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Herring’s Arms

When travelling along the road from Lydford to Brentor you will be on what at onetime was an old turnpike road belonging to what was the Tavistock Trust who oversaw the road from Tavistock over Dartmoor. About 350 metres beyond the second turning for North Brentor you will pass a newly renovated building on the right-hand side.  In 1762 this building was known as ‘Riccard’s House’ which was a toll house on the turnpike road. According to a House of Commons report of 1761 it was referred to as “a public house known as Riccard’s House.” According to G. Woodcock in his ‘Tavistock Yesterday’s Book, vol. 3’, there were four gates at the toll house which not only serviced the main turnpike road but also an old packhorse track which ran from Mary Tavy to Coryton.  By the 1830s Riccard’s House had changed its name to ‘The Herring’s Arms Inn’as proven by several auction notices appearing in the local press. It could well be that both place-names refer to onetime owners of the inn as certainly very few herrings would be fished for on Dartmoor. In the November of 1839 one Edmund Powell, innkeeper of the Herring’s Arms appeared at a bankruptcy hearing at Exeter. By 1863 a Charles Cook was the innkeeper and was summoned to appear at the Tavistock Petty Sessions. He was charged with “having kept open his house for the sale of intoxicating liquors during the hours of Divine Service on Sunday 29th of November,” – found guilty and fined £3 and costs. By the mid 1860s the railway had come to North Brentor and with it gangs of navvies who frequented the inn. Judging from the following newspaper reports it was a lively place to say the least. 
February 1865 – John Williams and William Turner appeared at Tavistock Petty Sessions charged with stealing five shillings and some bread and bacon from another man at the Herring’s Arms – found guilty and sentenced to one month’s hard labour.
June 1865 – Edward McDonnell was charged with stealing a watch from Edward James. Both men along with some other railway workers had been drinking at the Herring’s Arms on Sunday. When the inn closed they bought some porter and went off into a nearby field to drink it. During the afternoon James fell asleep and when he woke up all the men had left and he found his watch missing. He returned to the inn and reported his loss to a ganger called William Jeffrey and said it must have been McDonnell who stole it. Both men went in search of Jeffrey and when they found him demanded the return of the watch. A fight then ensued and eventually the watch was given up. – case referred to the next Devon Sessions. The Herring’s Arms was also a popular meeting place for  Sperlings harrierpack and auctions for trees were continued to be held there under the auspices of Messrs. Webber and Symons. In the June of 1867 the licence of the Herring’s Arms was transferred from Charles Cook to James Holwell, by 1870 the inn was run by a Mr. John Harris and was advertised as being one of the venues where  R. Brendon took his sheep dipping cart to. This would have been a forerunner to the mobile dipping units of today where local farmers would have taken their sheep to be dipped for scab control. In 1895 Herring’s Arms was advertised for auction as belonging to the Langstone Estate which resulted in the inn along with 30 acres of adjoining land being sold for £1,650. Following the sale the licencee was Mr. Woolacott and in 1897 the licence was transferred to a Mr. Lord. Around about this time The Lamerton fox house regularly held meets at the inn In the October of 1916 Louis Gilbert was listed as licence holder and farmer and was granted an exemption from call up until April 1st. In 1936 a Mr. N. Clegg  was the then proprietor and in that November he organised a child’s firework display. For some reason he gave all the children coloured matches to throw in the air, sadly one landed on a girls dress which caught alight though thankfully she was not seriously injured. Then sometime during the mid 1900s the Herring’s Arms had its name changed to ‘The Brentor Inn’ and at the annual Tavistock Licensing meeting in 1946 an application was made to once again change the name to The Brentor Hotel. 



About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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