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The Double Locks Hotel

Page updated 1st August 2013

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The Double Locks is a very popular inn for a lazy sunny afternoon or a tasty meal, attracting students and families alike in the summer months. Built in 1701, as a lock keepers cottage, at the time of great improvements to Trew's original canal, it doubled as both a lock keepers house and inn from the late eighteenth century. It was built of small Dutch bricks which were imported as ballast when Exeter was exporting serge to Holland. In the next expansion of the canal in the 1820's, James Green who built the canal basin, rebuilt the Double Locks, reusing some of the earlier bricks along with more modern, locally made bricks. A tow path was added to each side of the canal at this time to allow larger ships to be towed by horses and one of the Double Locks functions was to provide stabling for the horses.

Some trade directory listings and Flying Post entries for the Double Locks are:

1791- this appeared in Trewman's Exeter Flying Post on 12 May 1791.

Saturday died, in an advanced age Mr John Hayward, Keeper of the Double Lock

1825 - Thos. Perryman, Keeper of the Double Locks - Flying Post - see below for further details.
1850 - Double Locks Inn, Thomas Pennyman - possible misprint, White's
1878 - Double Locks, William Pearce - White's (he had previously run the Turf Locks)
1897 - Double Lock inn, W. C. Hannaford, Alphington, Exeter - Kelly's
1906 - Double Locks, Hannaford W. C., Haven road, St Thomas - Besley's
1923 - Double Locks - William Carter Shillabeer Hannaford - Post Office
1934 - Double Locks, Lamprey, C. W., Haven banks - Besley's
1939/1947 - Double Locks, John Frederick Baker
1956 - Double Locks, Geo. H. Hutchings, Canal Banks - Kelly's
1967 - Double Locks Inn, Canal Banks - Kelly's

A strange little story appeared in the 1 June 1825 issue of Trewman's Exeter Flying Post. The body of a man was found drowned in the canal. A rumour appeared in the local newspapers, that the lock keeper had refused to allow the body to be placed in his house. The Flying Post printed a statement, acquitting the landlord of the slur and giving the true story. The landlord, Mr Perryman was not at home at the time of the incident and the body was conveyed to the House of Reception at the Exeter Lime Kilns. The article clears his wife "....and exculpates Mrs. Perryman (who was much hurried) from the slightest imputation of inhumanity or neglect."

In August 1852 a terrific thunderstorm hit the city and a man was killed at the Double Locks. The London Times reported "During the storm, a house, called Double Lock, on the banks of the Exeter Canal, was struck by the lightning. Some persons who were standing in the passage, at the back of the house, were struck by the electric fluid, and one of them, a gentleman named Burnham, was killed on the spot. He was struck on the head and died instantly. Two young men standing near the deceased were struck down, and their limbs, especially the lower extremeties, are paralyzed. Two persons were standing at the door of the passage where the catastrophe occurred, and it is a singular fact that the lightning passed over them, leaving them perfectly unhurt, and struck the group within the passage."

The lock keeper in October 1939, found a female human leg in a brown parcel when out patrolling his area. A search by two police officers revealed a second leg from a bed of reeds, also in a brown parcel. The police sent divers into the canal looking for a body, but none was ever found. Although there were five missing people from Exeter, two of whom were women, the police decided that a medical student had disposed of the legs.

George Hutchings, who was the lock keeper in the 1950s, was formerly in the Royal Engineers in the Second War. On 30th November 1963, he watched the All Blacks beat the South West Counties 38-6 at the County Ground, with someold wartime friends. After, they went to a pub before he was offered a lift back to the Double Locks. The wife of one of the men alerted the police at 5am the next day, that her husband had not returned home. The police searched and discovered skid and tyre marks on the canal bank. The water was 20 ft deep and murky, so two members of the John Webber Sub Aqua Club were called to dive the canal. They discovered the car with the bodies of the three men – a crane belonging to Exeter City Council hauled the car out and the bodies taken to the mortuary. The other two victims of the accident were Albert Edward Barrett and Cyril Seldon.

The Locks

The locks themselves, are the longest in the country, at 95 am long by 8 am wide and can fit two ships at once - hence 'the double locks'. When the York Class Cruiser, HMS Exeter was refitted in 1938, the old masts were removed and used as the arms on the lock gates. In April 1956, a quote from Messes R W & F C Sharp for two pitch pine balance beams measuring 14x14inch by 45/46ft at 32/11 (£1 12s 11d) per cu.ft delivered to Exeter Station was accepted.

Getting to the Double Locks can be a problem - drivers can take the road through Marsh Barton, go over the narrow railway bridge, cross the Salmon Pool swing bridge and follow the narrow road along the canal to the hotel. In former times, before breathalyzers, returning revellers have ended up in the canal - even those without a car! Mind you, a visit on a bicycle or by foot on a hot sunny afternoon is very pleasant, otherwise, take a non-drinking driver. It was CAMRA's best pub in the south west in 1990.

Sources: City Council Navigation Committee minutes, Express & Echo and the Flying Post.

The Double Locks HotelThe Double Locks by the canal.
The Double Locks Hotel The Double Locks in Edwardian times.The lock gates The lock gates in the 1970's.
The lock gatesAn arm for working the lock gates in the 1970's. Above two photos courtesy of Alan H Mazonovicz

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