An historical pub crawl in Honiton
PUBLISHED: 11:30 09 January 2016 | UPDATED: 10:33 14 January 2016
An absorbing chunk of Honiton's rich history has been written about in a new book which offers a pictorial retrospective on more than 450 Devon pubs.
The book, aptly named Devon Pubs, is written by Andrew Swift and Kirsten Elliott and gives a charming insight into the pubs and inns hidden among sleepy towns and parishes lying within Devon.
Honiton is featured, and boasts the title of being ‘one of the most important coaching towns in Devon’, with several inns lining its long main street. An excerpt from the book looks at the Dolphin Inn, reading: “The principle inn [in Honiton] was the Dolphin”, adorned with a snap of the building from the 1920s.
According to the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould, the book continues, it is ‘supposed to still possess some portion of the ancient building once belonging to the Courtenays, whose cognisance is the inn sign’.
The book reveals that the inn was a used a military hospital during the Civil War, and how one of its upper rooms is supposedly haunted.
It also features words dictated from an Oxford Journal cutting, when tragedy very nearly struck the inn in the form of a fire in 1777.
Looking at the Dolphin now, the books says, a lot has changed. But one ‘miraculous survival’ of the inn’s heritage is the set of three bells once used to summon the ostler, post boy and marker. Another pub the book explores is the Globe Inn, originally known as the Carpenter’s Arms, and then the Baker’s Arms.
Featuring a picture of the building from around the time of World War One, the authors dig into its history, revealing its unusual transformations – firstly as a hall for Jehovah’s Witnesses, an antique centre, amusement arcade and currently, a tattoo studio.
The building to the left of the inn in the photo (above), once Scott Temperance Hotel, still survives, but the other next to that has been demolished, as has the two-storey shop on the far corner.
The book also features a picture from the Edwardian era – schoolchildren waiting for hot pennies to be thrown down from the King’s Arms.
The tradition, which is still a popular fixture in most Honitonian’s calendars to this day, dates from the thirteenth century.
The King’s Arms closed in 1975 to become an antiques centre, and is now a clothes shop. The final pub to be showcased in Honiton is the Three Tuns. Pictured above is the building, thought to be in 1935, adorned with flags to mark ‘some auspicious occasion’, says the book.
The authors guess that it could be celebrating George V’s Silver Jubilee.
The book continues: “After a recent refurbishment, this old coaching inn has reopened as a traditional town-centre local, complete with skittle alley.”
Looking across villages dotted around the rural areas surrounding Honiton, few pubs are mentioned.
Broadhembury gets a brief look-in, with the authors providing some interesting facts about the Drewe Arms, pictured in a 1920s postcard.
An excerpt from the book reads: “[The inn] dates from around 1400 and may have originally been the church house.
“It was called the Red Lion until around 1920, when it was renamed after the Drewe family who lived at the nearby Grange… A red lion still stands atop the sign of this welcoming and atmospheric inn.”
The book also features the Otter Inn, formerly an ‘unassuming cider house’ – complete with a festive photograph of the building from around 1907.
The authors write: “Today, extended beyond recognition, it has been transformed into one of East Devon’s busiest hostelries.”
An interesting section of the books details the village of Smeatharpe, affectionately known to the authors as ‘one of the most evocative and little-known places in the country’.
Here, the King’s Arms is pictured in the 1920s, but interestingly, the main focus of the story details a period of time after that – 1943.
The books tells how the pub’s rural seclusion came to an ‘abrupt end’ when the fields beyond it were requisitioned for RAF Upottery and used by American transport and reconnaissance units in the run-up to D-Day.
“The King’s Arms had never been busier”, the authors write. “But its glory days were short-lived.”
Now, the book says, the King’s Arms is a private house and has changed relatively little.
And finally, Yarcombe Inn is brought into the fray. Before the Honiton and Ilminster turnpike – now part of the A30 – was authorised in 1807, Yarcombe was very isolated.
The book reads: “As the largest village on the 14-mile stretch of road between Chard and Honiton, it was inevitable that its inn should become an important calling point for coaches.”
Devon Pubs is available to purchase for £15 from Akeman Press.