Bampton's Historic Inns
Bampton had an astonishing number of old inns, particularly during the (thirsty) quarrying years. Many of these buildings are still visible although have now been converted to domestic use.
There are 3 public houses in the town centre, where once there were 13 of a total of 20 in the parish, including a hotel with a full on-licence. There are also currently two hotels where drinks can be bought only with a meal, The Bridge House Resaurant in Luke Street and Waggoners, (recently re-named) in Newton Square and the Toucan Bistro is also licenced.
The Swan Hotel
One of the oldest buildings in Bampton, part was built in 1450 by Sir William Bourchier for the craftsmen who were enlarging the church for him, with a workshop at the rear. There is a small window at the back of the hotel, halfway up a staircase which is some centuries younger, the original of which is believed to have been a look-out for the Master Stonemason during the building of the north aisle of the church. Once the work was finished the house was redundant, and it became the Church (Ale) House. It became an Inn in the 17th century, identifiable as such to travellers by a green bush which hung over the door. It was then a two-storied building, the present top floor having been added around 1890 to cater for travellers using the new railway. From 1738 until 1775 it was known simply as Mr. Newte’s House, he being its’ owner. It has been The Swan since around 1893. Around the turn of the 20th century it was the Posting House, when next door was a stable for three horses which had been an old cottage. Shown here in front of the Swan - one of the first charabancs to visit Bampton (1920's?)!
The White Horse Hotel
The White Horse Inn has a late 18th century frontage on the remains of a small complex of 16th century cottages. The model of the horse over the door, replacing a rotten predecessor, was carved by Derek Aldridge, who built into it a ‘time capsule’. It was placed in position in August 1998. The bar on the left has not always been part of the Inn. During the 19th and early 20th centuries half of it was one of the many boot and shoe shops in the town, and at the turn of the 20th century the other half was a pawnbroker’s shop.
The White Horse Hotel was a centre of activity in the town. Courts Leet and Magistrates’ Courts sat there, and the horse-coach left there for the trains at Morebath. For a time it was the Posting House, and it housed the Inland Revenue Office. It also held the local fishing rights. The stone passageway bisecting the floor once served the Revenue Office and the other, older, buildings which in time became incorporated in the hotel, some of which were reached by a path which branched off the present one about halfway along. It was simply a public thoroughfare running between the buildings. The White Horse had its own brewery in the rear yard, but it burnt down sometime between 1863 and 1873 and in its place stables were built, with a room above for public entertainment which was known as The Assembly Rooms. The lower photo shows the White Horse Tap (cider pub) around 1900.
The Quarryman’s Rest
For some centuries the Tiverton Inn/Hotel stood at the southern end of the town, so-named because it marked the start of the road to Tiverton. The road ended (or began, depending upon which town one was in) at The Bampton Inn in Tiverton. The ground behind the Tiverton Hotel was where the famous Bampton Pony Fair used to be held. For a few years it later had the rather inappropriate name of The Seahorse.
In July 2006 it was again renamed as The Quarryman’s Rest, although the quarry workers rarely used it. There were two Bampton Inns in Bampton Street, Tiverton at different times, one opposite and replacing the other. Both are now private houses.
The Exeter Inn
A mile or so from the middle of town, this inn was originally built as a farmhouse around 1495 at the end of a track leading from the packhorse way which passed over the River Exe a few hundred yards away, where Halfpenny Bridge was built in later years. Much of the original building is still in use, two of the bars being in the old part – it was extended in the 1970’s (to the right of the brick chimney).
The Inn was visited by Alfred Lord Tennyson in June 1891 during a three day visit to Dulverton. He came to the Inn by horse and carriage, returning to Dulverton by train via Bampton Station. When he finally left Dulverton, he again drove down the Exe Valley to Bampton station for Starcross, where he re-embarked on the yacht Assagai to continue a cruise.
The top photo is about 1910, the lower one is from an old postcard dated 1948, before the road layout was changed.
