Because the village as a whole is effectively a museum-piece all the repairs and maintenance are carried out to very strict criteria using only traditional materials which require skilled crafts people. Thus the village is quite expensive to upkeep and visitors are charged an admission fee which goes towards this upkeep.
The admission fee (currently 5.50 GBP) includes parking, entry to the visitor centre with its displays as well as admission to the village and its little heritage museums. In my opinion, whilst this may seem quite a steep fee, this is something that everyone should pay especially when using the parking and other facilities.
Having said that tho' there is actually no necessity to pay for admission as the service road which skirts the village going down to the harbour is in fact a public highway and maintained by the local council. Not only that but the village is actually on the Southwest Coastal Path. And so if you arrive on foot or by public transport you can walk down this road to enter the village at the "White Rails", the path from which leads to the top end of the High Street.
OK, so having avoided the admission charge you really should still contribute something to the village and in my case this involves having a couple (or three) beers at The Red Lion, the profits from which go to the Estate Trust anyway. Thus your conscience is salved!
The village is actually mentioned in the Doomsday Book around 1100 AD. It was a George Carys who actually had the breakwater built around the late 1500's. He was a lawyer and a Sherrif pf Devon. His family/descendants lived here until the Hamlyn's. At the top further along from the tourist information is Clovelly Court built by Zachery Hamlyn in 1740. A Christine Hamlyn was an instigator in the cottages in the village being preserved.
The village is still privately owned, I think by this same family. It is an entirely private village and the entrance fee to go in maintains this village.