It is not known exactly when the London Inn was built, historians are guided by paintings and etching of the ivy bridge showing an inn alongside which date to the late 1770s. The earliest reference in existence records a gentleman named Thomas Byrd along with his wife Elizabeth, as proprietors of the London Inn from 11 October 1776.  Thomas, a victualler by profession, died only a few years later, around 1781, leaving his widow to manage the inn alone. However, on 3 September 1782, Elizabeth finds a new husband in the enterprising Henry Rivers, himself a widower and together they run the inn. Henry’s first wife was Elizabeth Brutton, the daughter of George Brutton who was an innkeeper from Modbury. He ran the well-established Exeter Inn which dates to the 14th century.  After his death, his daughter Elizabeth and her husband took over, so Henry brought experience of running an inn with him to Ivybridge. It is believed Henry, with an eye for business opportunities, always wanted an inn on the main road to London and it is thought that he updated the London Inn.

An illustration of the Ivy Bridge poses a conundrum.

An etching by artist and founder member of the Royal Academy, Paul Sandby, dated 1 March 1780 and entitled ‘Ivy Bridge near Plymouth’, depicts the old ivy bridge. To the right is an inn with a large sign of a swan outside. No historical evidence of an inn at Ivybridge called The Swan has ever been found so this image remains a mystery.

 

This etching can be viewed on the Royal Academy website. Works by Paul Sandby are also held more locally, within the Cottonian collection at The Box in Plymouth.

Henry Rivers was an extremely ambitious man and invested heavily within the village of Ivybridge. He purchased Costly (Costley) Meadow and Filham Moor from William Dunsterville and by the end of the eighteenth century was the owner of the entire Stowford Estate and described as a man who had a finger in every Ivybridge pie by Charles Hankin, an Ivybridge historian.

 

In 1797, Sir Frederick Rogers of Blachford and owner of land west of the River Erme agreed to have a new and substantial inn to be built just south of Ivybridge Barton Farm. Sir Frederick died later in the same year but his son Sir John Rogers, honoured his late father’s agreement and a new inn was built on land fronting onto the turnpike. This new inn was appropriately called ‘The Rogers Arms’. The lease of the new Rogers Arms was granted to Henry Rivers. Unable to run it himself he appointed John and Ann Stevenitt as innkeepers. Henry’s grandson, William Rivers, went on to marry their daughter, Elizabeth Stevenitt and later ran the London Inn together.

 

By 1816 the financial position of Henry Rivers had taken a turn for the worst. It would appear he had overstretched himself with the numerous acquisitions and was subsequently declared bankrupt. From around 1814 Rivers had apparently realised his precarious financial position and signed over the London Inn to his son, Henry the Younger, with a share to go to his grandson, William Rivers. In 1819, it is documented that the creditors of Henry Rivers arranged for the sale of Lukesland, part of the Stowford estate.

TO LET

The compact and desirable farm of Lukesland, distant about one mile from Ivy-Bridge, and 5 from Modbury, comprising a Farm-house, barn, and all requisite out-buildings, with upwards of 100 Acres of good arable, meadow, pasture, and other land, including a Coppice of about 6 acres, having a quantity of young thriving timber growing thereon.

7 July 1803

This letting notice records the size of Lukesland Farm at this time.

Coaching inns

From the mid-17th century and for around the next 200 years, the principal mode of transport for anyone wishing to travel long distances was the stagecoach or mail coach. With the necessity to make frequent stops to rest and feed the horses, a comprehensive network of coaching inns evolved over time. Trained hostlers or “ostlers” were employed at the inns to tend to the horses and where a fresh team were required to replace the tired ones, they were able to change them over rapidly. The Royal Mail coaches benefitted from their services enabling them to adhere to their demanding delivery schedules.

(H)ostler [meaning]: a man employed to look after the horses of people staying at an inn, a word derived from old French ‘hostelier’ meaning innkeeper.

Not to miss an opportunity, these inns also catered for the passengers, providing refreshments and overnight accommodation. The domestic services at the inns were overseen by a housekeeper, quite often the wife of the owner. Improvements to the inns led to the emergence of dining rooms or “coffee rooms” as they were called, making for a more pleasurable stay.

