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For other places with the same name, see Clovelly (disambiguation).
Clovelly - Harbour02.jpg
Lower part of the village, from the harbour wall
Clovelly is located in Devon
 Clovelly shown within Devon
Population 443 - Whole parish (2011)
OS grid reference SS315245
District Torridge
Shire county Devon
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town BIDEFORD
Postcode district EX39
Dialling code 01237
Police Devon and Cornwall
Fire Devon and Somerset
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament Torridge and West Devon
List of places

Coordinates: 50°59′N 4°24′W / 50.99°N 04.40°W / 50.99; -04.40

Clovelly (/kləˈvɛli/) is a small village in the Torridge district of Devon, England. It is a major tourist attraction notable for its extremely steep pedestrianized cobbled main street, donkeys and views over the Bristol Channel. The thick woodland which shelters the village allows many tender plants to flourish. The civil parish includes the island of Lundy. At the 2011 census, the parish population was 443, which was 50 fewer than ten years previously.[n 1][1]

The village[edit]

View looking down part of the 400-foot (120-metre) descent from halfway down the main street towards the harbour and Bideford Bay

Clovelly used to be a fishing village and in 1901 had a population of 621. It is a cluster of largely wattle and daub cottages on the sides of a rocky cleft; its steep main street descends 400 feet (120 m) to the pier, too steeply to allow wheeled traffic. Sledges are used for the movement of goods. The quaint street is lined with houses, a small number of shops, a cafe and a public house. All Saints' Church, restored in 1866, is late Norman, containing several monuments to the Cary family, Lords of the Manor for 600 years.

Unusually, the village is still privately owned and has been associated with only three families since the middle of the 13th century, nearly 800 years. The scenery has been captured by artists for its richness of colour, especially in the separately accessed and separated Clovelly Court and along The Hobby, a road cut through the woods and overlooking the sea. The South West Coast Path National Trail runs from the top of the village and the section from Clovelly to Hartland Quay is particularly spectacular.

The village has two public houses and two hotels.

Listed buildings[edit]

Each of the buildings along the terraced cobbled street is architecturally listed: more than 50 of these 71 are on the main street itself. Only seven buildings are not listed. At a higher level of build or antiquity, Grade II*, are numbers 16, and 45-47, 53-54, (53 has the house name Crazy Kate's) and 59-61.[2]


The village main street is not accessible by motor vehicle, although there is a road leading to the harbour with parking limited to staying guests of the Red Lion Hotel[3] and locals with permits. Visitors can park at the visitor centre at the end of the B3237 road above the village, where there is a café and shops. Land Rover taxis run in summer between the car park and the harbour.

The village is served by Stagecoach bus service 319; the route includes Barnstaple, Bideford and Hartland.[4]

The estate is run by the Clovelly Estate Company, led by the Hon. John Rous, a descendant of the Hamlyn family who have owned the village, estate and manor house Clovelly Court since 1738. John Rous is the eldest son of Keith Rous, the 5th Earl of Stradbroke and Mary Asquith, granddaughter of former Prime Minister Herbert H. Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith.[4]

Notable residents and cultural references[edit]

Waterfall visible by boat

The novelist Charles Kingsley lived here as a child from 1831 to 1836, while his father, Rev. Charles Kingsley served first as senior curate then as rector. Later, in 1855, his novel Westward Ho! did much to stimulate interest in Clovelly and to boost its tourist trade.

Actor Joss Ackland and his wife Rosemary bought a property in Higher Clovelly on the outskirts of the village in 1989.[5] Ackland still lives there but Rosmary passed in 2002 and is buried in the grounds of their home. [6] Ackland has appeared in promotional videos for the town and has spoken often of his love of and connection to Clovelly.[7]

Clovelly is also described by Charles Dickens in "A Message from the Sea" and was painted by Rex Whistler, whose cameos of the village were used on a china service by Wedgwood.

The sixteenth-century Carys of Clovelly feature in the historical novel The Grove of Eagles by Winston Graham.

The surgeon Campbell De Morgan (1811–1876), who first speculated that cancer arose locally and then spread more widely in the body, was born here.

Clovelly is mentioned in passing by Rudyard Kipling in Stalky & Co. as being located to the west of the boys' academy.

In Susan Coolidge's In the High Valley (1890), part of the Katy series, a walk in to Clovelly is described: "... surely a more extraordinary thing in the way of a street does not exist in the known world. The little village is built on the sides of a crack in a tremendous cliff; the "street" is merely the bottom of the crack, into which the ingenuity of man has fitted a few stones, set slant-wise, with intersecting ridges on which the foot can catch as it goes slipping hopelessly down." [8]

J.M.W. Turner's painting of Clovelly[when?] harbour hangs in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.

On Sunday 28 October 1838 twelve fishing vessels with a total of twenty-six men on board left Clovelly harbour for the fishing grounds. Only one vessel and its crew ever returned after a ferocious storm in the Bristol Channel. This event led to the founding of the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society early the following year with the object of:

giving relief and assistance to the widows and orphans of fishermen; and of mariners, members of the Society, who lose their lives by storms and shipwreck on any part of the coasts of the United Kingdom, while engaged in their lawful occupations; and also to render necessary assistance to such mariners, soldiers, or other poor persons as suffer shipwreck upon the said coasts.

The charity is active supporting the seafaring community suffering hardship and distress.[9]

Cultural traditions[edit]

Deliveries by sledge[edit]

The lack of vehicular access to the main street has led to deliveries being made by sledge. This is not done as a tourist attraction, but as a matter of practicality. Goods are delivered by being pulled down on a sledge from the upper car park, and refuse is collected by being pulled down the hill to a vehicle at the harbour.

Donkeys on the steep main street, outside the village's post office. The slope can be seen by comparing the cobbled street with the (level) slate pavement in front of the shop.

The tradition of the Clovelly cannibals[edit]

An 18th century chapbook entitled The History of John Gregg and his Family of Robbers and Murderers explains that "Chovaley" (i.e. Clovelly) was once the home of a tribe of cannibalistic bandits. It is alleged that Gregg and his extended family of dozens were eventually tracked down by bloodhounds and were burnt alive in three fires. They were said to have lived in "a cave near the sea-side" and had committed some 1,000 murders.[10] Although the story is fiction, writer Daniel Codd observes that a stretch of Clovelly Bay is called "the Devil's Kitchen"—"an apt name indeed if there is any truth in the ghoulish story of the Gregg family".[11]

Annual events[edit]

Clovelly hosts three annual events, each with live folk music, quay kitchens, beer tasting, arts and crafts stalls, local food stalls and cookery demonstrations: the Clovelly Maritime Festival in July; the Clovelly Lobster and Crab Feast in September; and the Clovelly Herring Festival in November, which aims to support local fishermen.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ The ward of Clovelly Bay, which includes a neighbouring civil parish, had a total population in 2011 of 1,627, 11 greater than in 2001

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]