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The Salutation Hotel - Exe Street, Topsham

Page updated 24th March 2014

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Salutation Inn sign The building

The modern Salutation presents a frontage that has barely changed since 1720, when it first opened as a coaching inn. The main façade is of white stucco, three storeys high, with four sash windows per floor. On the left is a wing, supported by two brick columns, that projects over the pavement. Over, is a fine Venetian style window for what was the Assembly Room, and later a billiard room. Beneath, at street level are panelled gates through which, packhorses, and coaches entered the rear yard. The hotel has 26 rooms, spread across the three floors.

History

In the time when Topsham was an important port, there was a need for accommodation for merchants and travellers, some of whom were travelling on to the continent by sea. The Salutation Inn opened in 1720 as a coaching inn, on what, some sources suggest, was previously the site of a granary. In 1768, the inn was rebuilt by a Mr Baker who had become a wealthy man after a poor childhood. When James Moore kept the Salutation in the 1870s, it was described as a hotel and posting-house.

Militia HQ

For a short time, when England was expecting a Napoleon led French invasion, the inn was the Headquarters for Colonel Robert Hall's, Devon and Cornwall Fencibles. They were raised in 1794 to patrol the coast and protect the citizens from an incursion during the emergency.

Topsham comes out against slavery

Just two years before the Devon and Cornwall Fencibles occupied the Salutation, Trewman's Exeter Flying Post reported a meeting of the inhabitants of Topsham at the inn, (presumably in the Assembly Rooms) when almost unanimously, they agreed and signed a "Petition to Parliament for the Abolition of the AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE". The petition went on to say:

"That your Petitioners cannot know that very considerable Numbers of their Fellow Creatures are trepanned or forced from their native Country and tenderest Connections, and subjected to a capricious, rigorous, and involuntary Servitude, without feeling a Conviction that the Exercise of the African Slave Trade is injurious to the natural and inherent Rights and Privileges of Mankind". 6 March 1792.”

Throughout the 19th Century, the Salutation Inn was a centre for balls, public meetings, property auctions, society dinners, coroner's inquests, and even as an unofficial mortuary for people found drowned in the Exe. As an important public venue, many political meetings and dinners were held there to celebrate the election of the local Member of Parliament. The first Freemasons Lodge in Topsham was formed at the Salutation in 1764, and it was still used for Freemasons banquets as late as 1927.

In 1846, the first Annual Sheep Shearing match was held on the bowling green. Each of nine competitors brought three sheep to the event. The sheep were placed in a circular pen, in the middle of the bowling green, and just after eleven, started the contest. WIthin two hours, all the sheep had been sheared. The Western Times reported “The animals, all bleating and astonished at their new nakedness, were driven under the flag staff, and inspected by the judges.” The Topsham Band played several popular melodies during the contest. What the event did for the surface of the bowling green has to be imagined.

Wrestling Matches

Topsham’s annual Wrestling Match was held on the bowling green at the rear of the inn, which was in existence from at least 1687 until its last remembered use in 1917. The wrestling was a serious and tough version of the sport, that attracted large crowds. One Abraham Cann who came from Colebrooke, near Crediton, was a great favourite with the betting clientele - he is believed to have been the champion of England in 1827. Cann appeared with his brother at Topsham as early as 1822, while the last wrestling match at the Salutation, appears to have been as late as 1876.

During the 20th Century, the Salutation did not fair so well, as the popularity of foreign holidays took off. By the turn of the century the pub, for that was what it had become, was decidedly scruffy and struggling, until it closed in 2009. In 2010 it was purchased by local Ed Williams-Hawkes, with a view to turning it into a boutique hotel with a restaurant and café. In November 2012, the revamped hotel opened its doors for the first time, serving fine food throughout the day, and offering comfortable accommodation.

Some past landlords -

1839 and 1850 - Salutation Commercial Hotel - William Lake
1863 - Eddy's Salutation Hotel - Flying Post
1864 - George Monday Eddy was bankrupted and license transferred to Mr Jay
1878 - Salutation Hotel - John Moore, farmer, maltster, carrier and victualler - Gazetteer and directory of Devon
1881 - Selina Angles to Edward Hodder
1893 - Salutation Hotel - George Byron Carlile
1897 - Salutation Hotel - Herbert Grantham
1909 - Mr Herbert Grantham to Mr Arthur Trowbridge Horton
1914 and 1919 - Salutation Hotel - Arthur Helmore

Helmore's Salutation Hotel circa 1914 Helmore's Salutation Hotel circa 1914.
The Salutation Inn in 2005 The Salutation Inn in 2005. The Salutation Inn in 2005 The wooden pedestals were replaced by stucco brick.

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