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The Bell Inn, Admiral Vernon and New Inn

Civil War

Alphington Church, St Michael and All Angels dominates the village of Alphington on the outskirts of Exeter.

Parliamentary troops used the church as a stable in 1644 during the Civil War and in 1645, sensing the strategic importance of Alphington, after defeating the Royalists at Powderham,  General Fairfax made his headquarters here whilst he put the final touches to his plans for the Parliamentary victory in 1646.

I have also read that Parliamentary troops occupied the Admiral Vernon Inn. However the Inn was then possibly known as the Church House (Inn) and stood on the corner of Ide Lane where the Old School now stands.

The building which became Admiral (Vernon) Inn now occupies was then a private residence known as Burgoynes after the owner, William Burgoyne (first registered in 1704). This building now inncorporates private residences owned by the Exeter Housing Society.

Many of the buildings and houses in Alphington are named after their original owners. The Church House will have been built just prior to the church in the late C15th (some say 1480) to house the builders and craftsmen working on the Church, and later to house visiting preachers.

The Admiral Inn

The Admiral Inn (formerly the Admiral Vernon Inn and Bell Inn) was a busy pub that incorporated a restaurant. There were bottled beers and a real ale available. The food was very good especially if you liked steaks. Thursday nights featured a Steak Stampede where you could eat for very reasonable prices. Before 1999, it was a Thai restaurant (from the mid 1990's) and prior to that a pub with a lounge and public bar.

Unfortunately the pub closed in May 2006 after a buyer for the business failed to materialise.

The business had been in trouble for years trying to find a niche for itself within the village but despite the very hard work and late nights put in by Mike, the business eventually failed. Basically it could not decide whether it was restaurant or pub and tried to be both.

Admiral Vernon died in 1757, the pub will no doubt have been named in his memory or his exploits. There were once many pubs bearing his name but these were later altered to Frederick the Great or Wellington. The 'pop up' gives details of the major Spanish conflicts he was in involved in. He was also the man responsible for Grog.

Horse Fairs

From 1682 to the latter part of the C19th, Alphington was famous for its Cattle and Horse Fairs and as a rendezvous to get transport to Haldon Races. The Horse Fair was the biggest in Devon and drew people from miles around. A great number of gypsies attended, most of them equine experts so while they practised horsey stuff, their wives told people of their fortune. The fair lasted two days and because of this 23 public or 'bush' houses were set up to cater for the crowds of people.

The fairs took place on the first Wednedsay after 20th June and also on the Wednesday after Michaelmasday. The 'bush' houses were so called, because when the beer and or cider was ready, a bush was hung outside the establishment. This practice it seems was not limited to Alphington, blackthorn bushes were hung outside many of the ale houses in Exeter in the early C14th and very possibly before.

The King William, Double Locks, The Bell and the Admiral Vernon all did good trade.
For the priveledge of holding the fair, rent was paid to the Lord of the Manor. The fair was originally held in the road leading to Shillingford near Clapperbrook Lane, but was later moved to a site now occupied by the Fairfield Estate built in the early 1960's.

The Michaelmass Fair was the biggest fair and was known as Goose Fair, frequented by geese eaters. Up to sixty Geese were cooked at the old Admiral Vernon to provide a feast for the visitors. The geese were first boiled and then browned on a spit.

The last Cattle & Horse fair was in 1870.

The Bell Inn

Version 1 of The Admiral Vernon used to stand by the corner of Ide lane on the site of the old school but this was destroyed by fire on 15th September 1871, after this in 1883, the Bell Inn became the Admiral Vernon Inn (J.W. Coles).

The tennant at the time was Joseph Richards who had leased the Bell Inn from a William Loram. William Loram sold the pub to St Anne's Well Brewery in 1895 (deeds) and moved to Brooklands (J.W. Coles). William Loram is listed in White's Devon Directory as a Butcher.

The Bell Inn or Olde Bell Inn was originally a private residence known as Burgoynes after it's owner William Burgoyne listed there in 1704. Click here for a floor plan of the Bell Inn.

The 'pop up' is mapped. By moving your cursor over the image, text boxes will describe the original building in more detail and how this relates to the present day building.

Briefly though, Lamp Cottage, the Bell Inn and the cottage next door were at some stage interconnected buildings, possibly that of a poor house. This poor house may possibly have been built on a second strip of land given to the St Michaels and All Angels in 1512.

A more likely scenario though was the Bell Inn's expansion into neighbouring properties during the height of the coaching days in the C18th followed by regression to a single building with the demise of the coaching trade. Lamp cottage (now demolished) also at one-time had a turret which was used by the Bell Inn to look-out for coaches in order that fresh horses were ready upon the arrival of the coach before the ascent over Haldon. Next stop would have been Chudliegh.

Original beams can be seen in the roof.

The building seen today underwent a fairly major structural change in 1964, with the reconstruction of a new lounge and bar, a flat roofed extension was added out back, now housing the WC. In the lounge, light oak panelling was used with driftwood doors. The lounge kept the original oak ceiling beam with a tile floor installed in the public bar. This has since been covered with parquet flooring. The fireplace is of Stoneycombe stone and incorporates a granite gatepost as a horizontal support.

The original lay out was somewhat different than today. The front entrance as seen today led directly onto a long corridor than led straight to the back door. On each side of this corridor were the drinking areas, the bar was along the back-wall of the bar seen today. The bar in 2006 inhabitted what would have been this long corridor. This design was very typical of houses built in the C16th and is replicated in The Double Locks Hotel which was built in 1701.

Husseys hold sparse details of an auction at Langford's Bell Inn in 1857. The tennant at the time was Thomas Langford.

The occupier of the original Admiral Vernon Inn on the corner of Ide Lane, escaped the fire with his wife and four children. Their surname was Foefees. However, they sub-let from William Gover.

