The Old Garden Shop

I remember when this stood next to Mr Benitos.

This is the current state of the building:

148 Empty

But what if it was turn into ‘The Green House’ to serve the community as it once did?

Original 'green wall' photo: Rory Hyde

Original 'green wall' photo: Rory Hyde

Green wall systems absorb noise, are self irrigating, stop graffiti, help insulate the building and enhance the environment. They vary in price but are around £350 per metre square.



There is a great group on Facebook with lots of images of Ilfracombe used to be. It’s well worth visiting. It has a lot of peoples memories on it too. It would be great to bring some of Ilfracombe’s heydays back. I fear the councils plan to build lots of new homes is not the way to do it and may ruin the town in the long run, especially the plans for the bus garage.

Check this out:


Star Trek actor William Shatner has apologised to a Devon town for saying it was “laced with prostitution” on Have I got News For You. 

Mr Crabb, 49, emailed Shatner’s agents: “As Captain James T Kirk, Mr Shatner has been to places where no man has gone before, however, the episode of Have I Got News For You clearly shows he has never been to Ilfracombe.”

It’s a good bit of publicity and a godo call from Paul Crabb. Certainly better than the logo fiasco that had a local councillor saying that teenage pregnancy was a good thing!

I grew up in Ilfracombe. The cast of Coronation Street stayed at the Carlton Hotel that I lived in during the 1970’s (my parents ran it for a while), as did Titanic Tom, a survivor of the famous ship that came year after year, Lady Diana came, the Olympic torch came, arsonists came and burnt down a lot of hotels that didn’t have planning permission to be knocked down, the Pavillion went, the Cliffe Hydro went, The Mount went, the Collingwood went, the Candar went, the Ilfracombe Hotel went among others…but it still has charm even though the high street is a mess and the council seem obsessed with painting it in corporate blue.

Take care Ilfracombe. We will see you soon.


Britain is rapidly losing its label as a nation of shopkeepers as the worst economic crisis in 60 years ravages the high street.

Some 200 stores a day have shut since January and there could be 135,000 boarded up by the end of the year.

Yet while the death of Woolworths, Zavvi and other chains have grabbed the headlines, they mask a bloodbath that has gone largely unnoticed.

Small shops, the lifeblood of town centres, have been driven to the wall at an alarming rate.

Just over one in 10 of the country’s 900,000 shops is now standing empty.

Rows of empty stores do more than give a downtrodden image. They also risk attracting crime and antisocial behaviour, which is why it is vital action is taken.

The Mirror has a 10 point plan:
1 Monthly rents instead of quarterly to ease bills

2 Abolish upward-only rent reviews

3 Reduce business rates in line with falling RPI

4 Scrap plans for business rate supplement

5 Cut red tape on rate relief for small firms

6 5% VAT rates for small businesses

7 Force banks to lend to small firms again

8 Persuade insurers to reinstate credit insurance

9 Scrap high street parking charges at weekends

10 Urge landlords to let empty shops at low rents

We can’t argue against any of these. We think point 9 is a good one for the weekends, or at least make the parking charges a lot less in Ilfracombe, especially at the end of the tourist season.

But we think there should be an 11th point:

Think of high streets a whole rather than just a collection of shops. Have a strategy for the types of shops they want, try to create a niche, especially in touristy locations like Ilfracombe, try to make them more inviting places to be and encourage good design and the retention and restoration of original shop fronts with quality signage.

Thisis the link to the original article.:


The way it was

WIF has just read a comment on the Journal website by Paul Crab (Hi Paul if you are reading this).

“Perhaps we need to look at our High Street, and accept that we don’t need anyone else to sell baked beans, but what can we ‘niche market’? Years ago, South Molton became a regional ‘centre of excellence’ for antiques. Land locked Braunton is the surfwear capital of North Devon. Any ideas?”

We totally agree.

Many high streets are similar to Ilfracombe. Essentially they have a lot of empty shops, they probably look a bit shabby and unloved, lots of charity and pound shops, a few convenience stores and a sprinkle of clothes shops and a heavy dose of chicken/fast food outlets and dotted all over town will be a baffling amount of hairdressers and barbers.

These high streets support locals who don’t go to the out of town Tesco/Sainsbury’s/Asda/Morrisons or local market town (in this case Barnstaple).

As Ilfracombe swells in size during the summer months due to tourists, it seems a little daft that the high street doesn’t capitalize on this fact.

Ilfracombe has, potentially, one of the prettiest high streets anywhere. A majority of the shops have original shop fronts (which thank goodness have a conservation order now). It has so much potential. As I wrote in an earlier post “Ilfracombe was beautiful”.