The term ‘hotel’, which is taken from the French language, was rare in England before 1800. The earliest reference to hotel can be traced to an advertisement in 1770 for The Royal Clarence Hotel located in Exeter. This hotel, if one recalls, reached the national news headlines in 2016 following its devastating fire.

Mail Coaches

These were originally designed for a driver who was seated outside and up to four passengers travelling inside. The guard, an employee of the Post Office meanwhile travelled on the outside at the rear next to the mail box. Later, the number of passengers increased with provision made for travellers to be seated outside next to the driver. These coaches were more expensive than private stage coaches but were faster and generally less crowded and cleaner. Travel on the mail coach was almost always at night, a time when the roads were less busy permitting the coach to make better speed.

 

Stops to collect mail were short. The Plymouth to Exeter coach took around 3½ hours whilst the whole journey to London took around 22 hours. There were change-over points for fresh horses located at Ivybridge, Ashburton and Chudleigh.

‘QUICKSILVER’

The Devonport to London Royal Mail coach

This coach, bearing the striking Royal Mail red and black livery, became known as the fastest coach in the country as it travelled its regular route from London to Falmouth in Cornwall.

 

It was also famous for a rather unusual occurrence on 20th October 1816. While on its way to London on said evening, it drew into the Pheasant Inn on Salisbury Plain. There, quite unexpectedly the leading horses were attacked by a lioness which had escaped from a travelling menagerie. The extraordinary incident became the subject of a painting by artist James Pollard.

Following the bankruptcy of Henry Rivers it is not clear what involvement Henry the Younger had with the London Inn as little is documented. However, it is recorded in the directories of the period that William Rivers (the grandson) and Elizabeth Stevenitt (his wife from 1831) ran the inn during the 1830s alongside the Roger’s Arms, which later became known as the Ivybridge Hotel (often merely Stevenitt’s Hotel in the newspapers). Other family members who had a hand in running the London Inn include Elizabeth Rivers (née Morris) who was in charge for a number of years following the untimely death of her husband William Brutton Rivers in 1806, still only in his twenties. He was another son of Henry Rivers Snr but from his first marriage to Elizabeth Brutton.

 

The Rivers’ family tenure finally came to an end in 1861, the directories listing William Mallett as the proprietor from this date.

London Inn, Ivy Bridge,

RE-ESTABLISHED

W. RIVERS,

Having succeeded to the above Inn, avails himself of this opportunity of soliciting the patronage of the Nobility, his Friends, Commercial Gentlemen, and the Public generally. The Premises being replete with every comfort for families, he trusts his endeavours will ensure him success.

Good stabling, Lock-up Coach Houses

The Western Times 1830

A pleasant evening was passed …

An account of an incident at the London Inn in 1830.

In the village of Ivybridge, Devonshire, on the main road from Devonport to London, close to that little trout stream, the Erme, stood Henry River’s small snug hotel, which those of you who have travelled by the Quicksilver Mail will no doubt remember. One day a gentlemanly man dressed in one of those long coats which button down almost to the feet, and which were fashionable at that time, called at this hotel and engaged a room for the night. After a capital dinner and mine host’s best wine, he sent the waiter to ask the landlord if he would join him in a cigar and a glass of grog. So a pleasant evening was passed and the two parted at bedtime well pleased with each other’s company. The traveller gave orders to be called early next morning. Punctual to his orders the boots called him, but great was his consternation when he recalled and informed by the gentleman that his breeches had been stolen during the night. Here was an embarrassing situation for an inmate of a respectable hotel to be placed in. But Mr Rivers speedily came to the rescue. In fact, the credit of his house demanded it, and a pair of the landlord’s best breeches were placed at the stranger’s service. So far all was satisfactory but Mr River’s troubles were not over and when the travelling gentleman informed him that there was a five pound note in the breeches pocket he had no other course but to replace the one lost.

And so, the man departed in peace, or rather in Mr River’s breeches with the £5 note safely in his pocket. Mr River’s again and again expressing his regret at the unfortunate occurrence. Of course, he at once set out to discover the daring thief. He never found him, but he learned that the stranger had sold his own breeches in Ashburton the day before arriving and that the reason he could not find his own that morning was because he had got none on when he arrived at the hotel, his long coat so hiding.

