Blog: 'Living in Clovelly' by Ellie Jarvis

Living in Clovelly

Every day the tide washes up across the stones in the harbour and touches ‘Crazy Kate’s’ cottage,where I live.I often overhear visitors discussing the property and thinking out loud about life in Clovelly. It wasn’t so long ago that I too looked on from the harbour, daydreaming about what it would be like to live in a house like this…

The description of this cottage on the Clovelly website is as follows:“Kate Lyall, known as Crazy Kate, died in 1736. Her pretty cottage with its picturesque balcony overlooking the harbour is said to be the oldest in Clovelly. Kate’s husband was a fisherman, and she would watch him from her upper window as he fished in the bay. One day, a terrible squall blew up and he was drowned before her eyes.This terrible sight drove her mad, and she remained demented until the day of her death. On that tragic day, she put on her wedding dress and walked into the sea to join her husband in his watery grave.”

As the village takes on the beautiful golden hues of autumn, I am reminded that soon the stormy winter tides will wash right up onto Fish Street and it’s important for us to have flood-boards to put at the doors ‘just in case’.

My children are young and Clovelly provides the most magical backdrop for their childhood adventures. I cannot think of a finer place to inspire their vivid imaginations. How incredible to grow up in a house so intimately connected with the sea, so intrinsically linked to the tides, the weather and the wonderful characters associated with Clovelly life.

Vehicles are of course banned from Clovellys famously steep cobbled street and residents use purpose-built sledges to transport shopping etc. to our houses. Moving home is no exception and all belongings, regardless of size, are sledged down the hill!

Because Clovelly is a privately owned village all of the properties are rented, and it is quite the norm for residents to have lived in several of the cottages as their families have grown and circumstances changed.  I have had the honour of living in three properties situated on the cobbled street; each totally unique, with its own place in Clovelly history.

For a short while, I lived in ‘Rat’s Castle’, a tiny cottage, perched on the edge of the Clovelly cliff, close to the harbour. It was my first experience of living in the village and I quickly became used to hearing visitors exclaim its name many times a day and this was the first time I encountered visitors walking into my home. Sometimespeople mistakenly think that all of the cottages here are open to the public and I have even met people who expect Clovelly residents to be dressed in period costume!

I also lived on Independent Street for several years. A hidden gem in Clovelly; quiet and peaceful, tucked along a beautiful cobbled side-street.  That cottage will always hold a special place in my heart because both of my children were born during my time there.

Over the years, I have amassed a collection of postcards showing each of the cottages I have lived in. What a joy it is to delight in how little the village has changed in the past century and I have felt compelled to discover more about the Clovellians captured in the photographs, all those years ago.

Clovelly history is very much a part of every day life here and I take great comfort in living hand in hand with the past.The time we live in our houses is transient and I love the saying ‘We only ever borrow a home’.