JW Coles, 'Echoes of Alphington' states that the Church House was occupied by the Admiral's Head until 1814 and then The Admiral Vernon Inn.

There are three pictures in the Church 'glory hole' showing the original Admiral Vernon opposite the war memorial triangle. Two water colours (1833 and 1850) and an oil painting which is older. At that time, several cottages occupied the triangle, one of these became the Eight Bells Inn.

Both versions of the Admiral Vernon issued checks which were used like money. They were tokens and may have been given as change or as a prize for possibly winning a skittles match. Either way they were redeemable for beer. Three sets of coins are known to have existed. The original pub issued a very crude token between 1866 and 1870 when H. Mitchel was resident. John Routley issued more between 1883 and 1890, this was after he had taken over at the Bell Inn. The tokens shown were issued between 1875 and 1905 when a man named Adams was resident.

Husseys advertised a timber sale at the Admiral Vernon on 17th January 1837 and a Livestock Auction in 1892. There is also a poster in the pub advertising an auction at Lamp Cottage (which used to stand at the entrance to Lucerne House) in 1889. Perhaps though of more significance is an advertisement in the Western Times (19th September 1846).

This was before the pub re-located to the Bell Inn. The pub was descibed as the Admiral Vernon Inn and not the Vernon's Head. The full text of the advert is shown below. Mike, the pub's former landlord also showed me an old picture of the pub taken on 23rd July 1932 just prior to the pub regulars' annual outing to Bigbury Bay. Until 6th September 2002 this was the last pub outing. However, on this date, pub regulars visited O'Hanlon's Brewery near Whimple for a drunken night out. The Express and Echo recorded the event but never printed the photographs or made any mention in their newspaper.

Checks issued by the Admiral Vernon

The Admiral Vernon Inn

WESTERN TIMES, EXETER 19th September 1846.
To let, with immediate possesion that old established and well accustomed public house The Admiral Vernon Inn.
Situated at Alphington in a populous and thriving neighbourhood with good stabling, covered skittle alley, brewhouse and every requisite accomodation.
The above affords an elegible opportunity to persons of small capital as the stock is much reduced.
Rent moderate. For particulars apply on the premises.

This Admiral Vernon (version 2) was still thatched during WW2. A story in the parish magazine during the war tells of the Home Guard drinking there. One of their guns went off, the bullet going through the ceiling, through a bed and chamber pot and lodging in the thatched roof.
During the late C19th, the place was also a coaching house. In a letter to William Loram in 1889, John Routley (the tennant) mentioned that the Ostlers's room was in a bad state of repair. An Ostler was man responsible for changing and looking after horses for the coaches. Ostlers also often had problems with their toes because the horses kept stamping on their feet. Ostler's Toe is now known as Onychogryphosis (say that when you're pissed). It is a thickening and curling of the nail due to damage at the root.

The New Inn

Just next to the New Inn is the old Schoolmaster's house and the old school used nowadays for local functions, pre-school and tots playtime. The site of the schoolhouse used to be that of the Church House which incorporated the Red Lion and also the original Admiral Vernon Inn.

In 1499, the Church was given a piece of land, another strip of land was given in 1512. The Church House was built on these pieces of land. This house was leased in May 1784 for 99 years for a 'fine' of 100, and a yearly rental of 5. A stipulation of the lease was that the 'fine' should go to the repair of the Church, with the rent plus 5 interest was to be distributed to the poor in the form of bread.

Fire at the Inn

A fire on 15th September 1871 starting at 4 am destroyed the Admiral Vernon Inn, 2 adjoining houses and a butchers shop. The Red Lion had presumably already closed. The landlady discovered the fire and both herself and her husband managed to escape with their 4 children. The family were known as the Feoffees, a lease of 1860 shows their property to have included stables, a brewhouse, cellars, gardens and curtilage (an enclosed area such as a courtyard). The house fontage was typically tudor as can be seen in the 'pop up' below. To see an old plan of the pub, Click here.

The Admiral Vernon later relocated to the Bell Inn further up Chudliegh Road.

A C17th court was held at the Admiral Vernon (then the first Church House (Inn)) where criminal cases were heard (at the Court Leet) and also parish affairs were discussed under the auspices of the Court Baron.

The New Inn replaced the first Alphington post office in 1872, a year after the Church House fire, very likely as some sort of re-development of those buildings at the Village centre. The New Inn was the new 'Admiral Vernon'. The Post Office moved down the road to a position opposite Rosemont Flats. Parr's cottages used to occupy the site on the other side of the New Inn. At the turn of the C19th and before, the New Inn was Alphington's 'cider house', inhabited by those who could not generally afford beer or preferred to drink cider. This made those who supped at the Admiral Vernon (which had re-opened at the Bell Inn in 1883), perhaps feel a little more self important than they should.

The New Inn itself used to be sited right on Ide Lane corner, where the end of Lockfield Court now stands. This original building was demolished in 1967 and the pub moved next door into a house that stood back off the road and would appear by the look of it, to have been built around 1930. The house was extended back towards the corner to form the bar areas. Inside the pub are a number of old photographs showing all of this and also a few of old Exeter.

In January 1917, Charles Cole died. He had been the landlord of the New Inn. He was a well known bell ringer and was also sexton for 50 years. Members of his family had held the post for over 200 years (source 1953). J.W Coles' notes have provided a vital source of information for this website.

The New Inn

Barn Cottage

The yellow cottage in Ide Lane was originally Barn Cottage (now Burgoynes) and was built in 1627. It was possibly built as the barn for Burgoynes, which as you might remember was the original house name of the building that eventually became the Admiral Inn but which was converted for housing during 2008.

The New Inn

The Pubs In Brief

Stuart Callon Copyright ©1998 - 2008