The Rogers Arms

The Rogers Arms later to be called the Ivybridge Hotel, was established at the turn of the nineteenth century. A lease was granted to Henry Rivers, owner of the London Inn, who, unable to run the establishment himself, appointed innkeepers John and Ann Stevenitt.

 

Strategically placed on the Plymouth to London road, it became the principal coaching inn at Ivybridge for the next fifty years and for a time, the post office, with four mail coaches calling each day.

Unfortunately, its success was short lived. With the introduction of the railway line in 1848, resulting in a sharp decline in stagecoach travel, coupled with the deteriorating condition of the property, the decision was taken to close the hotel in 1851. All surviving stagecoach business would be left to the ‘London Inn’ and the ‘King’s Arms’ in Fore Street, a house that had proved popular since its establishment in the 1830s, having accommodation for vehicles. The Ivybridge Hotel was later converted to three dwellings. We know the property today as Grosvenor Court.

The Rogers Arms

The Rogers Arms later to be called the Ivybridge Hotel, was established at the turn of the nineteenth century. A lease was granted to Henry Rivers, owner of the London Inn, who, unable to run the establishment himself, appointed innkeepers John and Ann Stevenitt.

 

Strategically placed on the Plymouth to London road, it became the principal coaching inn at Ivybridge for the next fifty years and for a time, the post office, with four mail coaches calling each day.

 

Unfortunately, its success was short lived. With the introduction of the railway line in 1848, resulting in a sharp decline in stagecoach travel, coupled with the deteriorating condition of the property, the decision was taken to close the hotel in 1851. All surviving stagecoach business would be left to the ‘London Inn’ and the ‘King’s Arms’ in Fore Street, a house that had proved popular since its establishment in the 1830s, having accommodation for vehicles. The Ivybridge Hotel was later converted to three dwellings. We know the property today as Grosvenor Court.

The Rogers Arms

The Rogers Arms later to be called the Ivybridge Hotel, was established at the turn of the nineteenth century. A lease was granted to Henry Rivers, owner of the London Inn, who, unable to run the establishment himself, appointed innkeepers John and Ann Stevenitt.

 

Strategically placed on the Plymouth to London road, it became the principal coaching inn at Ivybridge for the next fifty years and for a time, the post office, with four mail coaches calling each day.

 

Unfortunately, its success was short lived. With the introduction of the railway line in 1848, resulting in a sharp decline in stagecoach travel, coupled with the deteriorating condition of the property, the decision was taken to close the hotel in 1851. All surviving stagecoach business would be left to the ‘London Inn’ and the ‘King’s Arms’ in Fore Street, a house that had proved popular since its establishment in the 1830s, having accommodation for vehicles. The Ivybridge Hotel was later converted to three dwellings. We know the property today as Grosvenor Court.

The Duke of Wellington visits Plymouth

In 1846, a visit to Plymouth by the Duke of Wellington is well documented. Serving as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces he was due to inspect the defences at Plymouth. With the railway network ever expanding at this time, the Duke was able to make use of the “iron road” for the majority of his journey, leaving London from Paddington and not Waterloo! However, the railway line in 1846 only extended as far south as Teignmouth (the South Devon line opened in 1848), so from there he had to travel the remainder of the journey by horse-drawn coach.

 

At Ivybridge, the coach reputedly stopped to change horses, as was the norm but none were available. It would seem logical that this this stop would have been at the London Hotel. As word travelled, it is said that the Duke of Wellington, not wishing to draw attention to himself, slipped away and continued his journey to Plymouth on foot, on the understanding that his carriage would catch him up once new horses were obtained. Not long after, the regular “Tally Ho” coach which operated between Exeter and Devonport pulled up alongside. The guard duly asked whether the Duke would do him the honour of taking a seat on his coach. The Duke, now well into his 70s, graciously declined the offer deciding to continue with his walk. The story goes that he was accompanied at the time by a farmer and two ‘navvies’, they, of course, “being ignorant of his exalted rank

 

His carriage eventually caught up and took him to the Royal Hotel in Plymouth. The next day, dressed in a blue frock coat, white vest and trousers, he inspected the defences at the Citadel. On his return he ‘broke the journey’ at the Seven Stars Hotel at Totnes.

