Dating back to 1321 the chapel was built as a place of worship for the people of Ilfracombe living and working around the harbour. From the middle ages the chapel maintained a light to guide shipping into the harbour. It is still a working lighthouse today and is said to be the oldest in the country. When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1540 St Nicholas ceased to be a chapel.
Around 1849 Mr John Davey began living there as lighthouse keeper with is laundress wife Elizabeth raising a family of 14 children. John died in 1870 but the family lived there until 1871when the family moved down to the Quay. The chapel has also been used as a summer reading room but then it remained much neglected until 1962 when it was restored by the Rotarians of the town.
The chapel is today regarded as a special place of interest within the town and is an iconic landmark overlooking the harbour. The old porch has been transformed into a small chancel and occasional services are held there. The chapel is maintained by Ilfracombe Rotary Club and run largely by volunteers. It is free to look around but donations are welcome. All the money raised goes to charity.
Access is by a sloping path, it is accessible by wheelchair but the ascent can be strenuous.