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Ilfracombe Architecture - The Earlsdale Bed & Breakfast

In this month’s architecture column I am looking at a building that many of us drive past on a daily basis.

The Earlsdale Bed & Breakfast on St Brannock's Road is an attractive four storey Victorian villa of stone and Marland brick construction. You may be forgiven for thinking, as I did, that this property and the others along this stretch, were purpose built as guest houses, to cope with the Victorian boom in visitor numbers. This is incorrect and this property at least was built as a private house, although it has been welcoming guests since around 1910. Designed by renowned architect W H Gould along with the adjoining property to the North and the detached house to the South the trio were built at the same time and completed in around 1885. Certainly, the similarity in styling and construction materials would appear to confirm the relationship of these three buildings. Lewis and James managed to unearth the original drawings for the property from the records office in Barnstaple. W H Gould was the architect famously responsible for many iconic buildings of Ilfracombe, such as: The Granville Hotel, the old Victorian Pavilion, Runnacleave Hotel, the gran

d houses of Oxford Park and Oxford Grove, Seven Hills and Abbeyvale in the Torrs and of course the Chas and Pedlar building, plus many others.

There is a further, fascinating theory that The Earlsdale and its neighbours, along with some of the other prominent villas on the upper reaches of St. Brannock's Road, such as Cairn House and Wildercombe House, were early constructions in the proposed ‘Wildercombe Estate.’ This extraordinarily ambitious project, the plans for which can be seen in the Ilfracombe museum, had it been completed, would have drastically changed how we see this part of Ilfracombe today.

Many will remember The Earlsdale as ‘Seabreeze' as it was renamed in the late 20th century, until Lewis and James bought the property in February of 2019. When looking to rename the house under their new ownership, they discovered that 'The Earlsdale’ was in fact its original name.

Since 2019, they have set about systematically restoring and enhancing the multitude of original features, while applying their own stamp of modern taste and style. As with many properties of this era, particularly ones that have been guesthouses and hotels, The Earlsdale has been altered and extended over the years. Most notably, a 1903 extension that includes the attractive balcony that can be seen from the road. A large addition to the rear completed in 1974 forms the current guest dining room with bedrooms rooms above. The garden would have originally stretched all the way up the hill at the rear to what is now Foreland Road. Before the modern houses and road layout we see today, guests arriving by train would have been able to exit the train station and entered The Earlsdale via a zig zag path through the rear garden, no doubt a selling point for prospective guests!

Lewis and James's love for their property has uncovered some interesting finds, like the original Victorian Minton tiled floor in the entrance hall and original kitchen for example, that lay covered by carpet for decades. Lewis and James have also set about restoring all the original wooden Sash windows including those with the beautiful and decorative stained glass leaded windows, plus the 1903 extension now boasts a stunning new slate roof with it’s eye-catching diamond pattern.

Lewis and James have a genuine love for Ilfracombe. Their passion for The Earlsdale and its place both in history and within the town, undoubtedly contributes to the warm and welcoming air of their beautiful building. This has been reflected in the success of their adults-only Bed & Breakfast which is entering it’s fifth year under their stewardship with guests appreciating the authenticity of the building and it’s period features.

To find out more about The Earlsdale why not visit them online at or use our interactive accommodation widget to book your stay


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