 

Whilst there are no memorials commemorating the visit, there are several reminders to be found in and around Plymouth, Devonport and Torpoint, with street names of Wellington and indeed Waterloo in existence.

If one studies the directories and newspapers from the mid nineteenth century onwards, it seems that the hotel adopts the name of each proprietor. From 1861 until 1878, the hotel was occupied by William Mallett and his family, with the establishment simply described as ‘Mallett’s Hotel’ in directories and on postcards. The hotel was described as having a large concert hall, private gardens and being a ‘favourite resort of visitors and tourists.’

15 July 1874 – The Methodist Church foundation stone ceremony

Following the ceremony, the party adjourned to Mallett’s Assembly Rooms, the colloquial name for the London Hotel. A public tea was held, and it was ‘probably the most numerously attended tea meeting that had ever been held at Ivybridge, upwards of 300 people’.

By 1889, the name had changed to ‘Bohn’s Hotel’ reflecting the new proprietor, James Bohn. It would appear he was an experienced hotelier, having previously run the Ilfracombe Hotel and, at the time, the proprietor of the ‘Grand Hotel’ on the Hoe. The latter was described as ‘the only hotel with a sea view’. This fact helps to explain why the census of 1891 records a Frank Edward Bohn as Hotel Manager at the London Hotel, aged just 23. He was the son of James and one assumes he ran the hotel whilst his father remained in Plymouth.

The Great Blizzard of 1891

On 9 March 1891, extreme winter conditions left much of southern England under a thick blanket of snow. In Ivybridge several trees between the railway station and the centre of the village were uprooted. Many people, especially in rural areas were trapped for days in the snow whilst many trains were buried under drifts leaving passengers stranded.

Mr Bohn, proprietor of the London Hotel, gave free dinners to railway drivers and guards.

When the hotel was sold in the early 20th-century it became known as Millbourne’s London Hotel. The proprietor was now Elizabeth Millbourne. The hotel described as ‘comprising of bar, smoking, commercial, and tea-rooms, 3 private sitting-rooms, billiard and large assembly rooms, 16 bedrooms, a public bar known as the London Hotel Tap, stabling for 24 horses, motor garage, private grounds, a pretty ornamental garden, a large prolific fruit and vegetable garden and riverside walks, the whole site covering about 1 ¾ acres’.

3 July 1907 – 25th anniversary of the consecration of St. Johns Church.

Sunday-school children, along with members of the Bible classes and the Cornwood Band marched to the church. Following a short service they were treated to tea at the Assembly Room kindly offered by Mrs. Millbourne of the London Hotel.

During the latter part of the nineteenth century the London Hotel became a venue for the Court of Petty Sessions in the area. These courts handled minor legal cases both criminal and civil and were presided over by local Justices of the Peace. Since the position did not attract a wage, these JPs were normally prominent landowners or gentlemen, often with no formal legal training. Henry John Fice Lee and members of Allen family, owners of the paper mill, served as Justices of the Peace in Ivybridge sitting bi-monthly. A clerk would record the details of each case in a register and these documents have proved invaluable to historians and researchers.

The first case heard at the London Hotel …

For the first time in the history of Ivybridge the magistrates Mr J.D. Pode and Mr J.J. McAndrew sat in the Assembly room of the London Hotel. The court was held for the decision of a case which has created great excitement in the village … a respectably dressed man, visited the Bridge inn, kept by Mr S.Northmore, and called for a glass of ale, but after he left the house he went round and re-entered by the back door… the landlady bolted the door and captured the trespasser on the stairs. In spite of his struggling she clung to him until assistance came. He was handed over to P.C. Bastin, who found in his pockets a cold chisel and three skeleton keys. After a night in the lock-up, the prisoner was taken before Mr J.D.Pode at Cornwood, and formally remanded …On the way back to Ivybridge police station Bastin held him in tow with a stout cord attached to his wrist… whilst distracted, the prisoner managed to untie the cord, but still held it in his hand so as to avoid detection. About three quarters of a mile from Ivybridge he suddenly bolted down Kennel lane and as he was a good runner speedily got away from the policeman. An excited chase was then started on foot and also on horseback. After a brisk two hours run the game went to cover. A man named Blackler discovered the prisoner hiding under one of the shrubs at the back of the Highland House, and he was conducted in triumph back to the police cell… he admitted that he was George Wakeham, son of a gardener who some years ago was employed at Highland House… The sentence was that he be imprisoned for three calendar months with hard labour… A strong conviction is felt that he was connected with a robbery that took place at Mr Beer’s on the 4th March.

Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser 21 May 1879

In more recent times the London Hotel was a very popular venue for countless social gatherings and will be recalled with fond memories by many within Ivybridge.

 

The ballroom was the venue for the 1st Ivybridge Scout Gang Shows in the 1940s to 50s and was also used by the Ivybridge Garden & Allotment Association for their Autumn Shows.

 

Stowford Paper Mill was a regular patron of the hotel and the Ivybridge Young Farmers regularly used the hotel for gatherings and events as did Ivybridge Badminton Club from time to time.

In more recent times the London Hotel was a very popular venue for countless social gatherings and will be recalled with fond memories by many within Ivybridge.

 

The ballroom was the venue for the 1st Ivybridge Scout Gang Shows in the 1940s to 50s and was also used by the Ivybridge Garden & Allotment Association for their Autumn Shows.

 

Stowford Paper Mill was a regular patron of the hotel and the Ivybridge Young Farmers regularly used the hotel for gatherings and events as did Ivybridge Badminton Club from time to time.

A great annual event was the opening meet of the Dartmoor Foxhounds at Stowford Lodge lawn. This was followed by the annual Hunt Dinner at the London Hotel. Commander Davey, Master of the Dartmoor Hounds was always in attendance leading the merriment.

 

Commander Charles Henry Davey had settled in Ivybridge soon after the First World War, living as a bachelor at Beaconville. He was a very competent horseman and soon accepted the Mastership of the Dartmoor Foxhounds, a position he held for over 20 years. In this role he befriended the farming community. He kept a stud of some 20 horses and was described as the ‘mainstay and inspiration’ of the Plymouth Polo Club.

 

At the age of 60 he returned to active service at the outbreak of the Second World War and sadly lost his life in 1940 when his vessel was sunk by a mine. He had entered the Navy as a Britannia cadet at the age of 13 in 1893 and as a midshipman served in China. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1900 and two years later joined the Vernon to specialise in torpedoes serving on many ships afterwards as torpedo officer. He retired in 1911 but re-joined for the Great War, when he was on the staff of the Admiral of Mine sweeping. He was made O.B.E. and promoted to Commander from the date of the Armistice.

In 1991 the site was sold for re-development, to provide a boost to Ivybridge’s housing stock at that time. The project retained the front façade of the hotel but everything else was completely demolished.

 

A project to improve the riverside area to the front shortly followed. A scheme, assisted by a European grant, transformed the former hotel car park and overgrown garden area into an attractive open space with new trees, riverside walk with viewing points and picnic area. The old Pelton wheel water turbine, which had been saved from the provender mill (Lee & Son) in Fore Street, was placed on permanent display here.

 

This riverside area is also the location for a Dartmoor granite memorial commemorating the American servicemen of the 116th Infantry Regiment. In 2001, a memorial was erected as a tribute to the US forces who stayed in the area. The monument has an American combat helmet carved on the top and is inscribed with the words

“Dedicated to all the American Servicemen based in Ivybridge 1943-1944 particularly the 1st Battalion 116th Infantry Regiment who made many friends with local residents. Sadly many of these men were to die on, or after, D-Day the 6th June 1944”.

References : Articles from the Ivor Martin archive collection kindly donated by Lesley Martin.

THE LONDON HOTEL

It is not known exactly when the London Inn was built, historians are guided by paintings and etching of the ivy bridge showing an inn alongside which date to the late 1770s. The earliest reference in existence records a gentleman named Thomas Byrd along with his wife Elizabeth, as proprietors of the London Inn from 11 October 1776. Thomas, a victualler by profession, died only a few years later, around 1781, leaving his widow to manage the inn alone. However, on 3 September 1782, Elizabeth finds a new husband in the enterprising Henry Rivers, himself a widower and together they run the inn. Henry’s first wife was Elizabeth Brutton, the daughter of George Brutton who was an innkeeper from Modbury. He ran the well-established Exeter Inn which dates to the 14th century.  After his death, his daughter Elizabeth and her husband took over, so Henry brought experience of running an inn with him to Ivybridge. It is believed Henry, with an eye for business opportunities, always wanted an inn on the main road to London and it is thought that he updated the London Inn.

 

Henry Rivers was an extremely ambitious man and invested heavily within the village of Ivybridge. He purchased Costly (Costley) Meadow and Filham Moor from William Dunsterville and by the end of the eighteenth century was the owner of the entire Stowford Estate and described as ‘a man who had a finger in every Ivybridge pie’ by Charles Hankin, an Ivybridge historian.

 

In 1797, Sir Frederick Rogers of Blachford and owner of land west of the River Erme agreed to have a new and substantial inn to be built just south of Ivybridge Barton Farm. Sir Frederick died later in the same year but his son Sir John Rogers, honoured his late father’s agreement and a new inn was built on land fronting onto the turnpike. This new inn was appropriately called ‘The Rogers Arms’. The lease of the new Rogers Arms was granted to Henry Rivers. Unable to run it himself he appointed John and Ann Stevenitt as innkeepers. Henry’s grandson, William Rivers, went on to marry their daughter, Elizabeth Stevenitt and later ran the London Inn together.

Coaching Inns

 

From the mid-17th century and for around the next 200 years, the principal mode of transport for anyone wishing to travel long distances was the stagecoach or mail coach. With the necessity to make frequent stops to rest and feed the horses, a comprehensive network of coaching inns evolved over time. Trained hostlers or “ostlers” were employed at the inns to tend to the horses and where a fresh team were required to replace the tired ones, they were able to change them over rapidly. The Royal Mail coaches benefitted from their services enabling them to adhere to their demanding delivery schedules. Not to miss an opportunity, these inns also catered for the passengers, providing refreshments and overnight accommodation. The domestic services at the inns were overseen by a housekeeper, quite often the wife of the owner. Improvements to the inns led to the emergence of dining rooms or “coffee rooms” as they were called, making for a more pleasurable stay.

 

The term hotel, which is taken from the French language, was rare in England before 1800. The earliest reference to hotel can be traced to an advertisement in 1770 for The Royal Clarence Hotel located in Exeter. This hotel, if one recalls, reached the national news headlines in 2016 following its devastating fire.

Henry Rivers runs into financial difficulties

 

By 1816 the financial position of Henry Rivers had taken a turn for the worst. It would appear he had overstretched himself with the numerous acquisitions and was subsequently declared bankrupt. From around 1814 Rivers had apparently realised his precarious financial position and signed over the London Inn to his son, Henry the Younger, with a share to go to his grandson, William Rivers. In 1819, it is documented that the creditors of Henry Rivers arranged for the sale of Lukesland, part of the Stowford estate.

 

Following the bankruptcy of Henry Rivers it is not clear what involvement Henry the Younger had with the London Inn as little is documented. However, it is recorded in the directories of the period that William Rivers (the grandson) and Elizabeth Stevenitt (his wife from 1831) ran the inn during the 1830s alongside the Roger’s Arms, which later became known as the Ivybridge Hotel (often merely Stevenitt’s Hotel in the newspapers). Other family members who had a hand in running the London Inn include Elizabeth Rivers (née Morris) who was in charge for a number of years following the untimely death of her husband William Brutton Rivers in 1806, still only in his twenties. He was another son of Henry Rivers Snr but from his first marriage to Elizabeth Brutton.

 

The Rivers’ family tenure finally came to an end in 1861, the directories listing William Mallett as the proprietor from this date.

If one studies the directories and newspapers from the mid nineteenth century onwards, it seems that the hotel adopts the name of each proprietor. From 1861 until 1878, the hotel was occupied by William Mallett and his family, with the establishment simply described as ‘Mallett’s Hotel’ in directories and on postcards. The hotel was described as having a large concert hall, private gardens and being a ‘favourite resort of visitors and tourists.’

