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Red Cow Inn, Red Cow Village

Page updated 28th November 2012

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Red Cow sign

This pub was in Red Cow Village, opposite the railway crossing near St David's Station. When the railway from Bristol reached Exeter in 1844, it was suggested that the terminus be called Red Cow Station after the nearby pub and village.

In 1688, a tenure agreement to Joseph Banfield at Red Cow was made. The inn was ideally situated for travellers to and from Crediton. By 1700, the toll road system was becoming established and the Red Cow was well placed to take advantage of passing traffic. An 18th-century print shows that there was a separate toll house on the opposite side of the road to the inn, which was also mentioned in 1782 in Trewman's Exeter Flying Post. By 1850, the coming of the railway destroyed the toll system but probably saved the Red Cow as a commercial establishment.

In Trewman's Exeter Flying Post dated 1810, six contiguous lots appear for sale in Red Cow Village, comprising of buildings from the present Artful Dodger (lot 1) to the Red Cow (lot 6).

LOT 6. - The RED COW Public House, adjoining ditto, with corn-lofts, gardens, lead pump, and every convenience. Immediate possession may be had of four of the above lots.

This lot was probably a refurbished building, rather than new build. The inn was run by William Tarrant for a number of years; the first mention in the Flying Post was in April 1824 when a victim of a carriage accident was taken into the "hospitable house of Mr Wm. Tarrant, (the Red Cow Inn,)". In 1832, the inn was the venue for an inquest into the drowning of William Humphreys of St David's Hill, at Sandy Point, on the Exe. His body was found "in from five to six feet of water, standing in a stooping position". A verdict of found drowned was passed.

The many county directories that were published during the 19th-century give a guide to the many inns and taverns of the time, and the Red Cow is no exception. A list of the incumbent licensees, and the date of the trade directory in which they appear are:

1824-44 - William Tarrant (1835 dates to the Flying Post article)
1851 - Mrs Ellen Gaylor - Red Cow Tavern, St David's Place
1857 - Francis Langdon - Red Cow Inn
1858 - S Jerred - Red Cow, in 1878 he ran Foster's Parcel Service in Bampfylde Street
1861 - Samual Jerred 38 innkeeper, Mary Jerred 35, Edward 9, Boarders and servants - census return
1871 - Red Cow Inn Crediton-road - Coldridge, J., - Pocket Journal
1878 - Albert Frederick Connett - Red Cow (described as a victualler), this is odd as John Coldridge ran the Red Cow in 1871 and 1881
1881 - John Coldridge 55 innkeeper, Emma Coldridge 45, Emma Coldridge 22, Sarah Sumner - niece 32 (also listed at Elmfield Hotel where she worked as a hotel manager), Bessy Grills - niece 22, Boarders and servant - census return
1889 - Harry Stile - Red Cow
1891 - Harry Stile - licensed victualler, Catherine Stile, Seven daughters and two sons - census return
1892 - Mrs Catherine Stile - Red Cow
1897 - Mrs Kate Stile - Red Cow PH (change of form of address)
1902 - James Frederick Bowerman - Red Cow
1906-23 - Edwin Down - Red Cow
1934 - Red Cow, Down, E.C., Red Cow Village
1956 - Red Cow Inn, Clifford G Bond
1981 - Red Cow Inn, Short, Ernest H; Bridle Wallace E - Bray's

In 1865, the inn was sold for the sum of £1010 by Mr Bird, the auctioneer. Sarah Sumner was listed in 1881 as the hotel manager at the Elmfield Hotel and also in residence at the Red Cow Inn - whoever filled in the census forms did not realise her double entry.

Hosting dinners for the Druids

The inn, as was common in the 19th century, was the venue for many dinners for various societies and associations. The following from the Exeter Flying Post of 1835: "The Corps of Constables in this City, dined on Thursday last in the newly fitted up ground at Tarrant's Red Cow Inn, St David's, when an excellent and well served dinner was placed before the guests". In 1880 they were hosts to the Loyal Order of Druids - the meeting was described thus - "United Ancient Order of Druids.—The members of "Loyal Pride of the West" Lodge, No. 579, held their annual dinner at the Red Cow Inn last night. Brother Moore (Secretary) occupied the chair, and the vice-chair was taken by Mr. Cobley." They went on to make the toasts."The next toast was "The Health of the Parent Lodge, ' Loyal Good Samaritan ' Lodge, No. 540," proposed the Chairman.—Bro. Pilley (Secretary to the Lodge) responded—" Kindred Societies'' was responded to by Mr. Culley. —Other toasts followed." They really had a wild time!

Punch ups and fines

Beer and bad behaviour go hand in hand, as demonstrated by this item from the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette from 1874:

"George Havill, a cab-driver, was summoned by Alford, of the same avocation, for assaulting him on Tuesday night last. Complainant stated that went into the Red Cow Inn, St. David's, to have a glass of beer. Defendant was there, and on seeing him said he had been looking for him all day, and struck him a blow in the face–defendant denied the charge, but called no witnesses to corroborate his statement, so the magistrates fined him 2s. 6d , and the expenses."

In 1900, the Red Cow was purchased by the local Heavitree Brewery. One local in 2002 recollected who, at the age of 12, he would run errands for US GIs to buy cider from the jug and bottle department of the Red Cow. The troops were on a bridge building exercise on the River Exe in preparation for D-Day.

The Red Cow was a popular pub with some young people in the late 20th century but the trend towards theme pubs in the city meant that trade was gradually lost. It was sold by Heavitree Brewer and closed in November 2002. The new owner, David Bryne wanted to demolish the building and redevelop the land for housing. The plans were turned down by the City Council. In January 2004, the building suffered from squatters - the owner decided to spray graffiti over the walls in protest, much to the annoyance of the neighbours - he wrote Man City, so they must have been United supporters then!

In August 2005, the City Council, concerned that the building was becoming a public danger through its deterioration, ordered the owner to act. The building had shoring put in place to support the walls, and the road was partially blocked in one direction with cones. During May 2006, the building had become so unsafe, according to the City Council, that it was reluctantly ordered to be demolished.

Source: Express and Echo, The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, Trewman's Exeter Flying Post and - Kelly's, Besley's, Slater's, Gazetteer and Directory of Devon, Trewmans Gentlemen's Directory, Exeter Pocket Journal and Almanack and Hazel Harvey. The photo of the Red Cow sign and the Red Cow by Sean Creech.

The Red CowThe Red Cow in 2002.The demolished Red Cow Demolishing the Red Cow in 2006.The demolished Red Cow The rear of the demolished Red Cow in 2006.An outing from the Red Cow An outing of customers pose outside the Red Cow, probably in the 1940s.

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