The stretch of coast overlooked by Lynton and occupied by Lynmouth is a spectacular combination of sweeping moorland, high rugged tree clad cliffs and enticing sheltered bays. In a rapidly changing world, Lynton and Lynmouth and the whole Exmoor area still remain, in many respects, as they have been for centuries.
Lynton, or Linton as it was more commonly spelt, is a name found elsewhere in England. The origins of the name are somewhat obscure. N.V. Allen in his booklet Exmoor Place Names says that the derivation is from OE hlynn a torrent, other sources give the source as being from the Celtic pool or from Lime from the especial use of lime in the area. The spelling of Lynmouth has also changed over the years, at times being referred to as Leymouth or Limmouth - the first obviously a corruption and the second perhaps confirming the lime association.
In 1086 the population of Lynton and Lynmouth with Countisbury was 425, any in 1801 it only risen to 601. Soon, however, the repercussions of the Napoleonic Wars began to effect the twin villages. Wealthy families, afraid to travel on the continent decided to explore hitherto ignored beauty spots on this side of the Channel. Among the first to arrive were Shelley, Wordsworth and Coleridge who were charmed by the rare beauty and peace. Thomas Coutts the banker, and later George Newnes the publisher, fell in love with the area, as indeed did anyone who was willing to endure the long tiring journey over the rough moorland tracks.
So vigorously did the Lyntonians accept the new role that a mid-Victorian handbook warned the visitors that 'telescopes were employed at rival houses for the prompt discovery of the arriving traveller. He had better, therefore, determined on his inn: or he may become a bone of contention to the triad of post-boys, who wait with additional horses at the bottom of the hill to drag the coach to its destination'.
Gradually new houses and hotels were built to cater for the holidaymakers. Roads were improved and in 1898 a narrow gauge railway was opened from Barnstaple -- this, unfortunately, only lasted until 1935 when it fell victim to the advance of the motor car.
Lynton and Lynmouth have produced no great statesman or scholars, but in attracting Sir George Newnes, the publisher of the Sherlock Holmes stories, who used his fortune to finance the building of the Cliff Railway, the Town Hall and the Congregational (now United reformed) Church, besides building himself a house on Hollerday Hill and R. D. Blackmore who wrote the world-famous novel Lorna Doone, they have gained a unique place in history.
Today the population of the twin villages is it approximately two thousand. Many of the old trades have disappeared, but the villages still retain that compact, self-contained sense of community, which has helped them to withstand the onslaught of world events.
The Earlier People And Their Monuments
Blackmore and Lorna Doone
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