Bridge Inn

Devon - Topsham

A historic pub interior of national importance

Listed Status: II

Bridge Hill
Topsham
EX3 0QQ

OS ref: SX9698188232

Tel: (01392) 873862

Website http://www.cheffers.co.uk

Real ale & Cider: Real Ale and Real Cider

Public Transport: Near Railway Station (Topsham) and Bus Stop

View on: Whatpub

Run by the same family since 1897, this glorious old pub is one of the most unspoilt in the country and in 1998 was even accorded the only official visit to pub by HM The Queen. The entrance is on the side and leads to a panelled corridor. On the left is the tap room, quite plainly appointed and with some fixed seating. A little further on you will see a bulge to the right. This is the back of an old settle, glazed at the top, in what is called the snug (by customers) or lounge (by the owners). There is a large stone fireplace, some fixed bench seating and a grandfather clock dating from 1726. On the right it has a hatch (immediately post-war) to a parlour through which drinks are brought from the ground floor cellar. Known as the ‘Inner Sanctum’ this parlour area is a private space in which customers may be invited to sit. The former brewery/maltings at the rear is used on occasions. Food consists of lunchtime snacks.

This famous pink-washed public house is one of the most unspoilt pubs in the country being scarcely changed in over 100 years. It has been in the same family since 1897 when it was bought by William John Gibbings. Since 1930 it has come down through the female line and it is presently held by Caroline Cheffers-Heard. The rendered and tile-hung building is probably of C18 origin (if not earlier) with lower, right-hand wing being late C18/early C19. At the back is a large wing, which used to serve as a brewery and malt-house in the 19th century (brewing ceased in the early 1900s).

There are two public rooms at the front while the former brewery/maltings is also used as occasion requires. Front right-hand room is known as the Tap Room and has some plain, old fixed seating attached to very old dado panelling, old wall cupboards and Victorian cast iron and wood surround fireplace. Over the doorway the attractions of Kennaway's Scotch whisky are advertised in old cemented-on white lettering!

A panelled corridor leads on to the superb Snug, right in the heart of the pub. A large high settle with glazed panels over bulges out into the corridor and effectively forms one of the sides of this intimate room with a bare bench on the inside of it. There is a large stone fireplace, old salt store high up above it, some fixed bench seating attached to the very old dado panelling and a grandfather clock dating from 1726. One of the few changes to the interior of the pub has been the provision of a small counter more like a hatch with no handpumps or other dispensers. This was added just after WWII for ease of service from the parlour/servery to the snug.

The servery is known as the 'inner sanctum' and customers are allowed to sit there - but by invitation only. On the door to the Inner Sanctum is the sign "Please remember this little parlour is not a public area and is regarded as our family sitting room". This is one of three remaining examples of a room where customers can sit while staff are serving from the same area - the other two examples being the Select at the Arden Arms, Stockport, Greater Manchester; and the snug at Ye Horns Inn, Goosnagh, Lancashire. It has old window seating, a curved settle, small cast fireplace with log fire - and if you are privileged to be invited inside you will note the three different bottle openers on the wall with one for the old marble stopper bottles. Beer - up to ten real ales, mostly from Devon breweries - is fetched from the cellar - ask for the beer menu that is printed daily! Real ales can also be served in third of a pint glasses. To get served many customers stand at the door to the Inner Sanctum and then drink in the Tap Room opposite.

The malt-house room with its own entrance from the car park has a bar counter installed in the mid 1960s, a large 1930s brick fireplace and even one of the old hop shoots remains. Between the cellar and the malt-house there is a brick built furnace that provided hot air for hop-drying and malting operations. The malt-house room is only used for functions, meetings or as an overflow if the pub is busy. However, if, at a quiet time, you would like to take a look just ask bar staff and they will open it up for you. Being so traditional you will not be surprised to find the pub toilets are outside ladies' and gents'. In good weather they open a hatch / split door from the cellar for garden service.

The pub has the distinction of being the first to be visited by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II on an official visit on 27th March 1998 - look for the plaque on the wall and numerous photographs all around the pub. We don't know which of the excellent beers the Queen chose!; the pub does hold a letter from Prince Philip's equerry saying now much the Prince enjoyed his visit. Let us hope this will be the first of many such visits to one of Britain's Best Heritage Pubs!

The opening hours are still those imposed by the government under the 1914 Defence of the Realm Act which restricted them with a view to ensuring people made more ammunition instead of getting drunk! There is a sign on the door stating "The (1914) hours are Lunchtimes 12 to 2; Evenings Monday to Thursday 6 to 10.30; Evenings Friday & Saturday 6 to 11; Sunday Evening 7 to 10.30."

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