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Clovelly 04.jpg
The village sits 400-feet (120-metre) above the harbour and Bideford Bay
Clovelly is located in Devon
Location within Devon
Population443 - Whole parish (2011)
OS grid referenceSS315245
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Historic countyDevon
Postcode districtEX39
Dialling code01237
PoliceDevon and Cornwall
FireDevon and Somerset
AmbulanceSouth Western
UK Parliament
List of places
50°59′N 4°24′W / 50.99°N 04.40°W / 50.99; -04.40Coordinates: 50°59′N 4°24′W / 50.99°N 04.40°W / 50.99; -04.40

Clovelly (/kləˈvɛli/) is a harbour village in the Torridge district of Devon, England. Its steep pedestrianised cobbled main street, traditional architecture, donkeys and views over the Bristol Channel attract numerous tourists. At the 2011 census, the parish population was 443, which was 50 fewer than ten years previously.[n 1][1] The ward of Clovelly Bay includes the island of Lundy.[2]

An entrance fee is charged to enter the village via a village visitor centre which also charges for parking, entrance to two museums, Clovelly Court gardens, and an audiovisual history guide.[3][4]

The South West Coast Path National Trail runs from the top of the village. The village is privately owned, by John Rous as of March 2021; he inherited in 1983. The village "has mainly been in the Hamlyn family since 1738", and he is of that line.[5]


Lower part of the village, from the harbour wall

Northwest of the village is the site of an Iron Age hillfort at Windbury Head.

All Saints' Church, restored in 1866, is late Norman.[6] In the reign of King Richard II, the Manor of Clovelly was bought by the judge Sir John Cary, and the church contains several monuments to the Cary family, Lords of the Manor for 600 years.

Clovelly was a solely agricultural parish with no harbour until the late 16th century, when the squire, George Cary, had the stone pier erected, thus providing the only haven on this coast between Appledore and Boscastle. He also erected fish cellars and warehouses at the cliff base, and cottages along the banks of the stream that provided the only route to the shore from the plateau above. The works cost him £2,000 and turned Clovelly into a fishing village.[7]

In 1901 the village had a population of 521.[8]

The privately owned village and has been associated with only three families since the middle of the 13th century. The Clovelly Estate was acquired by the Hamlyn family in 1738. Clovelly's preservation owes much to Christine Hamlyn who dedicated herself to renovating and expanding the ancient cottages while beautifying the village.[9]

Today the Clovelly Estate Company owns all of the buildings in the village and is responsible for maintaining the village and preserving its character. Today the company is run led by John Rous, a descendant of the Hamlyn family w ho lives at Clovelly Court. John Rous is the only son of Keith Rous, the 5th Earl of Stradbroke and Mary Asquith, granddaughter of former Prime Minister H. H. Asquith.[10] As of 2021, Clovelly included approximately "80 cottages, two chapels, two hotels", woodlands and about 2000 acres of farmland. The village encourages tourism and has been financially successful in that endeavour as of 2019.[11]


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 Grade II*, are numbers 16, and 45–47, 53–54 (53 has the house name Crazy Kate's), and 59–61.[12]

The only Grade I listed building is the Church of All Saints.[13] The listing summary states, "Virtually all C15 and early C16, restored in 1843 and again in 1884".[14]

Lifeboat station[edit]

The village has an RNLI lifeboat station with its boat, the Toby Rundle, installed in 2014.[15][16]


The village main street is not accessible by motor vehicles.[17][18]

The lack of vehicular access to the main street has led to deliveries being made by sledge.[17] 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 village is served by Stagecoach bus service 319; the route includes Barnstaple, Bideford and Hartland.[10]

Notable residents and cultural references[edit]

Waterfall visible by boat

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

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 fictional 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.[19] 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".[20]

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.

J.M.W. Turner's painting of Clovelly Harbour around 1822 hangs in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.[21]

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.

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.[22]

Clovelly is also described by Charles Dickens in "A Message from the Sea"[6] and was painted by Rex Whistler, whose cameos of the village were used on a china service by Josiah Wedgwood.

In Susan Coolidge's In the High Valley (1890), part of the Katy series, a walk into 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."[23]

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

Actor Joss Ackland and his wife Rosemary bought a property in Higher Clovelly on the outskirts of the village in 1989.[24] Ackland still lives there but Rosemary died in 2002 and is buried in the grounds of their home.[25] Ackland has appeared in promotional videos for the town and has spoken often of his love of and connection to Clovelly.[26]

Clovelly Harbour, Devon by Alfred William Hunt (1830–1896)

See also[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


  1. ^ Key figures for Clovelly Bay Office for National Statistics Retrieved 2008-10-20
  2. ^ Ordnance Survey Election Maps
  3. ^ "Visiting Clovelly - Clovelly". Retrieved 24 May 2019.
  4. ^ "Admission Charges". Clovelly. Clovelly Estate. Retrieved 26 January 2021.
  5. ^ "Inside Britain's privately owned villages". Country Life. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  6. ^ a b Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Clovelly" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 561.
  7. ^ W. G. Hoskins (1977). The Making of the English Landscape. Book Club Associates. pp. 124–126.
  8. ^ The Diaries of Sir Ernest Satow, 1906-1911 - Page 271
  9. ^ "BBC Seven Wonders". Retrieved 19 June 2021.
  10. ^ a b Visitors' Website
  11. ^ "Inside Britain's privately owned villages". Country Life. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Listed Buildings in Clovelly, Torridge, Devon". BritishListedBuildings. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  14. ^ "CHURCH OF ALL SAINTS Clovelly". Historic England. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  15. ^ "Grief of lost son sparks cash aim for new lifeboat project". North Devon Journal. Retrieved 27 December 2015.[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ "Clovelly Lifeboat Station welcomed latest boat, named after man who died in 2009". North Devon Journal. Retrieved 27 December 2015.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ a b "Clovelly". Devon Online. Archived from the original on 17 August 2016. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  18. ^ Ordnance Survey (2019). Explorer Sheet 126 (Map). 1:25,000. Explorer. Ordnance Survey.
  19. ^ James Halliwell-Phillipps (July 1849). Notices of Fugitive Tracts, and Chap-books. Read Books (2013). p.85. ISBN 978-1473309128
  20. ^ Codd, Daniel (2013). Paranormal Devon. Amberley. p.126. ISBN 978-1848681668
  21. ^ "Joseph Mallord William Turner". Tate. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  22. ^ "Home page". 27 December 2015. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  23. ^ "In the High Valley by Susan Coolidge". Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  24. ^ "INTERVIEW: Joss Ackland on King Lear and his Clovelly roots". North Devon Journal. Retrieved 27 December 2015.[permanent dead link]
  25. ^ Kate Bohdanowicz. "Motor neurone disease made Joss Ackland and his wife live life to the full". Daily Express. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  26. ^ One Foot in the Past – Joss Ackland – Clovelly. 4 January 2010. Retrieved 27 December 2015 – via YouTube.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]