Gooseham appears in the Domesday book, but the history of the area goes back much further- Morwenstow was named after St Morwenna who arrived here in the 500’s from Wales, along with around twenty brothers and sisters who settled in the valleys, moors and coastal area and became the early saints. There are still lots of remnants from these days in the holy wells that dot the landscape.
Along the coastline are countless shipwrecks, over a hundred are documented in a few miles. For hundreds of years the few people eking a living could supplement their living with the bounty from the sea, and the area had a reputation for ‘wrecking’ or driving ships onto the coast by confusing them with lights. Whether this was true or not, a popular local prayer was ‘Let there be no shipwrecks this night, but if there are let them be bountiful.’
One of the area’s many colourful characters was Reverend RS Hawker, who rebuilt the church at Morwenstow, and was vicar here for many years. He built the nearby vicarage using memories from his time at Oxford. He had a love of all animals, and was said to feed wild birds from his hands. He was once admonished for allowing a dog in church at Welcombe and told the complainer: ‘Madam, I feel he is much closer to God than you.’
Hawker had a great abhorrence of shipwrecks, and wrecking, and after The Caledonian went down in 1842 at Sharpnose with nearly all hands, he had the prow bought up to the churchyard and afterward buried found sailors around it, over a hundred in all.
Along the cliff to the south from Morwenstow Church is ‘Hawker’s Hut’, a small viewing shelter made by Hawker from wrecked wood, it is a fine place to view the coastal cliffs rain or shine.
Opposite the churchyard is the Rectory Tea Rooms serving lunches and cream teas, they have winter weekend opening hours and longer during holidays. Just back from the church at Crosstown is the Bush Inn, a country pub serving meals. On the other side of the valley at Welcombe is another country pub, The Old Smithy Inn featuring retro decor, good food and a warm welcome. It is a pleasant ride or walk from Gooseham across the valley, and popular with our visitors.
Slightly further afield are plenty of interesting places for everyone such as the famous Clovelly Village and hourbour, Gardeners will love to see Hartland Abbey and Docton Mill Gardens. Children will love the Milky Way adventure park and the Big Sheep, and beach lovers will find a spot for every persuasion, whether a big sandy expanse at low tide Sandymouth, or a quiet and romantic spot at hidden Stanbury Mouth. For those interested in surfing lessons for children or adults see Freewave surf academy at nearby Widemouth beach. Golfers can have a round at Ivyleaf, 9 hole and good for all abilities, or for a more serious game try the links course at Bude Golf Club.