Page updated 29th June 2012
This pub is situated on the quay, between the Custom House and the historic warehouses. Richard Sercombe, who was a ferry man of Trinity parish in 1803, is probably responsible for opening the Fountain Inn. Part of the premises are the former ferry man's cottage. It is interesting to note that Chevalier House in Fore Street also traded as the Fountain Inn until the late 18th century. These premises came into the possession of another Richard Sercombe who was a wine and spirit merchant - it has not been established if there is a link between the two Richards that would account for the naming of the Fountain on the quay.
The Prospect Steps to the right of the inn are part of an old right of way from the Quay to Southernhay and date from 1835, although the name is modern.
The Flying Post reported on the death of Mrs Elizabeth Sercombe, 66, wife of the landlord Richard Sercombe in October 1823. She was found in the river near Salmon Pool and taken to the Exeter Humane Society, near the Lime Kilns, where attempts were made to revive her. Her bonnet and other items of clothing were found on the bank near by. Suicide was not mentioned in the piece, although it was suggested. Richard Sercombe died just four weeks after his wife was buried.
The Exeter Humane Society was mentioned in the Exeter Pocket Journal of 1796 - its aims were the "recovery of Persons apparently dead by Drowning, Suffocation, &c. for the Support of which a Number of Subscriptions & Benefactions have been received". They were based in Gandy's Lane with outposts on either bank of the Exe.
The Exeter Working Men's Annual Regatta had its committee room at the Fountain Inn in 1892 and Samuel Gregory was the Honourable Secretary and Manager.
Some trade directory and Flying Post mentions for the Prospect/Fountain Inn:
1776 - Fountain Inn -
Elizabeth Limbear - DRO (may not relate to this public house)
1823 - Fountain Public House, Mr Richard Sercombe - Flying Post
1844 - Fountain Tavern, James Venn - Pigot's
1860 - Fountain Inn - Mr Metheringham - Flying Post
1867 - Fountain Inn Walter Caseley transferred to Elizabeth Punsford - Flying Post
1871 - Smith. S., fountain p.h. quay - Pocket Journal
1878 - Fountain Inn, William Rolston - White's
1883 - Fountain Inn - William Dean - Flying Post
1889 - Fountain Inn - Mr W Rolestone transferred to Samuel Gregory - Flying Post
1897 - Fountain inn, Robert Tarr, Quay, Exeter - Kelly's
1919/23 - Fountain Inn, George Alfred Richardson - Kelly's and Post Office
1934 - Fountain, Dorothy, A. T., Quay - Besley's
1956 - Prospect Inn, Philip G. Hilton (free house, fully licensed, luncheons & snacks) Quay - Kelly's
In 1957, Diana Dors opened the recently renamed Prospect Inn as a prize in a Daily Sketch readers competition. Frank had been a marine and a water polo player in his youth. The winners, Frank and Alma Ward, from Hull ran the pub for several years until they retired back to Hull. They gained a reputation for raising money for the Vranch House School, the Devon & Exeter Spastics Society and the Exeter Swimming Club, through collecting at the bar and running events. In 1961, Jimmy Edwards the actor, visited the pub to push over a pile of pennies on the bar that were to go to the Vranch House School. The pub is also said to be haunted - a young Victorian girl holding a rag doll appears, smiles and then fades away, every Christmas.
Sources: Flying Post and various trade directories
The Fountain Inn before the First War.
The Prospect Inn in the 1970s before the Quay was cleaned up for tourists. Photo Dick Passmore.
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