Down the Rabbit Hole

Article by Abi Obene, Community Heritage Coordinator Ilfracombe

Down the Rabbit Hole

Events are being organised, volunteers are signing up and the wheels are starting to turn!

Not only are we setting up the logistical side of the project for the year to come – organising launch events, setting up archival and interview training for volunteers, contacting members of the public who have expressed an interest in having their stories heard – but we’re also diving head first into the research side of the project too!

Thanks to a few very eager volunteers who already have research training and to a number of suggestions by interested members of the public, our list of historical stories to uncover grows longer and more expansive by the week. Most recently we have been looking into the presence of Travellers and Romani people in and around the Ilfracombe area. Hunting for clues amongst genealogy reports and Romani history sites, then cross referencing those findings with hundreds of years’ worth of census documentation and newspaper articles has been a fascinating process.

Research done in this manner often results in falling down a rabbit hole (or three!) and stumbling into other diverse stories that we weren’t even looking for. When checking for mentions of a Romani presence in an 1869 edition of The Ilfracombe Chronicle, we came across a list of local trader names in the trade directory section of the paper. Several of the names there called for a bit of further investigation, but this was especially true of the name A. Pitowsky, a Polish dentist.

Following this thread took us all the way to the Isle of Wight, where another A. Pitowsky – or possibly even the same one – was said to have bought a rather sizeable house in Shanklin. Naturally this has resulted in us opening up a conversation with the magazine that mentioned Mr Pitowsky, in an effort to uncover if they were, in fact, one and the same person. From inspecting genealogy records to digging through 18th century newspaper articles to contacting the editor of a magazine halfway across the country – it really does go to show how varied even a couple of hours of research can end up being!

Bringing us back closer to home, it has been fantastic to see how responsive, positive and supportive local community members, organisations and businesses have been as the project has unfolded. In Ilfracombe, the Ilfracombe Museum has agreed to host the official launch event for the project, while in Honiton the launch event is occurring at The Beehive, the local community centre. Volunteers, press, participants, those that are simply curious – all are more than welcome to come along and see what the project is all about in person!

The time and date for the Honiton Launch event is 4 – 6pm on the 29th of November at The Beehive. Contact Jess at for more details, an invite or to RSVP!

The time and date for the Ilfracombe Launch event is 3 – 5pm on the 7th of December at The Ilfracombe Museum. Contact Abi at for more details, an invite or – you guessed it – an RSVP!

Image Credit: Ilfracombe Chronicle in British Newspaper Archive

Article by Abi Obene, Community Heritage Coordinator Ilfracombe, Telling Our Stories, Finding Our Roots