Looking back at Sidmouth's Old Ship Inn

PUBLISHED: 14:40 30 May 2009 | UPDATED: 09:16 18 June 2010

ONE family who would know more than others about the history of The Old Ship Inn in Sidmouth is the Pile family. Jean Pile, a Sidmouth resident who has traced her family back 600 years to the town and surrounding areas, contacted Nostalgia after reading a

ONE family who would know more than others about the history of The Old Ship Inn in Sidmouth is the Pile family.

Jean Pile, a Sidmouth resident who has traced her family back 600 years to the town and surrounding areas, contacted Nostalgia after reading a recent piece about the Old Fore Street pub.

According to Anna Sutton, in her book A Story of Sidmouth, it is believed the property changing hands for 20 guineas in a "quick deal" over the bar.

And Jean confirms this as it was in fact her grandparents, Elizabeth and James Bromley Pile, who bought the pub in this eccentric fashion in 1930.

Jean explains: "They stayed at the Old Ship inn while they were looking around for a business to buy and they were downstairs in the pub when the owner said for 20 guineas he would sell the place.

"They overheard, put the money on the counter and the landlord literally walked out of the door."

Jean remembers being told stories of smuggling and clandestine dealings linked to the pub from an earlier era.

She added: "We used to hear that there was a tunnel leading to the churchyard. We grew up in Sidmouth knowing there was a tunnel coming out from the back of The Old Ship and a lot of smuggling went on there."

Jean's grandparents ran the pub as a bed and breakfast for several years until they went on to buy the old Marsh Chapel, which was situated at The Ham.

Alongside Jean's father, Freddy Pile, her grandparents ran a coal business from the chapel and Jean was born in the cottages opposite.

Dating back from 1810, the old Marsh Chapel has an interesting and varied history.

Reginald Lane, in his book Old Sidmouth, said it was there that the Barrett family, as Nonconformists, attended the chapel and in 1832 Elizabeth Barrett started a romantic liaison with the minister, George B. Hunter.

A new chapel was erected and opened in 1846 in Silva Street, now Chapel Street, and Jean believes old Marsh Chapel was pulled down in 1967.

She added: "The actual four foot high side wall of the chapel is still there to this day.


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