As far back as the 18th Century, the community of Lynton and Lynmouth was mainly self sufficient, relying on fishing and farming for survival. Lynmouth, with its fleet of fisherman trawling for herring and Lynton, some 450ft above Lynmouth relying on farming and the wool industry. Tourism was unheard of then, with Lynton and Lynmouth being so remote and inaccessible to most people. However, change was to come to the people of the Parish. Economic instability meant that the industries which had sustained the community were now failing. Another means of survival for the community was needed.
At the same time, political upheaval in Europe prevented the upper classes from travelling abroad. They now had to turn to their own country for their summer holidays.
Some of the earliest visitors to Lynton and Lynmouth were the poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth. Once word had spread amongst the genteel classes that the long haul over Exmoor was worth the effort, more and more visitors were arriving in the twin communities. The people of Lynton and Lynmouth soon realised that a living could be earned from accommodating the growing numbers of tourists who were now arriving at an ever increasing rate. Hotels and Inns were built and roads were laid to accommodate the new visitors. Some were so keen on the area that they had summer holiday homes built – one of the first being the Lynton Cottage, built by William Sanford.
However, Lynton and Lynmouth owe a great deal to one very generous benefactor – Sir George Newnes, the publisher and entrepreneur. He loved to holiday with his family in Lynton and Lynmouth. In 1890 he decided to buy Hollerday Hill and built his own summer residence there.
The steep gradient between the two villages had always been a deterrent to visitors and hard work for the locals. In 1887 Newnes and Thomas Hewitt (another benefactor to Lynton and Lynmouth to lay a 900 foot twin track up the 1 in 1.75 gradient. The water powered railway was opened in 1890 and apart from new track in 1908 operates now as it always has. The total cost of the project was £8,000 and there has never been an accident. George Newnes was also responsible for the financing and building of the Town Hall in Lynton which he handed over to the town in August 1900.
Lynmouth Flood Disaster of 1952
Lynton and Lynmouth has remained a popular holiday destination to this date. Its history marred by the dreadful floods in 1952. 28 lives and 55 buildings were lost in Lynmouth that night. Despite the tragedy, Lynmouth was redesigned and rebuilt and has remained unchanged to this day.
Lynton and Lynmouth are sited on one of the most breathtaking and stunning areas this country can offer. The combination of rugged coastline and dramatic moor land scenery offers any visitor to this corner of England a real feel for North Devon.