The Bridge House Hotel
This was a house until the 1930’s, owned by Sammy Gibbings the Town Crier. His wife ran a small shop there alongside a small restaurant, selling home cooked ham, home made butter and the like. Later, his grand-daughter came to live there and opened a Tea Room and called it The Cyclists’ Rest, whilst Sammy had moved into Railway Cottage next door. This became one of the two Temperance Hotels in Bampton, along with Staddon's.
This splendid photo from an old postcard shows the Temperance Hotel possibly with Mr and Mrs Gibbings grand-daughter in the doorway, welcoming customers to the 'Cyclists Rest'.
And now for some of the inns which have passed into history:
Staddon's Corner House
Not exactly an inn in the alcoholic sense, but another Temperance Hotel on the corner of Castle Street and Frog Street! Staddon’s had been built as a farmhouse, Coxhayes, in 1788, but has now been split into two houses, one of which has taken the old farmhouse name.
This photo shows it in 1976. Note the hanging baskets and window boxes! - Bampton in Bloom has been going since 1971. Note also the cantilevered first floor window on the left which is still there today.
At Shillingford, 2 miles east of Bampton, was The Barleycorn which until late in the 19th century had its own brewhouse. Shillingford is a peaceful little hamlet, but that peace was shattered at 2.00a.m. one February morning in 1992. A domestic disturbance necessitated the presence of the police, and the two officers who arrived were met with the story of a tied-up woman and an armed man who was carrying explosives. The neighbours were called from their beds and evacuated into the nearby Barleycorn, where they stayed until all was quiet again around mid-day. Probably the most frustrating part of the matter was that The Barleycorn had just had a change of owner and was being refurbished, and there was not a drop to drink on the premises! Some food was sent out for however, and 45 people sat down to breakfast. It closed its doors on Sunday 12th December 1999 and was converted into a private house.
This tiny inn (shown on the left in 1905) opened as a beerhouse in 1834 by a wheelwright, John Tamar.
In 1883 another wheelwright was in residence selling beer – Samuel Serle. In 1903 William Venn, a carriage proprietor was there, also selling beer.
Many public houses which carry the name of a trade date from the time when the tradesman made his own beer and sold it from home.
The Druggists' Arms
Two small cottages, once the Bampton Garage in Fore Street, were at one stage The Druggists’ Arms, which replaced a chemist/wine and spirit merchant, H. Langdon.
He had taken over from Edmund Brook in the 1860’s.
The lower photo showing the garage as well is c1920.
The Angel Inn
The present chemist’s shop on the island in Newton Square replaced The Angel Inn in 1922 - shown in the photo. The photo shows the pub on a crowded Bampton Fair Day in about 1900.
The Red Lion stood in Back Street near its junction with Castle Street, complete with stables and a room for public entertainment and lectures, with seating for 230 people. It was eventually demolished to make way for a Gospel Hall named Central Hall, which in turn has been converted into a bungalow. Also in Back Street in the 17th and 18th centuries was The Heron described by one writer as “a low class drinking den in Back Lane whose customers were mostly a rough bunch of thieves from Western Way (now West Street) whose children were no better”!
The Castle Inn
This building in Castle Street became a Coaching Inn on the turnpike from Taunton. In common with all public houses, it used to brew its own beer and ale.
In the 1700’s it was known as The Malthouse, and in 1895 Bare’s Public House. The photo on the right is c1910. It closed in April 1969 and is now a private house.
This splendid old photograph below shows it during a time when traffic was not the problem it is today!
Note the significant number of horse-droppings in the roadway.
The Great House.
Very many years ago, one Madam Gaddy lived at The Great House, a grand old mansion towards the end of Brook Street. It was the Manor House before Castle Grove was built. Madam Gaddy was banished to the Barton and allowed to return to her home at the rate of one cockstride a year - a fate normally meted out to exorcised spirits.
Had she made it back by the turn of the 20th century she would have been dismayed to find not her mansion, but a new public house bearing the name “The Great House”. It was known locally as “The Tuppeny Ha’penny Pub” from the price of a pint. That change was following a tradition. A sale of property was held at The Great House “an inn or alehouse in the town” in 1683. The public house closed around 1940, and the building has since seen service as a gents’ hairdresser, but it is now a private house.
