Moreton has always been a place of commerce and travel. From the earliest days, when the medieval market and fairs drew people in from the neighbouring countryside and further afield, the inns have been essential to Moreton’s livelihood. Later, as Moreton prospered as an important West Country cloth-making town, their numbers steadily increased until by the early 1700s an average of 15-20 persons were applying each year to sell ale from their premises. Unlike today’s licensees, they were not all Innkeepers – more likely ‘home brewers’ who still required a licence to sell their surplus ale. With competition from the north of England in the early eighteenth century, Devon’s cloth industry declined. In order to supplement their incomes at that time a number of Moreton’s cloth workers turned to selling ale from their homes as a cottage industry. This led to a peak of 32 licences in 1730 which lasted for 3 or 4 years! By 1800 the numbers of ale-houses had dwindled. They were replaced by fewer, larger establishments, catering to the quickly increasing trade of travellers crossing the moor through Moreton. Further competition from the industrialised commercial breweries in Exeter and Newton Abbot brought an end to local brewing in Moreton, reducing numbers to the four ‘pubs’ we have today.

White horse hotel

Early Inns in Moretonhampstead

The Angel

Landlord William Bowden, recorded in 1619 in a rare list of Devon Inns (as opposed to ale-houses). It seems to have been the only hostelry providing accommodation for travellers at that time.

The Bishop Blaize

Named after the patron of the Woolcombers, an important occupation in Moreton in the 17th century. It stood where the blacksmith’s forge is now.

The Sun

In Cross street, and belonging to the Church. An abstract of Church Deeds of 1756 says it was bounded to the east by William Courtenay’s lands [the Almshouses] and to the south by Hammick’s land.

The Black Horse, or Golden Lion

The Black Horse in Cross Street changed its name in May 1802 to the Golden Lion and is shown between Back Lane and Cross Street in the ‘May murder’ map of 1835 (no. 16, J. Langbridge). The Golden Lion was damaged in the fire of 1845 but was quickly rebuilt. It had a wide passageway on the east which led to the brewhouse, stables and yard behind, where a skittle alley was later installed. The Inn traded for another 75 years until closed by the brewers in 1919. The house was later the printers, Shobrooke & Collier, then a private house. The sign of the Golden Lion can just be seen in several postcards from the early 1900s.

The London Inn, or Courtenay Arms

Cross Tree House, beside the Dancing Tree, was the site of the Moreton Inn with the shortest, but possibly the most eventful life. In 1799 John Hancock applied for a licence to open the house of his former master, the Rev. James Fynes, as an Inn, to be called the London Inn and Tavern. His application was refused that year, but succeeded in 1800. Two weeks later the bellringing for the anniversary of the King’s Coronation was followed by a dinner at the London Inn for the bellringers. From then on, Hancock missed no opportunity to attract attention. He improved the access to the Dancing Tree (already used by Mr Fynes and his friends for musical entertainment), with a flight of steps leading into the tree from his skittle alley and a platform within it to hold musicians, several dancing couples and spectators ! It was popular with the Dutch and French officers on parole in Moreton. The following summer he was one of five innkeepers providing hospitality at the Races on Mardon Down, with a 60 ft. long booth and an impressive repast of cold beef, chicken, pies, tongues, wines and spirits! Balls and suppers were held at the London Inn whenever there was cause for celebration. They were patronised by the gentry and principal persons of the town. In 1806, after the Lord of the Manor, Lord Courtenay, had dined several times at the London Inn, he presented Hancock with a new sign of the Courtenay Arms, and the name of the Inn was changed. However, the days of the Courtenay Arms were short, for in the autumn of 1809 John Hancock left Moreton and disappeared ‘from the embarrassment of his affairs’. His poor wife was left to face the music and sell up.

The Dolphin

An unusual sign for a moorland inn, and unusual in having only 5 landlords in its last 100 years. The Dolphin was in Lime Street (now Dolphin house), and had two serious fires: In February 1808 a fire broke out in the Dolphin which spread to neighbouring houses, and was only put out by the combined efforts of the townspeople, helped by the Volunteers and the French and Dutch prisoners on parole. In 1816 a fire on the opposite side of Lime Street destroyed the stables and brewhouse of the Dolphin. The Dolphin sign can be seen in a very old photo looking up Lime Street, with Geneva Island occupying the centre of the street. The inn is shown on the May Map (no. 11, R. Hutchings).

Old picture at top of Lime Street

The George

This inn stood in the centre of the Square – and it gave its name to the whole block in the 19th Century. All we know is that James Burnett was the landlord when it was sold in 1779 and remained the licensee for several more years. In 1797 the premises ‘lately known as The George’ came on to the market again. Deeds of the area east of Station road (by Bow Lane) show that the George had stables there at one time, and the deeds of the White Hart in the early 19th century show that it had acquired a piece of land on ‘on the opposite side of the turnpike’ which was known as ‘The George dung pit’.

