This public house was established around 1830 and was initially called the Grocer’s Arms. Many public houses, taverns and alehouses began to appear in towns and villages at this time as a result of the Beerhouse Act which abolished the beer tax and extended opening hours for licensed premises. The government at the time was keen to promote the consumption of beer instead of spirits, particularly gin in order to improve the drunkenness and unsociable behaviour which often prevailed. For a relatively small fee of 2 guineas, a proprietor could obtain a licence to trade which was controlled by the local justice of the peace.

 

The Grocer’s Arms was described as a coach-house, with garden, stables and offices and was located on the eastern end of the village but within the parish boundaries of Ugborough. It derived its name from the patronage bestowed upon St Peter’s Church at Ugborough by the Grocers’ Company under the trust of Dame Margaret Slaney. The patronage of the Grocers’ Company covered the upkeep of the church buildings and the support of the incumbent.

 

The Grocers’ Company was originally known as the Guild of Pepperers who were recognised as general traders, buying and selling spices, gold and other luxury goods from Byzantium and the Mediterranean and often using pepper as a form of currency. In 1345 the Guild became the ‘Fraternity of Pepperers’ and 3 years later they officially adopted a new name becoming the ‘The Company of Grossers of London’, derived from a new word in the English vocabulary ‘grosser’, a wholesale dealer buying and selling in gross. The first reference to ‘The Grocers’ Company’ was made in 1376.

Whether the establishment traded under the sign of the Grocers’ Company Arms would simply be speculation. The Arms consisted of an image of a laden camel, a number of cloves and two griffins with the motto ‘God grant Grace’. The image of a camel was a symbol of the spice trade whilst cloves showed the link with the spices from the Far East. Cloves were one of the most expensive of spices which were used extensively in medicine and  symbolised wealth and sophistication.

 

One of the earliest proprietors of the Grocer’s Arms, if not the first, was Richard Lethbridge. He was a landowner at nearby Filham. Judging by the number of advertisements in the newspapers, he chose not to run the public house himself but seek able tenants to look after it on his behalf. Gentlemen of the names of Richard Rowe and William Atwill both took up such a tenancy.

 

The Grocer’s Arms was located on what had become a busy thoroughfare between Plymouth and Exeter. In 1758  the Plymouth Eastern Turnpike Trust had completed the last stretch of this major road. Turnpike Trusts were established to help build a network of well-maintained highways that allowed road transport to move both efficiently and reliably. However, turnpiking involved a new principle, that all travellers, apart from pedestrians, had to make a payment proportional to their use of the road. Toll houses were established along the routes to collect the payments and just a short distance along the Exeter road from the Grocer’s Arms, a fairly substantial property was established for the toll collector and his family. Carriages had to pass through toll gates and pay the relevant fee before continuing with their journey.

 

Better roads led to more road users and stage coaches clattering along at speeds up to 10 miles an hour. By 1785 the route was adopted by the Royal Mail. The guards aboard the brightly painted mail coaches bearing the striking red and black livery would blow their horns to warn the tollgate owners to open the gate to His Majesty’s mail. The Devonport to London Royal Mail coach, the Quicksilver, became known as the fastest coach in the country as it travelled its regular route from London to Falmouth in Cornwall.

 

In 1833, the Plymouth Eastern Turnpike Trust provided ‘a very much-improved and entirely New Bridge at Ivybridge, at a part before most awkward if not dangerous for the traveller.’ The new bridge allowed stage coaches to avoid the previous narrow Ivy Bridge and the difficult double turn manoeuvre it entailed. Unfortunately for the proprietor of the London Inn it deprived him of passing traffic and must have had an impact upon trade probably to the benefit of the Grocer’s Arms which was located beside the roadside.

 

On 6 Oct 1882, Mr Lethbridge died and the property came under the tenure of Mark Baker. He had previous experience in the trade having been the proprietor of The White Horse public house in the centre of Ivybridge. It is possible that this gentleman, who was a horse trainer and livery stable keeper at Erme Mews in Park Street, is the reason for the name of that public house. His occupancy at The Grocer’s Arms did not last very long as the trade directories soon record him as being the proprietor of the near-by Bridge Inn. He ran this latter public house with his wife Jane until his death in 1920 whilst his son Richard carried on with the horse business, the third generation of the family to do so.

 

From 1891, according to the trade directories, The Grocer’s Arms was known as The Sportsman’s Arms although it is not clear exactly what prompted the change. At this time is was under the tenure of John Sherrell and his wife Annie. Their two sons, John and Bertrum, both served King and country in the Great War and are listed on the Ivybridge Roll of Honour.

The origins of the name Sportsman’s Arms presumably comes from the association with field sports such as hunting and shooting rather than any modern interpretation. Such activities were of course popular in the rural South Hams with many hunting and harrier organisations frequenting the establishment.

 

In 1904 there was a new publican when George Francis Packer along with his wife Sarah took on the tenancy of the Sportsman’s Arms. The establishment itself belonged to Samuel Luscombe, a substantial property owner and public servant of Ivybridge. George Packer had previously been steward at the Royal Yacht Club in Plymouth so brought the necessary experience.

Before very long a sign bearing the words ‘Packer’s Sportmans Arms’ was fixed to the front whilst the same wording was painted on the sides of the building to catch the eye of travellers from both directions. Newspapers at the time advertised that at The Sportsman’s Arms catered for char-a-banc parties, Mr Packer obviously capitalising on this popular mode of transport which was the forerunner of our modern coach.

The word ‘char-a-banc’ translates to carriage with wooden benches in the French language and describes a vehicle which originated in France in the early 19th century. In colloquial British English the word is often pronounced ‘sharra-bang’.

Before the First World War these vehicles were a popular among day trippers. Normally open topped, they incorporated a large canvas folding hood which was stowed in the back in case of rain. They were not the most comfortable of vehicles and as a consequence were not suitable for longer journeys. Locally they were used for trips to the seaside and on to Dartmoor, perhaps taking in tea and refreshments.

 

As time went on, increasing prosperity and eventually holiday entitlement, gave families the opportunity to take separate holidays rather than group days out and this coupled with the development of buses ended the char-a-banc’s appeal.

Sportsmans4

In August 1913 Sarah Packer died. George went on to re-marry Elizabeth Mardon in 1915 but following his death in 1920 Elizabeth was left to run the Sportsman’s Arms on her own. George Packer had been the publican for 14 years and during this time in Ivybridge had established himself within the local community. He was one of the founding members of Ivybridge Constitutional Club which was registered with the Association of Conservative Clubs (London) in 1912.

 

However, events in 1929 would mean Elizabeth would leave the district. In this year Samuel Luscombe died and The Sportsman’s Arms was placed on the market. Mr Luscombe, similar to George Packer, had been a founder member of the Constitutional Club and served on the Urban District Council.

“ This property is stone-built and slated, has a frontage to the Exeter road of about 65 feet, and contains :- on ground floor, spacious bar and office, bar parlour, smokeroom, dining-room, kitchen, washhouse, lavatory accommodation, and courtyard at the rear. First floor, large sitting-room and three bedrooms. Second floor, two large bedrooms. Also, approached from the front by side-door and a flight of stone steps, are three rooms, now sub-let. Spacious garage, stone-built and slated, stable of four stalls and two loose boxes. With loft over; two loose boxes, store, cellar, and wc. The garage and stables have a frontage of 58ft. on the main Exeter road, and afford opportunities for considerable development, either as a garage or for shop premises.”

During the extreme economic difficulties of the 1930s it would appear that running a public house was an arduous task judging by the number of publicans which came and departed the Sportsman’s Arms during this period. However, with the arrival of navy veteran Alfred Luckham, together his wife Amelia, a period of stability prevailed. Having previous experience with The King’s Arms Hotel in Fore Street they seemed to possess the acumen to make a success of it. The public house was now owned by long established City Breweries of Exeter, which explains the words ‘City Ales’ emblazoned across the gable ends of the property during this period.

In 1939, their daughter-in-law Vera Luckham moved in to assist with the running of the pub. When Alfred retired she would take over the reins alongside husband Frank, the establishment now known as The Sportsmans Arms Inn, which in time became shortened to the Sportsmans Inn.

In 1943, Vera was to befriend the American GIs which were stationed in Ivybridge and her recollections serve to provide a real insight into life at this time in a relatively quiet village. The sight of large numbers of military personnel milling around would have been something local people would have never ever experienced.

In 1939, their daughter-in-law Vera Luckham moved in to assist with the running of the pub. When Alfred retired she would take over the reins alongside husband Frank, the establishment now known as The Sportsmans Arms Inn, which in time became shortened to the Sportsmans Inn.

In 1943, Vera was to befriend the American GIs which were stationed in Ivybridge and her recollections serve to provide a real insight into life at this time in a relatively quiet village. The sight of large numbers of military personnel milling around would have been something local people would have never ever experienced.

The American GIs of the 116th Infantry Regiment came to Ivybridge in May 1943 in the run-up to an invasion of Europe, which commanders had set for the summer of 1944. The American camp in Ivybridge was located at Uphill on Exeter Road, just a stone’s throw away from the Sportsmans Inn.

The British have theaters and movies (which they call “cinemas”) as we do. But the great place of recreation is the “pub.” A pub, or public house, is what we could call a bar or tavern. The usual drink is beer, which is not an imitation of German beer as our beer is, but ale. (But they usually call it beer or “bitter”.) …

GI handbook ‘Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain’ 1942

Amongst the ranks of American servicemen were the soldiers of Company A, 116th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division. These would later come to be known as the Bedford Boys.

The influx of troops almost doubled the population of Ivybridge and businesses were booming, not least the pubs. There were a total of eight different establishments to choose from, The Sportsmans Inn, The King’s Arms, the London Hotel with its tap room and main bar, the Bridge Inn, The White Horse, the Duke of Cornwall, the Imperial Inn and the Julian Arms on the outskirts.

 

For many of the young men from Bedford, in rural Virginia, the Sportsmans Inn was one of the places to go when they had a bit of free time, and it provided relaxation after rigorous training exercises. They would often play darts, card games and use the snooker table which was particularly popular.

You are welcome in the British pubs as long as you remember one thing. The pub is ” the poor man’s club,” the neighborhood or village gathering place, where the men have come to see their friends, not strangers. If you want to join a darts game, let them ask you first (as they probably will). And if you are beaten it is the custom to stand aside and let someone else play.

GI handbook ‘Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain’ 1942

With so many ‘watering holes’ as the Brits described them, there were few men who didn’t at some time or other get to see the inside of the ‘hutch’.

Whenever a disturbance was reported at one of the many establishments in Ivybridge the military police would be quickly on the scene to apprehend the miscreants who would be transported back to camp to sleep it off in what the GIs called the ‘hutch’. This was their term for the solitary confinement facility at Uphill and one can only assume it had a vague resemblance to a pet rabbit’s abode.

In late May 1944, the 116th Infantry regiment left Ivybridge and moved to Blandford in Dorset where they would board the ships that would carry them across the English Channel.

 

Many of the young soldiers by this time had written back home talking fondly of the landlady of The Sportsmans Inn, Vera Luckham. As a result she kept in touch with a number of families and even received gifts at Christmas.

The peacetime system of recruiting complete companies from specific towns and areas in America would however, sadly lead to some tragic consequences. This was certainly the case with the Bedford Boys, the brave young men who had made so many friends in Ivybridge during their stay. When they stepped over the edge of the British troopship Javelin and into their landing craft in the early morning of D-Day, they each carried a 60-pound combat pack together with the knowledge that as a part of the first wave, their chances of surviving even the first few minutes would be slim.

 

Within the first few hours of the landings their unit was completely decimated and ceased to exist. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, there were 35 Bedford soldiers who were part of the landings, all of which had been billeted in Ivybridge while they trained for the invasion. From these 35 men, 21 died on D-Day, 19 of them in the first 15 minutes of landing on Omaha Beach at Vierville-sur-Mer. Two more were killed later that day. Only 12 Bedford soldiers returned. Bedford, Virginia, their home of only some 3,200 people, proportionally suffered the nation’s severest D-Day losses and later became the location for the national D-Day memorial which today gets an average of 60,000 visitors each year.

In 2001, Ivybridge erected a memorial stone in honour of the American servicemen who were based in the town. This memorial is located at Harford Road car park and was formally unveiled on 18 November of that year. Reverend Chris Osbourne conducting the ceremony commenting “Many of the men who had been based in Ivybridge were never to go home again. In our hearts they are still emblazoned as gallant young men who will never grow old, but those that did retain a bond of friendship that exists to this very day.”…

 

The fruition of the long campaign in Ivybridge to commemorate the Allied troops from across the Atlantic brought a particular poignant moment for Vera Luckham. Now aged 93 and still living in Ivybridge she had kept in touch with many of the survivors and their families.

 

The Inscription on the memorial stone reads:

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.

Three years later Ivybridge signed a friendship Treaty with the small town of Bedford and on Friday 4 June, 2004, a group of 50 of its residents visited Ivybridge for the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings. The formation of the Ivybridge – Bedford Alliance preserves the special relationship between these two towns.

For Vera, this official visit gave her the chance to meet some of the relatives and friends of the soldiers she once knew. She attended the memorial service and spoke to those who continued to send her presents at Christmas, so a very special occasion.

After the war the Sportsman’s Inn continued to serve the local people of Ivybridge and continues to be a popular attraction in the town.

For Vera, this official visit gave her the chance to meet some of the relatives and friends of the soldiers she once knew. She attended the memorial service and spoke to those who continued to send her presents at Christmas, so a very occasion.

After the war the Sportsman’s Inn continued to serve the local people of Ivybridge and continues to be a popular attraction in the town.

The Sportsman’s Arms

This public house was established around 1830 and was initially called the Grocer’s Arms. Many public houses, taverns and alehouses began to appear in towns and villages at this time as a result of the Beerhouse Act which abolished the beer tax and extended opening hours for licensed premises. The government at the time was keen to promote the consumption of beer instead of spirits, particularly gin in order to improve the drunkenness and unsociable behaviour which often prevailed. For a relatively small fee of 2 guineas, a proprietor could obtain a licence to trade which was controlled by the local justice of the peace.
The Grocer’s Arms was described as a coach-house, with garden, stables and offices and was located on the eastern end of the village but within the parish boundaries of Ugborough. It derived its name from the patronage bestowed upon St Peter’s Church at Ugborough by the Grocers’ Company under the trust of Dame Margaret Slaney. The patronage of the Grocers’ Company covered the upkeep of the church buildings and the support of the incumbent.
The Grocers’ Company was originally known as the Guild of Pepperers who were recognised as general traders, buying and selling spices, gold and other luxury goods from Byzantium and the Mediterranean and often using pepper as a form of currency. In 1345 the Guild became the ‘Fraternity of Pepperers’ and 3 years later they officially adopted a new name becoming the ‘The Company of Grossers of London’, derived from a new word in the English vocabulary ‘grosser’, a wholesale dealer buying and selling in gross. The first reference to ‘The Grocers’ Company’ was made in 1376.
Whether the establishment traded under the sign of the Grocers’ Company Arms would simply be speculation. The Arms consisted of an image of a laden camel, a number of cloves and two griffins with the motto ‘God grant Grace’. The image of a camel was a symbol of the spice trade whilst cloves showed the link with the spices from the Far East. Cloves were one of the most expensive of spices which were used extensively in medicine and  symbolised wealth and sophistication.
One of the earliest proprietors of the Grocer’s Arms, if not the first, was Richard Lethbridge. He was a landowner at nearby Filham. Judging by the number of advertisements in the newspapers, he chose not to run the public house himself but seek able tenants to look after it on his behalf. Gentlemen of the names of Richard Rowe and William Atwill both took up such a tenancy.
The Grocer’s Arms was located on what had become a busy thoroughfare between Plymouth and Exeter. In 1758  the Plymouth Eastern Turnpike Trust had completed the last stretch of this major road. Turnpike Trusts were established to help build a network of well-maintained highways that allowed road transport to move both efficiently and reliably. However, turnpiking involved a new principle, that all travellers, apart from pedestrians, had to make a payment proportional to their use of the road. Toll houses were established along the routes to collect the payments and just a short distance along the Exeter road from the Grocer’s Arms, a fairly substantial property was established for the toll collector and his family. Carriages had to pass through toll gates and pay the relevant fee before continuing with their journey.
Better roads led to more road users and stage coaches clattering along at speeds up to 10 miles an hour. By 1785 the route was adopted by the Royal Mail. The guards aboard the brightly painted mail coaches bearing the striking red and black livery would blow their horns to warn the tollgate owners to open the gate to His Majesty’s mail. The Devonport to London Royal Mail coach, the Quicksilver, became known as the fastest coach in the country as it travelled its regular route from London to Falmouth in Cornwall.
In 1833, the Plymouth Eastern Turnpike Trust provided ‘a very much-improved and entirely New Bridge at Ivybridge, at a part before most awkward if not dangerous for the traveller.’ The new bridge allowed stage coaches to avoid the previous narrow Ivy Bridge and the difficult double turn manoeuvre it entailed. Unfortunately for the proprietor of the London Inn it deprived him of passing traffic and must have had an impact upon trade probably to the benefit of the Grocer’s Arms which was located beside the roadside.
On 6 Oct 1882, Mr Lethbridge died and the property came under the tenure of Mark Baker. He had previous experience in the trade having been the proprietor of The White Horse public house in the centre of Ivybridge. It is possible that this gentleman, who was a horse trainer and livery stable keeper at Erme Mews in Park Street, is the reason for the name of that public house. His occupancy at The Grocer’s Arms did not last very long as the trade directories soon record him as being the proprietor of the near-by Bridge Inn. He ran this latter public house with his wife Jane until his death in 1920 whilst his son Richard carried on with the horse business, the third generation of the family to do so.
From 1891, according to the trade directories, The Grocer’s Arms was known as The Sportsman’s Arms although it is not clear exactly what prompted the change. At this time is was under the tenure of John Sherrell and his wife Annie. Their two sons, John and Bertrum, both served King and country in the Great War and are listed on the Ivybridge Roll of Honour.
The origins of the name Sportsman’s Arms presumably comes from the association with field sports such as hunting and shooting rather than any modern interpretation. Such activities were of course popular in the rural South Hams with many hunting and harrier organisations frequenting the establishment.
In 1904 there was a new publican when George Francis Packer along with his wife Sarah took on the tenancy of the Sportsman’s Arms. The establishment itself belonged to Samuel Luscombe, a substantial property owner and public servant of Ivybridge. George Packer had previously been steward at the Royal Yacht Club in Plymouth so brought the necessary experience.
Before very long a sign bearing the words ‘Packer’s Sportmans Arms’ was fixed to the front whilst the same wording was painted on the sides of the building to catch the eye of travellers from both directions. Newspapers at the time advertised that at The Sportsman’s Arms catered for char-a-banc parties, Mr Packer obviously capitalising on this popular mode of transport which was the forerunner of our modern coach.
In August 1913 Sarah Packer died. George went on to re-marry Elizabeth Mardon in 1915 but following his death in 1920 Elizabeth was left to run the Sportsman’s Arms on her own. George Packer had been the publican for 14 years and during this time in Ivybridge had established himself within the local community. He was one of the founding members of Ivybridge Constitutional Club which was registered with the Association of Conservative Clubs (London) in 1912.
However, events in 1929 would mean Elizabeth would leave the district. In this year Samuel Luscombe died and The Sportsman’s Arms was placed on the market. Mr Luscombe, similar to George Packer, had been a founder member of the Constitutional Club and served on the Urban District Council.
During the extreme economic difficulties of the 1930s it would appear that running a public house was an arduous task judging by the number of publicans which came and departed the Sportsman’s Arms during this period. However, with the arrival of navy veteran Alfred Luckham, together his wife Amelia, a period of stability prevailed. Having previous experience with The King’s Arms Hotel in Fore Street they seemed to possess the acumen to make a success of it. The public house was now owned by long established City Breweries of Exeter, which explains the words ‘City Ales’ emblazoned across the gable ends of the property during this period.
In 1939, their daughter-in-law Vera Luckham moved in to assist with the running of the pub. When Alfred retired she would take over the reins alongside husband Frank, the establishment now known as The Sportsmans Arms Inn, which in time became shortened to the Sportsmans Inn.
In 1943, Vera was to befriend the American GIs which were stationed in Ivybridge and her recollections serve to provide a real insight into life at this time in a relatively quiet village. The sight of large numbers of military personnel milling around would have been something local people would have never ever experienced.
The American GIs of the 116th Infantry Regiment came to Ivybridge in May 1943 in the run-up to an invasion of Europe, which commanders had set for the summer of 1944. The American camp in Ivybridge was located at Uphill on Exeter Road, just a stone’s throw away from the Sportsmans Inn.
Amongst the ranks of American servicemen were the soldiers of Company A, 116th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division. These would later come to be known as the Bedford Boys.
The influx of troops almost doubled the population of Ivybridge and businesses were booming, not least the pubs. There were a total of eight different establishments to choose from, The Sportsmans Inn, The King’s Arms, the London Hotel with its tap room and main bar, the Bridge Inn, The White Horse, the Duke of Cornwall, the Imperial Inn and the Julian Arms on the outskirts.
For many of the young men from Bedford, in rural Virginia, the Sportsmans Inn was one of the places to go when they had a bit of free time, and it provided relaxation after rigorous training exercises. They would often play darts, card games and use the snooker table which was particularly popular.
With so many public houses in Ivybridge it was inevitable that a few of the troops would end up misbehaving. Whenever a disturbance was reported the military police would be quickly on the scene to apprehend the miscreants who would be transported back to camp to sleep it off in what the GIs called the ‘hutch’. This was their term for the solitary confinement facility at Uphill and one can only assume it had a vague resemblance to a pet rabbit’s abode.
In late May 1944, the 116th Infantry regiment left Ivybridge and moved to Blandford in Dorset where they would board the ships that would carry them across the English Channel.
Many of the young soldiers by this time had written back home talking fondly of the landlady of The Sportsmans Inn, Vera Luckham. As a result she kept in touch with a number of families and even received gifts at Christmas.
The peacetime system of recruiting complete companies from specific towns and areas in America would however, sadly lead to some tragic consequences. This was certainly the case with the Bedford Boys, the brave young men who had made so many friends in Ivybridge during their stay. When they stepped over the edge of the British troopship Javelin and into their landing craft in the early morning of D-Day, they each carried a 60-pound combat pack together with the knowledge that as a part of the first wave, their chances of surviving even the first few minutes would be slim.
Within the first few hours of the landings their unit was completely decimated and ceased to exist. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, there were 35 Bedford soldiers who were part of the landings, all of which had been billeted in Ivybridge while they trained for the invasion. From these 35 men, 21 died on D-Day, 19 of them in the first 15 minutes of landing on Omaha Beach at Vierville-sur-Mer. Two more were killed later that day. Only 12 Bedford soldiers returned. Bedford, Virginia, their home of only some 3,200 people, proportionally suffered the nation’s severest D-Day losses and later became the location for the national D-Day memorial which today gets an average of 60,000 visitors each year.
In 2001, Ivybridge erected a memorial stone in honour of the American servicemen who were based in the town. This memorial is located at Harford Road car park and was formally unveiled on 18 November of that year. Reverend Chris Osbourne conducting the ceremony commenting “Many of the men who had been based in Ivybridge were never to go home again. In our hearts they are still emblazoned as gallant young men who will never grow old, but those that did retain a bond of friendship that exists to this very day.”…
The fruition of the long campaign in Ivybridge to commemorate the Allied troops from across the Atlantic brought a particular poignant moment for Vera Luckham. Now aged 93 and still living in Ivybridge she had kept in touch with many of the survivors and their families.
The Inscription on the memorial stone reads:
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.
Three years later Ivybridge signed a friendship Treaty with the small town of Bedford and on Friday 4 June, 2004, a group of 50 of its residents visited Ivybridge for the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings. The formation of the Ivybridge – Bedford Alliance preserves the special relationship between these two towns.
For Vera, this official visit gave her the chance to meet some of the relatives and friends of the soldiers she once knew. She attended the memorial service and spoke to those who continued to send her presents at Christmas, so a very special occasion.
After the war the Sportsman’s Inn continued to serve the local people of Ivybridge and continues to this day to be a popular attraction in the town.