This photo was taken in the 1920's
Little is known of this inn which stood on the hill above Bampton on the Packhorse Way/Stony Lane until the middle of the 18th century. This used to be the main route out of the town going south. The overgrown ruins of the buildings are still visible.
Three more inns are recorded, but of them there is now no trace:
The Royal Oak
Sometime between 1712 and 1720, an Inn known as The Royall Oake was pulled down during a riot. It had belonged to one Joseph Quash, an Exeter postmaster who was in the throes of bankruptcy. Neither the reason for the riot, nor the location in Bampton of the Inn are known. Between 1714 and 1729 the Royal Oak is described in documents as “late Joan Capron’s house”. By 1827 the Inn had been rebuilt. Then the confusion starts - in 1829 it was in the joint tenure of John Dibble, William Snow, and Thomas Langdon the local surgeon. Yet in 1828 it is referred to in the past tense in the Will of William Yeandall who owned the site in Luke Street.
The Five Bells Inn
With the Royal Oak is mentioned the Five Bells Inn whose location is also unknown. The victuallers are known from 1788 until 1808, and it is mentioned in a marriage settlement of 1827 with the elusive Royal Oak. In 1828 a new house was built “adjoining the house in possession of William Snow formerly consisted of a stable, brewhouse, messuage & garden known as the Five Bells Inn”. The last mention of it is in 1829. A small single-storey building in the present Station Road was a cottage or cottages called Five Bells which became a primary school in 1878, but it seems improbable that the description above, with stable and garden, applies to that building which has room for neither. Equally improbable is having two buildings in the same area carrying the same name.
The New Inn
From the late 18th century until around the middle of the 19th, the New Inn features regularly in old documents, but it is not known where it was. One more possible drinking house seems to have existed somewhere in Bampton. “Gracehayes & house adjoining, lately a Cyder Cellar” is mentioned in a Deed of 1761, and again in 1782. The inference is that it was more than simply a building for storing cider, and made a business of selling it.
CIDER MAKING IN BAMPTON
Cider-making must rank as one of the most famous of the west country trades, although it was in very little use until the early part of the 16th century. By the end of that century, cider orchards abounded, although there were always fruit orchards, and Bampton had its fair share of them providing a cider famous over a wide area. By the early part of the 20th century, and very likely centuries earlier, every farm had its own orchard and brewed its own cider; a daily allowance of cider was recognised as part of the wages of farm workers, including the young children who had to work from the age of eight. Within living memory there was a cider press in the barn of Forde House, when it was part of the complex forming the malthouse. The barn is now part of the property of Forde Cottage. The press has gone, but one can still see the circle on the floor where it stood. There is still a Victorian cider press at Kersdown Barton. The White Horse Tap, nothing to do with the hotel of that name, occupied the cottage at 1 Fore Street in 1863 and began selling only cider. The Great House also sold cider, and the remnants of its orchard still grow at the rear of the property.
Traces of other ancient orchards can still be found: at the rear of Forde House and Forde Cottage in Briton Street, at Kersdown Barton in Ford Road (earlier known as Barton Lane), at the eastern end of the churchyard at the rear of Home Cottage, and by the Castle Mound. Those behind Home Cottage - Wyetts Green Orchard and Stone Orchard - were mentioned in Deeds of 1683. Old maps show that there were many more which have either disappeared or been grubbed out for housing developments. The area covered by Barnhay was an orchard, through which an ancient track led from Mary Lane and out to the west. The photo on the right is the old orchard next to Bampton School - note the ancient lichens on the branches.
Another small but intact orchard exists off Luke Street. It belonged to The Wheelwright’s Arms, and is enclosed by a stone wall. It may be the one which formed part of a marriage settlement in 1766 between Elizabeth Venn and a member of the Rossiter family of Tiverton, although another orchard existed in the angle between Luke Street and Westgate Street (now Station Road), which was destroyed to make way for the railway station.
Text by Tom McManamon