In 1861 a tin miner named James Webb applied for a lease on two acres of unenclosed land on which to build a house but later changed his plans and asked if he could build a pub instead. Permission was granted and in 1863 he successfully applied to the Tavistock Brewster Sessions for a licence and the New Inn was opened. Sadly in 1889 John Webb senior passed away and the lease for the pub was passed to his son; John Webb junior, Bellamy, p.37. Around this time the Temperance Movement on Dartmoor was becoming popular and droves of moor folk were turning their backs on the ‘Demon Drink’. They must have been a pretty persuasive bunch to convince the hard drinking miners, agricultural workers and the like to give up their sinful ways and walk the path of sobriety. It was at one of these temperance meetings where fire and brimstone was being preached that John Webb was converted to becoming tee-total. There are those at the time who said that John’s wife Lizzie was quite a strong character and it was her who preached a sermon to John about the evils of drink. Eventually after some painful ear ache he relented and reluctantly marched off down the ‘Temperance Road’.
Now it would be rather hypocritical for a tee-total abstaining landlord to serve his customers the evil drink so he decided that not only he and his would abstain but the whole inn would as well. The upshot of this was that the New Inn became the Webb’s Temperance Hotel. Hemery paints a brilliant picture of how this happened; “out from the cellar to roadside came keg and cask and on went the taps. The gutter ran red and brown that day as beer, gin and whisky flowed in a steady stream to join the East Dart (river) – surely a red letter day for Postbridge “Tee-totals.”, p.549. Oddly enough it appears that the Temperance Hotel carried on selling cider, now being quite well acquainted and its potency I would have said that this idea would not encourage sobriety and clean living, but there you go.
Now what has all that got to do with ghosts, ghoulies and things that go bump in the night? Well, dear readers, ever since that fateful day when the road ran deep in beer and spirits strange sightings began to appear. It was not due to the locals going ‘cold turkey’ and suffering illusions due to the unaccustomed ride on ‘the wagon of temperance’, no it was much more scarier than that. The tale goes that each and every night a ghostly, other-worldly apparition in the form of a large bloodhound. The creature would slowly make its way down the road from Moretonhampstead and arrive outside the inn at approximately 3.00am in the morning. Once there it would put its nose to the ground and start sniffing and snuffling in search for the smell of the spilled liquor. Once it was on the scent it would follow what was the original river of booze across the road and into the ditch. It would then follow the trail down to the East Dart river slurping up any dregs it could find until it reached the old clapper bridge. The spectral hound would then stagger back across the bridge and steadily make its way back home, wherever that may be until the following nights booze-up.
Today the Webb’s Temperance Hotel is known as the East Dart Hotel but although over a century later the ghost of the alcoholic dog still makes its early morning visits to the hotel where it partakes in a snifter or two before vanishing. So if you are ever in that vicinity at the appointed unearthly hour and hear an eerrie sniffling and snuffling and then see the spine chilling site of a ghostly bloodhound, fear not. The poor creature is more interested in his nightly tipple than causing any harm.
Bellamy, R. 1998. Postbridge – The Heart of the Moor. Tiverton: Devon Books in Association with Halsgrove Publishing.
Hemery, E. 1983. High Dartmoor. London: Robert hale