The Black Horse, or Golden Lion

The Black Horse in Cross Street changed its name in May 1802 to the Golden Lion and is shown between Back Lane and Cross Street in the ‘May murder’ map of 1835 (no. 16, J. Langbridge). The Golden Lion was damaged in the fire of 1845 but was quickly rebuilt. It had a wide passageway on the east which led to the brewhouse, stables and yard behind, where a skittle alley was later installed. The Inn traded for another 75 years until closed by the brewers in 1919. The house was later the printers, Shobrooke & Collier, then a private house. The sign of the Golden Lion can just be seen in several postcards from the early 1900s.

The White Horse (Gray’s Hotel)

Established at least by the mid-17th century, it became an important posting inn, like its near neighbour the White Hart, with a malt-house alongside. William Soper was the first landlord known to us. When he died in 1795, his wife Mary succeeded him. From all accounts she was a merry widow, and became one of Moreton’s most popular landladies over the next ten years. In April 1799, Mary was expecting to marry a Sergeant of Marines. However, on pretence of being ordered back to barracks in Newton Abbot, he jilted her. Her son was born in October 1799! Her other claim to fame is that in 1803 she reared a 3-year old pig which weighed 705 lb – ‘the fattest ever seen in Moreton since the memory of the oldest living person’.

Mary Soper was followed by Samuel Cann, who went on to develop the White Hart. In 1822 it was taken over by the Gray family, who were farming at Addiscott. Renamed Gray’s Hotel, it was run as a family concern until the 1930s, the Grays becoming prominent citizens of the town.

The White Horse was the site of a major fire in 1838, which was complicated by the fact that the landlord had reluctantly agreed to store a quantity of ‘rock powder’ (gunpowder for blasting work) in an outhouse for a customer, which cramped the style of the fire-fighters until it exploded. The fire caused substantial damage to the nearest properties in Pound Street as well as to its own outbuildings and to the house between it and the White Hart.

In the 20th century, Harvey Neck, a regular at the White Horse, was sitting in the Denno, as the Tap Room was called, when a visitor asked who he was. The visitor was told ‘Oh, he’s only the village idiot’! Harvey, a staunch Moretonian, retorted ‘Not so much of the Village, Moreton’s a Town!’ The White Horse claims to have a resident Ghost, fond of switching on lights at night, and slamming the door in your face. It so impressed a visiting German playwright that he wrote a play about it. He returned a year later with the cast to make its acquaintance again.

White Horse Inn

The Gregory Arms

The Gregory Arms was an inn on the main road in Doccombe, which became a private house in the early part of the 20th century. Its sign can be seen on an old photograph, shown below.

The Kings Arms

In 1835 a map (no. 17, John Colridge) shows this lying between Greenhill and Cross Street. In the 1841 Census John Colridge was living hereabouts (5 doors from the Golden Lion), but was described as a carpenter, but a later John Colridge again became an innkeeper.

The London Inn, or Courtenay Arms

Cross Tree House, beside the Dancing Tree, was the site of the Moreton Inn with the shortest, but possibly the most eventful life. In 1799 John Hancock applied for a licence to open the house of his former master, the Rev. James Fynes, as an Inn, to be called the London Inn and Tavern. His application was refused that year, but succeeded in 1800. Two weeks later the bellringing for the anniversary of the King’s Coronation was followed by a dinner at the London Inn for the bellringers. From then on, Hancock missed no opportunity to attract attention. He improved the access to the Dancing Tree (already used by Mr Fynes and his friends for musical entertainment), with a flight of steps leading into the tree from his skittle alley and a platform within it to hold musicians, several dancing couples and spectators ! It was popular with the Dutch and French officers on parole in Moreton. The following summer he was one of five innkeepers providing hospitality at the Races on Mardon Down, with a 60 ft. long booth and an impressive repast of cold beef, chicken, pies, tongues, wines and spirits! Balls and suppers were held at the London Inn whenever there was cause for celebration. They were patronised by the gentry and principal persons of the town. In 1806, after the Lord of the Manor, Lord Courtenay, had dined several times at the London Inn, he presented Hancock with a new sign of the Courtenay Arms, and the name of the Inn was changed. However, the days of the Courtenay Arms were short, for in the autumn of 1809 John Hancock left Moreton and disappeared ‘from the embarrassment of his affairs’. His poor wife was left to face the music and sell up.

The Mount Arthur

The house to the east of the Black Horse, called Mount Arthur, was also an Inn, linked with its neighbour. The Land Tax entries for 1780 show that both properties were then owned by the Southmead family of Hayne and Wray, and had the same tenant. By the 1820s the Licence Recognizances show only one landlord, for the Golden Lion, though the newspaper report of the 1845 fire describes the Mount Arthur as ‘an Inn with a facade which bore testimony to its antiquity, with its famous marble hall’.

The ‘New Inn’

Most references to the ‘New Inn’ are to the Punchbowl, but there were other ‘New Inns’ during its lifetime, and thus we can be certain that the name was used by other publicans. In 1813 George Gray was reported as establishing a New Inn, and in 1815 ‘Samuel Gray of the New Inn died at an advanced age, leaving four young children’. In 1860 James Lee (previously of the Golden Lion) is listed as innkeeper of a New Inn in Ford Street, more usually the New London Inn, on the site now covered by the forecourt of the garage. This remained an inn until 1909 when it was replaced by a block of offices, finally demolished after the last war.

The Plymouth Inn

The Plymouth in Court Street was the last inn to be built in Moreton. It was established in the early 1830s by John Ballamy, who came from the South Molton Inn, and it remained in the Ballamy family for over 70 years. Several of the landlords were wheelwrights, a trade often associated with inn-keeping, and hooks for tethering horses are clearly visible at the back. The inn was ideally situated to get traffic coming over the moor from Tavistock and Plymouth. This inn is unique in having had four different signs over the years. It also had the large safe which was used to keep the money made by drovers who had done good business at Moreton markets. See postcard. The Plymouth Inn closed as a public house in 2003.

Plymouth Inn

The Punchbowl

The Punchbowl

The site at the beginning of Ford Street between the chemist and the antique dealer, now occupied by Will Langworthy’s pottery, has been an inn at various periods. Before 1758 it was the New Inn, and was the typical small ale-house of the period, with a wide passageway (too low for coaches!) and a ‘chamber over’, leading to a brew-house and wood house at the rear. In 1758 the premises ‘formerly known as the New Inn’ were being leased by John Pinsent, ‘soap-boyler’, with his tenant John Coles, ‘soap boyler’, in occupation. By 1796 it was again an Inn, with its own skittle alley, renamed the Punchbowl; it is shown on the ‘May Murder’ Map in 1835 (no. 4, J. White) and continued in business under this name until 1914. Its sign can seen in another old view, as well as the one shown, at the top of Ford Street. George Friend reports that at a sale of furniture there in 1914, the floor of the front room collapsed under the weight of so many people, and they all fell into the cellar.

The Red Lion

This early inn was in Court Street, close to the site occupied now by the Community Centre, with stabling behind which could be reached by the alley from Pound Street, with a right of way for horses and carriages. The Red Lion was well established by the late 18th century and was a popular meeting place for Societies, including the Lottery Club, whose over-enthusiastic celebration of an anticipated £30,000 win in 1800 resulted in drunken disorder! Sanity returned when they realised they had not won after all ,and the Club was wound up a couple of weeks later.

The inn was also popular with the Napoleonic prisoners on parole’ Long after, in 1847, one of the Dutch Naval officers wrote several letters to John Ponsford, the agent in charge of the prisoners in 1810. He reminisced over the happy times they had enjoyed in Moreton ‘flirting with the girls, acting in the pantomime and even visiting Exeter’. Only one Dutch prisoner, called Papendrecht and known as ‘Papie’, is said to have caused any trouble. He liked his ‘grog’ and paid many visits to the Red Lion.

John Lamacraft became landlord in 1813, but by the fire of 1854 it had been converted into two houses for some time.

The Ring of Bells and the Six Bells

Were they two or one ? In 1762 the church granted a licence for casting the five old bells in the Church tower into six new bells. Perhaps this was the occasion of the sign of ‘Six Bells’ and could have caused some confusion. Both names appear on licences and in Trade Directories for the early 19th century In 1824-1828 Joseph Eastabrook is listed as landlord of both Six Bells and Ring of Bells, but in 1835 only the Ring of Bells is shown on the ‘May Murder’ map (no. 1, J. Endicott). In the 1850s Eliza Lethbridge, widow of the licensee of the Six Bells, married Dennis Harvey, landlord of the Ring of Bells, and the Six Bells then seems to disappear. The Ring of Bells was acquired by the brewers in 1903, and later became a private house. It features in an old family photo, below.

Ring of Bells

The Union (formerly known as the Swan)

The White Hart Inn

White Horse Hotel

The White Hart has long been an important inn in Moretonhampstead, and with the improvements in roads and the coming of turnpikes, and regular travel across Dartmoor, its importance grew further, from a convenient assembly point for local events, social or official, to a staging point for stage-coaches and post-chaises. To day it still displays a number of ancient documents on its walls.

The White Hart was the venue for the last Great Stannary Parliament in 1794 (and also for a commemoration dinner in 1994), and for Court of the Lord of the Manor in the early years of the 19th century.

It also appears as the background to the story of the Murder of Jonathan May, who stabled his horse in the White Hart while he sold his cattle at the Fair, drank there afterwards, was carried back there injured and unconscious late at night, and died there the next evening.

List of landlords

We have a picture of one of them, the younger Samuel Cann, taken about 1860.

The White Hart received frequent mention in the newspapers, both by way of advertisement and as the venue for various events: see samples in White Hart Press reports.

Treleaven’s Diary includes many references to events taking place at the White Hart in the early 19th century, which have been summarized in a separate document.

Deeds relating to the sale of the White Hart in 1896 include references to earlier changes of ownership: See precis of White Hart Deeds. There are plans with these deeds which show the extensive stabling and coach houses behind the Inn and (very important) the ‘George dung pit’ across Station Road.