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Two Bank Holiday Visitors From Ilfracombe

August 30, 2022
by the gentle author

Tickets are available for my tour throughout September & October



Two young men from Ilfracombe

A small cache of glass slides of a century ago arrived at the Bishopsgate Institute as a donation from Ilfracombe Museum without any accompanying information, yet the fact that nothing is known of these two men from Ilfracombe featured in the photographs has not prevented my speculation.

“Don’t we look like born Londoners, taking a stroll down the Victoria Embankment in our best suits on a Saturday morning?  It makes the quay at Ilfracombe look pitiful I must say. We sought out the statue of old Raikes on his pedestal in the park and took a picture for Norah and her Sunday School nippers, like we promised. I never thought there were so many people in the world as we saw in Fleet St, it makes you wonder who cooks them all dinner? Everyone seems to know where they are going, so we did our best to blend in, keeping our noses directed towards St Paul’s up ahead in the fog. Himself tugged upon my cuff at every watering hole and it was all I could do to resist. Yet I still felt intoxicated by the train journey, changing at Exeter St David’s and whisking us at lightning speed to Paddington yesterday. We kept our wallets in our inside pockets, like you told us, and made sure that we did not both fall asleep at once, lest we should get robbed. Himself snored all the way up and missed the changing wonders of the landscape, of course. The sheets in the guesthouse were not of the cleanest but rather than raise a fuss I slept on top of the blanket. You do fear you might get lost in all the streets and never find your way out again. Magnificent vessels moored in the Pool and it reminded us of home to see the little tugs and pilot boats bobbing. It makes my head spin to see the big cargo ships lined up and think of the dark continents so far away. I swear I never walked so much as we did through the West End and back across the Park, and I felt we deserved a decent refreshment but the prices were iniquitous and I shall regret that cold roast beef sandwich as long as I live. Yet Himself was philosophical and asked what is existence without adventures like this? The boots are bearing up well, thankfully. At least, if we never go outside dear old Ilfracombe again, we can say that we have seen life now. Greetings to Ernie and Nan, and little Ralph and the twins.”

“Behold Sir Robert Raikes who founded the Sunday Schools movement”

“Best foot forward up Ludgate Hill”

“Outside St Paul’s”

“At the Pool of London”

“Passing ourselves off as Londoners”

“This is me and Albert”

Photographs courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

8 Responses leave one →
  1. Lorraine permalink
    August 30, 2022

    But who was the photographer, following them round London?

  2. Marcia Howard permalink
    August 30, 2022

    Great images, and your write up made me smile – so, a good start to the day!

  3. Annie S permalink
    August 30, 2022

    Great old photographs and a charming tale!

  4. Simon P permalink
    August 30, 2022

    Not sure if you were aware, but there is a further connection between the first photo and North Devon – the lampposts along the embankment near Cleopatra’s Needle have cast iron dolphin mouldings by Coalbrookdale, and there is an identical set along the embankment of Taw Vale, not far from Ilfracombe. No way to know, but wouldn’t it be fascinating if they chose that spot for the first photo because they recognised the lamppost.

  5. Joanna Clare Godfree permalink
    August 30, 2022

    I absolutely loved this! The commentary was totally convincing – the tone of combined apprehension, wonder & bravado is spot on. Thank you – those two will walk alongside me today!

  6. gkbowood permalink
    August 30, 2022

    Tee Hee! Quite the fun read to go with some great photos- Thanks for the diversion.

  7. Susanna Kaiser permalink
    August 30, 2022

    Oh your speculative commentary is everything with these photos!

  8. Susan Jessen permalink
    August 30, 2022


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