By local tradition Sampson's Cave was named after a local smuggler, but smuggler's didn't often use caves, preferring open spaces where they could escape and there is no evidence of a local smuggler called Sampson or Samson. The other local caves (Joe Moon's and Tom Norman's Hole) appear to have been named after their creators and this is the most likely origin of Sampson's.
"A little way beyond this point the traveller looks down upon a cove called Sampson's Bay; it is girt in with rocky cliffs of great massiveness and wild grandeur, too abrupt and perpendicular to be scaled, even by the most expert climber. An ample cavern yawns on the western side of the bay, into whose depths, as the tide was high, the surf was dashing, with a roar that rivalled the discharge of artillery. I thought of the fine simile of Moore:
'Beneath, terrific caverns gave
Dark welcome to each stormy wave
That dash'd, like midnight revellers, in' " (Gosse 1853 p 293)
Samson's Bay, Samson's Caves, Samson's Beach and Samson's Cave are all so-called on the OS map of 1891.
"Much excitement was caused in Ilfracombe and neighbourhood on Thursday evening when it became known that the saloon steamer Alexandra, with about 300 passengers on boards, was ashore near Watermouth castle, the exact spot being Sampson's Beach." (Ilfracombe Observer August 22 1893 p 7 c 2)
"Between this point [Rillage] and Widmouth Head lies the little rock-bound bay called Sampson's Cove. Here is Sampson's cave. Sampson appears to have been a smuggler, and the cave was his storehouse." (Page 1895 p 79)
"Another name which conjures up visions of smuggling days is Sampson's Bay - one of the most convenient spots along the coast for men who gained their livelihood by luring vessels to destruction. Sampson was a smuggler of repute." (Ilfracombe Chronicle Sept. 1st 1933 p 6)
"Another famous place is Samson’s cave which is at the other end of the town and can be approached by stone steps just beyond Haggington on the Combe Martin Road. Samson was a famous (or infamous) North Devon smuggler and he used it for storing smuggled goods." (Wilson 1976 p 51)
Slew was about 1½ kilometres to the south east of Hele, on Oxenpark Lane (an ancient ridgeway), nearly opposite the track to Trayne. It is not a settlement now, but in 1279 it was the home of William de la Slo. It is named on the Ordnance Survey map of 1809, marked in a different pattern to the surrounding fields, possibly representing boggy ground. It seems to have been abandoned by then since no dwellings are shown. Slew is from Old English slōh, meaning a 'slough' or 'mire'.
Slew is so-called on the OS map of 1809 where it is shown in the centre of a defined area (of boggy ground?)
Slew was probably the home of William de la Slo (1279 Ass). Slew is from OE slōh, 'slough, mire'. (Gover et al 1932 p28)
Slough is from OE slōh meaning "a piece of soft, miry or muddy ground; especially a place or hole in a road or way filled with wet mud or mire and impassable by heavy vehicles, horses, etc." (SOED 1987 Vol 2 p 2022)
Swallow has an Old English origin and the term Swallow Hole is often used to describe a geological 'sink' feature, as in this case, where the incoming tide appears to disappear into a hole in the rocks.
The 1889 Ordnance Survey map names Swallows Hole.
One of the meanings of swallow, from late Old English swelg is "An opening or cavity, such as are common in limestone formations, through which a stream disappears underground; also called a swallow-pit or swallow-hole" (SOED 1987 Vol 2 p 2206)
Tom Norman's Hole is a large cave over 50 metres deep, a kilometre north-east of Hele, on West Haggington Beach at the western side of Rillage Point. The cave is just below a zigzag donkey path leading down from Rillage that ends in a sheer drop about 4 metres above the beach. Presumably the path once led all the way down. There are blast-holes all around the beach here, although small limestone deposits appear to have been ignored. There is a short tunnel, dug into a large mass of rock, which has certainly been mined. It is likely that Tom Norman's hole similarly began as a prospector's tunnel, subsequently enlarged by the sea.
There was a local miner called Tom Norman, born in Combe Martin in 1838, son of Sussanah and William Norman (a silver-lead miner). Tom worked at Knapp Down silver-lead mine in the 1860's and it is possible that he later worked this cave and the surrounding beach, but it is not known if he found anything. He may even have been looking for gold; the first recorded gold mine in the country, discovered in 1262, may have been nearby.
Tom Norman's Hole is so-called on the OS map of 1891.
"It is only to be expected that this quiet and sheltered bay should be associated with smuggling. The very names of some of the beaches and coves remind us of these old beach-combers. Tom Normans Cave...Tom used to frequent this part of the shore about 120 years ago, and was connected with another well-known family named Pickett." (Ilfracombe Chronicle Sept. 1st 1933 p 6)
There was a local miner called Tom Norman - he was the son of William Norman (a lead miner) and Sussanah, of Combe Martin, and was born in Combe Martin in 1838. He worked as a miner at Knapp Down in the 1860’s and on Fileigh tunnel in the 1870’s. (M Warburton). Perhaps in the 1880’s he was mining below Rillage.
Lower and Higher Trayne farms are close together, about a kilometre and a half south-east of Hele. An old track runs from Oxenpark Lane, past Lower Trayne, to Comyn farm and Chambercombe Manor. The slopes on the north side of the track, leading up to Kitstone Hill, are known as Trayne Hills.
The place name Trayne is probably from Old English, meaning 'at the trees'. Many other smaller local settlements have a descriptive place name with a Saxon origin, for example Hele, Beara, Hole, Bowden and Slew.
Lowr. and Hr. Train are so-called on the first OS map of 1809. The 1839 Tithe map names Higher and Lower Train (transcription has Higher Train in hand to James Boyle, Lower Train & Train Hill are owned by William Vye, held by Richard Gammon); In the 1841 Census the two places called Traine are occupied by William Gammon & Geoge Chugg; They are Lower and Higher Trayne in the 1851 Census. Lower and Higher Trayne and Trayne Hills are so-called on the OS map of 1891.
"Trayne, East [South Molton Hundred] were probably the homes of John de Bromhouse (1330 SR)....[and others]...i.e. 'at the trees' v Train supra 261" (Gover et al 1932 Vol 2 p 348)
"Ford and Train [Plympton Hundred] were the homes of Richard atte Forde (1330 SR) Thomas atte Trewen (1311 Ass) and Thomas atte Nitheretreawen (1330 SR) 'at the trees' cf Trewyn supra 148" (Gover et al 1932 Vol 1 p 261)
"Trewyn [Black Torrington Hundred] is Trewen 1311, la Treawen 1312, Cantaria atte Trewen juxta Hallisworthy 1337, Capelle atte Trewe 1438 Exon. This is not a Celtic name, but English, the meaning being simply 'at the trees' with the weak plural form trewen." (Gover et al 1932 Vol 1 p 261)
Warmscombe farm is about two kilometres south of Hele, on the spur of a hill. Warmscombe Wood is on the side of the hill to the north. Warmscombe was probably part of the Saxon Manor of Ilfracombe. The place name comes from Old English Waermund's ham(m), the last element meaning 'an enclosure'. Many other local place names are from Old English, often with a Saxon personal name as their first element, for example Berrynarbor (originally Hurtesburie), Ilfracombe, Campscott, Mullacot, Winsham and Haggington.
Warmscombe is so-called (twice!) on the first OS map of 1809; and on the 1839 Ilfracombe Tithe map (transcription Warmscombe owned by Catherine Copner, held by Dennis Buckingham); Called Warnscombe in the 1851 Census; Warmscombe and Warmscombe Woods are so-called on the OS map of 1891.
