Page updated 4 July 2009
This pub on the corner of Smythen and John Street dates back to before 1845. One of only three pubs to remain in the West Quarter out of 31 in 1897, it had an old fashioned, city local feel, even though it was refurbished in September 2001.
The earliest reference to the Coachmakers was in the Flying Post on the 6th February 1765 when it burnt down, only to be rebuilt. Apart from the usual for sale and to let notices in the Flying Post, the Coachmakers only appears once in an article during the 19th century. In May 1845 a man was arrested in the Coachmakers' Arms - he had been seen by the master of a ship, moored at the quay, on the deck with a basket containing a piece of beef which had been taken from the cabin. A chase ensued, which culminated at the Coachmakers'. The article concluded by reporting that he was discharged for lack of evidence.
In January 1858, a case of the theft of a tea caddy containing a sovereign and a half and thirty shillings in silver from a shelf in the bar, belonging to Mr Holloway the landlord, was tried at the Guildhall. The accused George Cole was found guilty and sentenced to nine months.
The main building is probably late Victorian, while the rear of the building in John Street (right of photo) was originally a Tudor house with overhanging first and second floors that would have made the street appear to be much narrower than it already is. The overhang was cut back in former years, and then in the 1920s, the side wall of the pub was extended as a façade across the front of the old building, approximately beyond the second window in the photo, where the sign protudes into the street. The rear of the Tudor building had many rebuilds, but it still basically follows the layout of the original structure. There is a small yard which gives access to the toilets, and which is a reminder of the many small courtyards that existed behind many Exeter buildings up until the Second World War.
On the opposite corner of John Street is a plain brick warehouse which was until the middle of the Twentieth-Century a Rougemont stone structure that was one of the British restaurants for workers that were dotted around the city.
It was sold to the licensee, Austin Harding, in 1965 after the City Brewery was taken over by Whitbread in 1962.
The Coachmakers closed in 2007, the last surviving traditional public house in this part of the West Quarter. However, it was purchased by brothers Hamish and Rob Lothian and renovated, revealing many of its old, Victorian features. Old mattresses, and evidence of drug taking were removed and an old sword, coins and a room with original gas lamps and fireplace revealed. The place has been refurbished and the corner door reinstated. It reopened as the Fat Pig, a gastro-pub on Friday 29th February 2008.
Some landlords listed in the trade directories are:
1765 - mentioned
in the Flying Post after a fire.
1839 - Henry Sanders - retailer of beer - Robson's1844 - Coach Makers' Arms Tavern - Frederick John Taylor - Pigots1850 - John Strong, Coachmakers' Arms - White's
1856 - Holloway W., coachmakers' arms inn, smythen street - Exeter Pocket Journal
1889 - Coach Makers' Arms, John Gill, John street, Exeter - Kelly's
1893 - Coachmakers' Arms P.H. Mrs Annie Westlake - Kelly's
1895 - Coachmakers' Arms P.H. Mrs Annie Westlake, John street - Post Office
1897 - Westlake Annie (Mrs.), Coachmakers' Arms P.H.John st - Kelly's
1906 - Coachmakers' Arms, Ellis, William Henry, John Street - Besley's
1913 - Coachmakers' Arms, Ellis, W. H., John st - Besley's
1914 - Coachmakers' Arms, Ellis, W. H., John st - Besley's
1923 - Coachmakers' Arms, Harold E. Robins, 4 John st. Exeter - Kelly's
1956 - Coachmakers' Arms Inn, Hy. Austin Harding (fully licensed),4 John street, Telephone 54010 - Kelly's
1967 - Coachmakers' Arms Inn, 4 John st - Kelly's
2006 - The Coachmakers Arms, Mr Brian Claridge (Landlord), 2 John Street
2008 - The Fat Pig, Hamish and Rob Lothian
The Coachmakers Arms showing the house that had a Tudor overhang. The Coachmakers Arms shortly before it became the Fat Pig.
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