Page updated 8th January 2024
Exeter Memories - North Bridge Inn
Situated on Exeter's Iron Bridge, the North Bridge Inn (reopened as the Iron Bridge Inn 2018) serves the St David's Hill community. In White's Devonshire Directory of 1850, one Samuel Gubb was the registered licensee of the North Bridge Tavern. He was married and had five children - 3 girls and 2 boys. However, the directory was a year out of date, for in August 1849, the inn was sold (it is not clear if it was the freehold or the lease) by Gubb to James Tancock. In 1851, Tancock was refused a spirit license and in 1853 he was fined 10s for being open after 11pm on a Saturday night.
December 1854 and a sale of four houses including the North Bridge Inn. The inn was described in the Western Times as:
"Lot 1.—All that capital Free Inn and Tavern, called the NORTH BRIDGE INN, with underground cellar, bar parlour, tap, kitchen, court, brewhouse, large dining room, 5 bedrooms, most eligibly situated for business, in the occupation of Mr. Tancock..."
In June of the next year a private named Young, who was a deserter from the 11th Hussars was apprehended at the inn.
The first reference to the New Ship Inn was in January 1858, when an inquest was held for, Mary Ann Barton, a 22 year old dressmaker who had suffered headaches and and a haemorrhage, leading to her death. The next November, and one George Edwards was convicted of being a rogue and a vagabond when he entered the bedroom of Mrs Back, the landlady, using a skeleton key and assaulting her. Her husband, Roger Back was fined 10s plus expenses in March 1859 for keeping his house open in prescribed hours. The Inn, still occupied by Mr and Mrs Back, along with three other houses was for sale in 1859.
The last reference to the New Ship Inn was in 1862 at the inquest of Elizabeth Madge 67 who suffered a rupture of a blood vessel in the heart.
In April 1873 a for sale advert for a pony and trap from John Chalk landlord of the North Bridge appeared. Chalk must have had an interest in ponies, for in March 1875 he had for sale a bay pony and in November 1876 a brown pony and basket carriage.
There were two inquests one in 1880 and one in 1885 at the inn. John Chalk probably died, for in August 1889, his wife Louisa Skinner Chalk transferred the license to Frederick Roberts.
The wife of Roberts gave birth to a daughter in 1892. In 1894 November, Mr F Forward chairman and secretary of the Birthday Club was presented with a silver-plated matchbox, silver-mounted pipe, and tobacco jar filled with tobacco on the occasion of his birthday in November 1894 at the inn. The Birthday Club was probably formed to celebrate the birthday of the inn's regular customers.
According to the 1897 Kelly's Directory, Alfred Delve was listed as the landlord. In 1899, a one third share of the North Bridge, No 5 St David's Hill and Cottages behind were for sale. In the 1901 census Delve, his wife Anne, and two sons and a daughter were still in occupation. Annie Delve, went on to run the pub until after 1919. By 1923 James L Bennet was running the North Bridge. The last landlord that I have traced was F A W Easterbrook in 1956.
Roy Hurford remembered when his parents ran the North Bridge.
My parents, Harold and Minnie Beer, were the licensees from 4th July 1962 until summer 1981. Harold died in 1965 but Minnie carried on until she retired. The previous licensees were Algy Easterbrook and his wife. Soon after taking over the pub the dart team from the Lamb (now Village Inn) at Exwick joined the pub and it became known as one of the best darts teams in Exeter and district. In those days it was a very family orientated pub and the three men’s and two ladies darts teams plus the euchre team were all family members...
At the time they went in it was owned by the City and St Annes Brewery (Norman and Pring) until it became a Whitbread tenanted house. When mum retired Whitbreads changed this to a managed house. Maureen and Roy moved in when dad died in November 1965 and raised their two sons there .
For a brief time, it was renamed the NBI–unfortunately, the re-branding didn't save it from closure in 2012, and it was boarded up. In early 2018, it was reopened as the Iron Bridge Inn, by the management of the Hour Glass Inn. It was soon closed again when in September 2021 regulars arrived to a note on the door "The Iron Bridge is closed hereon in. Thank you for all your custom. If you've turned up for a pint, we can only offer apologies."
Sources: The British Newspaper Archive (The Exeter Flying Post and Western Times),Roy Hurford.
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