Our history

Ilfracombe Museum began its life in the old laundry of the magnificent Ilfracombe Hotel. Our first curator, Mervyn Grove Palmer, retired to the town after spending the early 1900’s travelling in South America collecting for major museums. He had several species named after him and wrote two books about his expeditions.

The museum opened on the 1st August 1932 with a collection, much of which was natural history, donated over the previous year from local people. Over twelve hundred visitors arrived on our opening day. Admission was free until 1941 and during the war the museum ran an education programme for local children and evacuees.

There was no electric light until 1935 and no telephone until 1966. Time, and a variety of curators have seen the museum expand and change in many ways, but we still work hard to ensure the spirit of the museum stays the same. The museum became a registered charity governed by trustees in 1975.