Building » Ilfracombe – Our Lady Star of the Sea

Ilfracombe – Our Lady Star of the Sea

Runnacleave Road, Ilfracombe, Devon

A simple Gothic Revival church of the 1890s, with respectful early twentieth century additions, replacing a small chapel by Joseph Hansom. 

From 1872 Mass was said in a room fitted up as a chapel at Quayfield House, Ilfracombe, home of the wealthy convert Sir Bourchier Wrey. The nucleus of a congregation was thereby formed, and in 1873 when the Wrey property of Trafalgar House in the harbour became available, it was placed at the Bishop of Plymouth’s disposal. In 1874 the drawing room and greenhouse were transformed by Joseph Hansom into a small chapel, with the rest of the house forming the sacristy and presbytery.  The chapel was fitted up with a marble altar and other fittings from the Wrey family chapel at Tawstock Court, and was solemnly opened by Bishop Vaughan on 5 August 1874.

According to Woodhead (Illustrated Guide to Catholic Churches in the Diocese of Plymouth, 1992) the 1874 church survives as the nave of the present church, whereas Pevsner gives the date of the church as 1893 and attributes the design to A. J. C. Scoles. This seems a more likely date, on visual grounds. Pevsner also states that the church was rebuilt in 1929, whereas Woodhead states only that the two aisles were added at this time.  Further research is needed.


The church is in the Decorated Gothic style, the walls faced with local rubble stone, with dressings and window tracery of Bath stone and roof coverings of red tile. The plan comprises nave with western bellcote, north and south aisles under lean-to roofs, the north aisle with a projecting porch at the west end and a transept at the east end, sanctuary and north eastern chapel both with apsidal ends. Apparently the aisles were added to the original nave in 1929; the sanctuary is also said to have been an addition to the original building.

The interior has north and south arcades of four bays of pointed arches on octagonal columns with moulded capitals and bases, western gallery with organ, the gallery now underbuilt to provide modern kitchen and WC facilities; modern timber floor; rafter roof with braced timber trusses and skylights. The sanctuary is up three steps and has an elaborately carved timber reredos, and the Sacred Heart Chapel has an equally elaborate reredos of stone. Most of the windows have twentieth century stained glass. More recent furnishings (c.2020) have included a hanging cross, Rex Gloriae, by Septimus Waugh and a new stone altar and font by Tom Waugh.

Amended by AHP 22.04.2022

Heritage Details

Architect: A. J. C. Scoles

Original Date: 1893

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed