Lost Pubs of Bideford
Nothing conjures up Bideford’s lively past like the names of its pubs. DJ’s in Cooper Street was, once known as the Snakepit and before that the Tradesman’s Inn.
East the Water had a string of watering holes along the banks of the river until relatively recently. The Ship on Launch was just opposite the former thriving shipyards, some of whose wooden vessels still lie forlornly rotting in the Torridge mud. (see page I) Its ornate gate opened onto the railway line, and under the garden is the brick built entrance into Bideford’s labyrinth of ‘paint’ or culm mines. The presence of yellowish brown water in the ditches along the Tarka trail is a constant reminder of that unusual industry which finally closed in the 1970s.
The restaurant, the ‘East of the Water’ in Barnstaple St (opposite Wooda Surgery), is one of the oldest buildings in Bideford, and was previously The Terminus pub, due to its position opposite the railway goods yards, (now Ethelwynne Brown Close).
Bidefordian Derek Barnes points out that the this pub was previously known as the Cavalier’s Arms, before the railway came to Bideford in 1835. He recalls elephants and giraffes arriving by train in Bideford, bound for the Zoo, and pens full of pigs waiting to be transported . A photograph taken during the war also shows open railway wagons in the goods yards, full of “beach rockets” – destined for D- day training
There are two founts of knowledge on the lost pubs of Bideford ; Ernie Dowding and Derek Barnes. Ernie is distinguished on the streets of the town by his dog Sheba, and Derek now – fittingly – lives in Ethelwynne Brown Close, overlooking the Torridge, on the site of the dismantled goods yards, a stone’s throw from where he was born. ST
More next month including some information on the ‘King of Prussia.’
King of Prussia
I saw the item about the King of Prussia in the June edition and although I don’t know why he is celebrated in Bideford I know something about the man. My ex husband was born in Cornwall and lived near Sennen Cove where there is a pub called ‘The King of Prussia.’ He wrote a song called ‘King of Prussia’ about the famous and successful smuggler John Carter. He called himself the ‘Prussian King’ and operated his smuggling business with his brother Harry from their home at Prussia Cove in the late 18th century. An ardent Methodist, Carter was known for his
honest character and fair dealing, even forbidding his men from swearing and behaving in an uncouth manner! On one occasion Customs seized his goods and took them to the Customs House in Penzance; when Carter retrieved them; he only took what belonged to him and left the other contraband behind. My daughter has recorded the song, and anyone wishing to
hear it can go to www.myspace/maddiesouthorn.co.uk. I hope this solves part of the mystery of the King of Prussia.
The Foudroyant, Old Town
A French ship of 88 guns captured by HMS Monmouth in 1758, she was first of the name in the Royal Navy. She took part in the 1762 expedition against Martinique,was involved in action off Ushant in July 1778 and in April 1782 was instrumental in capturing a newly launched French ship, the 74 gun Pegase. She was taken to pieces in 1787.
This is effectively the information about the first of three ships bearing the name of Foudroyant to be found in the Oxford Companion to Ships and the sea (Ed, Peter Kemp 1976.) However it is this first ship that seems to me to be the most likely candidate for the naming of a pub in Bideford.
Somewhere between 1970 and 1982 I came across two references to a pub in Old Town called Foudroyant. The first was in a title deed for 1900 which described the property ‘as a former public house known by the sign of the Foudroyant,’ and was for one of the properties opposite Old Town cemetery probably 38-49 Old Town. Someone may still have the title documents of their property which may link them to the last publican who could well have been Robert Ellis.
Next reference form yesteryear. On 4th May 1839 John Ellis, malster made his will. He was clearly a solid citizen, or rather, a burgher of Bideford, as the owner of 6 pubs and 2 malthouses which included the Foudroyant. In his will he left this to Robert Ellis, the son of William Ellis the elder, a joiner.
John Ellis died some 3 years later, and Robert Ellis came into his inheritance.
So there we have the Foudroyant as at 1839. It ceased to be a pub sometime after 1839, and well before 1900. It is not mentioned in the 1857 Billings directory, nor in the article from Bideford Gazette dated 4th July 1980. What happened to it and Robert Ellis, and more importantly why was it given that name? Was a Bideford man a member of the crew of HMS Monmouth in 1758 and received a substantial payment of prize money to buy himself out of the Navy and thus buy the pub and call if after the permanent reminder of his good fortune?
Editor’s Note Thank you very much Mr Hooper for reminding me of the information on pubs in Roger’s ‘Notes on Bideford’ . This is a very interesting collection of all sorts of facts about Bideford A copy is available to consult at Bideford Library. Please ask to see it.Ed)
Many thanks to Paul Baker, Derek Barnes, and Mrs and Mrs Curtis for their extensive list of pubs in Bideford closed since 1857. This list and comments will be available for consultation at Bideford Library. Thanks also to Ian King for drawing to my attention an article on lost pubs in the Bideford Gazette for 1980- this too will be available. Paul Baker also writes:
‘Whoever knows now that Geneva Place was originally the garden of a public house that was across the entrance fronting on to Clovelly Rd, that one of the Barnstaple Street pubs , I believe the ‘Three Crowns’ was in the old Clarence wharf some thirty-forty feet up stream from the Wooda Surgery. There was also another pub called the ‘Admiral Glynn’ in Torrington lane . And of course there was Apps Brewery at Littleham that produced beer for pubs in Bideford- hence the Old Waggon Rd was so named because it was the way the heavy drays came to the New Rd to get to Bideford.