Picture of the Kings Arms Inn

History of the Kings Arms Inn

The Kings Arms Inn dates back to the early 1600s when it was one of hundreds of hostelries found on the main routes connecting important cities and towns. Some of these were humble and small, scarcely more than a cottage, whereas others, particularly those in or near large busy cities, were capable of accommodating three or four hundred travellers with servants, horses and baggage.

Beds at the best establishments were hung with silks and rich tapestries adorned the rooms, however, the Kings Arms would have been the more usual type providing a warm welcome respite from the vagaries of the weather and the discomforts of the journey.

Although such places are generally known as coaching inns, most of their customers actually arrive by other means on horseback, in stage wagons, a cheaper more basic alternative to the stage coach in which passengers sat or lay on straw amongst boxes and produce, or wedged between two large pannier bags on the back of a packhorse just one of a convoy of such sturdy animals who made their slow, patient progress along the muddy, rutted tracks. Most travellers could not afford to pay for even these uncomfortable forms of transport, the average annual wage was about 10 shillings (£2.50), and they would be forced to walk from inn to inn.

Until after the Civil War, the Kings Arms was called The Taphouse Inn. Alehouses or taphouses were situated about every eight miles as it was considered that such a distance could be covered in around four hours even on foot and so this hostelry was the first for travellers going west from Exeter.

The part of the village in which the Inn stands is still more correctly termed Taphouse while Tedburn St. Mary refers to the hamlet surrounding the church which stands approximately one mile north west of the Inn.

Traditionally it is believed that King Charles II stayed at the Inn on his progress to Cornwall but it is more likely that he and his entourage just stopped for a meal and refreshment - much as most of our customers do to this day!

As background to these times, it is interesting to learn from a return by the Commissioner for the Poor in 1626 that 11 parishioners were in prison, 8 classified as poor, 4 had paid their debts or died before the last payment and 2 were spared from jail because of their poverty, even in those days it was accepted that you could not get blood from a stone!

The visit of King Charles allowed the title of the Inn to be changed to the Kings Arms and our newly redesigned Coat of Arms is based on historic research.

Stage coaches took 4 days to reach London from Exeter in fine weather but 6 days during winter. It seems that the fast long distance 4 or 6 horse stage coaches carrying six passengers never ran west of Exeter due to the terrible state of the tracks and it was left to local freelance coachmen to cover requirements for travel between westcountry towns. This trade gradually increased and during the nineteenth century improving conditions of the roads and business needs helped to make the Inn important.

Contemporary records show that landlords of the Kings Arms combined their victualling with a variety of other trades. Some were quoted as teazle growers and manure agents, another was a wheelwright, yet another was a boot and shoemaker and it would appear that at least one was a miller for we have a cutting taken from an Exeter Flying Post dated 13th June 1866 advertising the auction of Venny Mill, otherwise the Kings Arms Inn, Taphouse with large stables, skittle alley, piggery and garden.

The Victorians, always thorough in their record keeping, noted in 1878 that Tedburn St. Mary parish contained 721 souls,  415 males, 306 females, 136 houses in 4433 acres of clayey, hilly land and incidentally, the population did not increase greatly until after the last war.

During the 1939-45 war an Army searchlight battery was stationed in the village bringing a new type of regular to the old pub and American servicemen were frequent visitors attracted, no doubt, by ancient beams and youthful dreams!

Support for village events such as the annual Tedburn Fair, now approaching its centenary; the annual pantomime; children's parties; visits of dignitaries such as that of World War I hero Captain Edward Donald Bellew, VC. who grew up in the village and was feted in 1929; and other special occasions including the current Millennium celebrations have all had the encouragement of successive owners.

After the war, Ashley Courtenay and Mrs Shrubshaw built-up a well-deserved reputation for the very best in food and service with the fame of the Inn extending for many miles around, amplified by the holiday makers who stumbled across this culinary gem as they crawled along the old A30 and decided to drive into the car park where they still remember to park prettily.

This amazing success has continued in service to hungry, thirsty road users.  You will always be welcomed with traditional hospitality in this old Devon village pub where fine food and drink have combined to refresh travellers for four centuries.