It just needs a focus. As Paul rightly said, different areas have a focus and become a mecca for certain types of shopper. London is a case in point. For books you go to Charring cross road, for electrical items yo go to Tottenham Court Road, for furniture you go near Googe Street, for clothes you go to Oxford street, for cutting edge fashion you go to Neals yard, for trendy bars you go to Shoreditch, for Curry you go to Brick Lane.

These places become destinations for these types of businesses and they sustain loads of them, all competing for the same customer. As there are so many of then next to one another the draw in the shoppers that want what they sell. The number of similar businesses gives the consumer choice and consumers LOVE choice.

Don’t believe me? Go into a supermarket. Any fair size one will do. How many different versions of similar items can you buy? How many different types of Houmous can you choose from? Pizza? How many different brands are there of the same type of bacon? Margarine?

It would be a good idea to have survey this summer in the high street, down the front and other areas around Ilfracombe. Get people out with clipboards, engage the shop owners to take part and ask tourists what shops they like to look at, what shops can they remember from their travels, what was the most extravagant thing they bought on holiday (anywhere not just in the UK), on holiday do they buy antiques, souveneers, gifts? Do they like crafts, art and if so what type? Did they buy anything today from Ilfracombe? Keep the questions focused, try to get answers rather than just opinions (asking someones opinion often means they have to think of a response even if they don’t have an opinion on it. This can be misleading. I see it happen a lot in market research).

This survey could help shape the future of the types of businesses Ilfracombe needs to attract. Of course this doesn’t mean the end of ‘normal shops’ for the locals. Turtons Butchers is a great local asset as are many other essential local businesses.

A great example of where I can see Ilfracombe in the future is in Whitstable in Kent. It’s a seaside town, it has an oyster festival on it’s harbour which brings lots of visitors to give it focus (this is something Ilfracombe desperately needs, along with a great market….why they don’t do this in the old bus garage is beyond me) and it’s high street is beautiful, full of interesting, exciting shops.

This is a link to some of the makeover visuals we did on the high street.

What do you think?


It’s worth having your say on public forums like the one below, especially as this one seems well used by the council. So we thought we’d promote it a bit.

You have to log in. Got to;

It looks like this:


Probably see you there.



We truely believe this and that it can be again.

For proof, look at these amazing images from the Frith Collection:

Picture 19

Sadly missed...

You can add (and read) people memories of the town too. The church where we had our wedding blessing is there, the hotel where I partly grew up (the Carlton). It looks really stunning in Black and white and It’s incredible how big the crowds are.

Lots of pictures of the pavilion. Non of it when it had the concrete wings. None of the high street.

I wonder what pictures will be on sites like this in the future?


Picture 18

Thanks for the almost overwhelming feedback Smuggler, whoever you are. We would agree with you that the Green House would make a great wine bar. We do have idea for the Landmark, bus station and if you send pictures may be able to produce a ‘what if’ for those and the empty hotel site.

A boarded up empty pup in sydenham had a makeover recently on it’s boarded up hoardings. The pub is the Greyhound, so they painted ‘grey hounds’ in grey silhouettes over it (in the style of those old dog playing poker portraits you used to get in pubs). A simple solution that made a difference.

Were a fan of the smugglers articles, while we may not always agree with what he says, it’s good that someone has the balls to say it. And it needs someone to say the brutal truth sometimes. Best of all it raises debate.

The difficult bit is turning debate into solutions and actions.

There has been debate about making this into an exhibition. We have had designers in Devon contact us about helping out. I’m totally in favour of an exhibition, especially if they use an empty shop to do it in.

We have received a few images from people in Ilfracombe asking for makeovers. Many thanks for your images, keep sending them! We can’t do them all, but we will endevour to publish some more in the coming weeks.




On the Journals Website there has been very positive feedback on the project so far.

Have a look for yourself:

W.I.I. wrote to all the Ilfracombe councilors last week to point them towards this project including Cllr Edmunds. As yet we are still waiting for them to respond. Perhaps they are all very busy!


If you have images of something in Ilfracombe that needs help, please get in touch. We can’t promise anything and wont do all requests, there just aren’t enough hours in the day, but it may be something we can look at in the future.

Love it or Loathe it?

Love it or Loathe it?

In Particular the Landmark and the bus station from as many different angles as possible. We think the bus station is an opportunity that should give focus to the harbour and be something for people to do rather than more housing. Cafés, a piazza, an artificial beach with supervision for young kids so mum and dad can enjoy a bite to eat, an outdoor theatre or street performers. Or perhaps a market. But not housing. Not there in such a prime location. It’s crazy!

Many thanks

Lee & Ariana

Send your pictures to this email address: