Friday, 21 September 2012

Gold rush in Ilfracombe

After writing briefly about the slave trade in Warrington I had to write a bit about The Gold Rush in Ilfracombe, North Devon. In the mid 1990's  I used to hire out four wheeled 'Chuckle brother bikes' and sit and do hair braiding and face painting in Ilfracombe.....multi-tasking! I was told that there had been a mini gold rush on Rapparee beach in 1978 ,where 18th century Portuguese coins had been found after a storm.  In 1997 a wall on Rapparee beach was breached and the remains of skeletons ,some with metal fetters, had been found.
The London just outside Rapparee cove,Ilfracombe museum
In 1796 a ship called the 'London' had been wrecked on the rocks below Hillsborough , its cargo was prisoners of war, from the west Indies. passengers and a quantity of gold and silver . All but 30 people in the hold were saved. The bones found on the beach  have continued to cause controversy ever since because many believe that the bones are the remains of slaves . The slave trade had not been abolished at the time of the wreck but it was frowned on. In 1997 Dr Mark Horton apparently took some bones and teeth away for analysis but there has still not been a report on them . Pat Barrows who had dug the bones and teeth is not impressed because of the lack of results and that the teeth appear to have gone missing. Since then he has found some more bones but he will not give them to Mr Horton.... This has caused huge upset to people , were they slaves, freedom fighters, french or Devon locals ? It is still not known where the bones belong.
I wonder what the state of play is now ? If you follow some of the links you will find original descriptions of the wreck, but no answers.
Like Warrington many ,still, wealthy families made a huge amount of money from being linked with trading slaves and of course don't want this linked to their families in the present day....but it's all part of our history and shouldn't be forgotten about.
Doubloons,Jewels and Ivory sung by Chris Millington-
Slaves of Rapparee By Pat Barrow
If anyone does know more, and would like to comment then please write to me. You can say wether you want your comment published or not. Thankyou for reading.


  1. Quite a fuss was made back when these 'finds' were made - as you say it is part of history.

  2. Hmm. From a museum point of view, all archaeological finds should be declared to the county archaeology service. Human remains especially as diseases can linger in the bones. Most finds, if not over a certain value, and with the agreement of the landowner, get returned to the finder.
    From a personal point of view, my mother's family were in shipping in Liverpool and, yes, that did include slaves so I have ancestral guilt. But no ancestral money - that all went way before I was born, in time honoured fashion of wine, women and horses.



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