 

By 1889, the name had changed to ‘Bohn’s Hotel’ reflecting the new proprietor, James Bohn. It would appear he was an experienced hotelier, having previously run the Ilfracombe Hotel and, at the time, the proprietor of the ‘Grand Hotel’ on the Hoe. The latter was described as ‘the only hotel with a sea view’. This fact helps to explain why the census of 1891 records a Frank Edward Bohn as Hotel Manager at the London Hotel, aged just 23. He was the son of James and one assumes he ran the hotel whilst his father remained in Plymouth.

 

When the hotel was sold in the early 20th-century it became known as Millbourne’s London Hotel. The proprietor was now Elizabeth Millbourne. The hotel described as ‘comprising of bar, smoking, commercial, and tea-rooms, 3 private sitting-rooms, billiard and large assembly rooms, 16 bedrooms, a public bar known as the London Hotel Tap, stabling for 24 horses, motor garage, private grounds, a pretty ornamental garden, a large prolific fruit and vegetable garden and riverside walks, the whole site covering about 1 ¾ acres’.

 

During the latter part of the nineteenth century the London Hotel became a venue for the Court of Petty Sessions in the area. These courts handled minor legal cases both criminal and civil and were presided over by local Justices of the Peace. Since the position did not attract a wage, these JPs were normally prominent landowners or gentlemen, often with no formal legal training. Henry John Fice Lee and members of Allen family, owners of the paper mill, served as Justices of the Peace in Ivybridge sitting bi-monthly. A clerk would record the details of each case in a register and these documents have proved invaluable to historians and researchers.
In more recent times the London Hotel was a very popular venue for countless social gatherings and will be recalled with fond memories by many within Ivybridge.

 

The ballroom was the venue for the 1st Ivybridge Scout Gang Shows in the 1940s to 50s and was also used by the Ivybridge Garden & Allotment Association for their Autumn Shows.

 

Stowford Paper Mill was a regular patron of the hotel and the Ivybridge Young Farmers regularly used the hotel for gatherings and events as did Ivybridge Badminton Club from time to time.

 

A great annual event was the opening meet of the Dartmoor Foxhounds at Stowford Lodge lawn. This was followed by the annual Hunt Dinner at the London Hotel. Commander Davey, Master of the Dartmoor Hounds was always in attendance leading the merriment.

 

Commander Charles Henry Davey had settled in Ivybridge soon after the First World War, living as a bachelor at Beaconville. He was a very competent horseman and soon accepted the Mastership of the Dartmoor Foxhounds, a position he held for over 20 years. In this role he befriended the farming community. He kept a stud of some 20 horses and was described as the ‘mainstay and inspiration’ of the Plymouth Polo Club.

 

At the age of 60 he returned to active service at the outbreak of the Second World War and sadly lost his life in 1940 when his vessel was sunk by a mine. He had entered the Navy as a Britannia cadet at the age of 13 in 1893 and as a midshipman served in China. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1900 and two years later joined the Vernon to specialise in torpedoes serving on many ships afterwards as torpedo officer. He retired in 1911 but re-joined for the Great War, when he was on the staff of the Admiral of Mine sweeping. He was made O.B.E. and promoted to Commander from the date of the Armistice.
London Hotel front facade and scaffolding
In 1991 the site was sold for re-development, to provide a boost to Ivybridge’s housing stock at that time. The project retained the front façade of the hotel but everything else was completely demolished.

 

A project to improve the riverside area to the front shortly followed. A scheme, assisted by a European grant, transformed the former hotel car park and overgrown garden area into an attractive open space with new trees, riverside walk with viewing points and picnic area. The old Pelton wheel water turbine, which had been saved from the provender mill (Lee & Son) in Fore Street, was placed on permanent display here.
This riverside area is also the location for a Dartmoor granite memorial commemorating the American servicemen of the 116th Infantry Regiment. In 2001, a memorial was erected as a tribute to the US forces who stayed in the area. The monument has an American combat helmet carved on the top and is inscribed with the words “Dedicated to all the American Servicemen based in Ivybridge 1943-1944 particularly the 1st Battalion 116th Infantry Regiment who made many friends with local residents. Sadly many of these men were to die on, or after, D-Day the 6th June 1944”.
References : Articles from the Ivor Martin archive collection kindly donated by Lesley Martin