"Very likely identical to Warmundesham 1311 Ass, Warmodesham 1330 SR(p). ‘Waermund’s ham(m)’ " (Gover et al 1932 p 48)
"If we examine the sites of all the places which either contain or possibly contain hamm we find that a very large proportion are definitely away from streams, only a few lie by streams, while a still smaller number lies within well marked river bends. This makes it clear that in the vast majority of cases hamm in Devon can only mean 'enclosure'. It is very doubtful if it ever had the sense 'river meadow' which has been sometimes assigned to that term." (Gover et al 1932 p 678)
Widmouth farm is on a headland called Widmouth Head, about a kilometre to the north-east of Hele, beside the A399 coast road from Hele to Watermouth. Samson's Bay is to the west of the headland and Widmouth Beach and Watermouth are to the east. Widmouth Hill is just under a kilometre to the south of Widmouth farm and it is possible that Oxenpark Lane, an ancient ridgeway, once led to Watermouth. Roman coins have been found in the cove and it is said that Watermouth Castle, a relatively modern folly, was built on the site of a earlier castle or fort.
The place name Widmouth is from Old English meaning "wide mouth". The mouth element, also in Watermouth, refers to the entrance to the cove here.
Widmouth (farm) and Widmouth Head are so-called on the first OS map of 1809. Widmouth Hill, Widmouth Head, Widmouth Beach and Widmouth farm are all so-called on the OS map of 1891.
Wydmouth 1529 Recov, ‘Wide mouth’, referring to the bay here. Cf Widemouth (Co), Widemutha 1180 P, Wydemuthe 1302 Ass (Gover et al 1932 p 48)
Mouth is from Old English mūþ applied to things resembling a mouth "The outfall of a river; the entrance to a haven, valley etc." (SOED 1978 Vol 2 p 1365)
Winsham Farm is about one and a half kilometres south-west of Hele, just off the Old Barnstaple Road. Shield Tor is to the north and Winsham Wood to the west.
The place name Winsham was called Wineham on the first Ordnance Survey map of 1809. It probably comes from Old English and means 'Wine's ham'. Many other local place names are from Old English, often with a Saxon personal name as their first element, for example Berrynarbor (originally Hurtesburie), Ilfracombe, Campscott, Mullacot, Winsham and Warmscombe. The ham element is thought to mean 'an enclosure'.
Wineham is so-called on the first OS map of 1809; Called Wincham on the 1839 Tithe map (transcription Wincham, owned by Sarah Stephens, held by John Dadds); Called Winsham in the 1841 Census, occupied by Thomas Moon & family; Also called Winsham in the 1851 Census; Winsham farm and Winsham Wood are so-called on the OS map 1891.
Winsham [in Braunton] is Wenneham 1086 DB, Winesham 1244 Ass(p). Wynes- 1244 Ass, 1333 SR(p). Probably 'Wine's ham(m)' (Gover et al 1932 p 34)
"If we examine the sites of all the places which either contain or possibly contain hamm we find that a very large proportion are definitely away from streams, only a few lie by streams, while a still smaller number lies within well marked river bends. This makes it clear that in the vast majority of cases hamm in Devon can only mean 'enclosure'. It is very doubtful if it ever had the sense 'river meadow' which has been sometimes assigned to that term." (Gover et al 1932 p678)
Just over a kilometre south of Hele, between Comyn and Warmscombe Woods, are some fields called Yarde on the Ordnance Survey map of 1891. This place name is probably from the Old English gyrt, meaning an 'area of land of varying extent'. These fields may have been the demesne land, worked for the benefit of the nearby Saxon Manor of Hele.
The OS map of 1891 shows a group of 3 fields, of about 8 acres, and a group of two fields, of about 5 acres, south of Comyn farm that are called Yarde
The Anglo-Saxon origin of Yarde is given in this quote which relates to Yard Farm between Lee and Morthoe. "Laierda 1086 DB, Yerd(e) 1473 ImpR, 1499 Ipm, and was the home of William atte Yurd (1330 SR). There are several places of this name in the country. All probably go back to OE gierd, gyrd, ‘area of land of varying extent’, usually 30 acres, i.e. ¼ hide. V. Yard sb. 2 in NED, sense 10, where an example of its use for an area of land is quoted from a Devon Charter (BCS 721). The term la verge found in the early forms of some of these names is the corresponding French word, v. Ducange s.v. Virga. La in DB Laierda is the French def. Art." (Gover et al 1932 p 48)