In 2016 there are far fewer pubs in Torrington than in previous years. They are the Black Horse, Globe, Cavalier, Torrington Arms, Royal Exchange, Torridge Inn and Puffing Billy.
The Black Horse in the town square is one of the few remaining ancient houses of half-timbered construction in the towns of North Devon. At the time of the Battle of Torrington in 1646 during the Civil War, it is believed that both Lord Ralph Hopton, the commander of the Royalists who were trying to defend the town, and Sir Thomas Fairfax, who led the victorious Parliamentarian army, used the Black Horse as their headquarters at different times.
The Globe was a commercial and family hotel and posting house during the 19th century and all coaches, including the ‘North Devon’ from Plymouth to Barnstaple and the ‘Torridge Express’ from Exeter to Bideford, called there. In the mid 19th century the Globe was considered a much higher class establishment than the Plough Inn next door and it has been a fine building.
The Plough was a public house from about 1750-1910 and this is where the name of the arts centre originated. When the building was converted into a drill hall, fine oak panelling was removed and installed in the Mayor’s parlour in the Town Hall.
The Cavalier in Well Street was formerly called the Hunters Inn. Its name was changed in 1996 when there were celebrations in the town to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the Battle of Torrington.
The Torrington Arms in New Street was previously known as the Railway Hotel and was run by Phyllis and Maurice Smithson from 1967-1981. It was the nearest public house to the railway station before the Puffing Billy opened in the old station building after the railway closed.
The Torridge Inn, down opposite the old dairy at the bottom end of Mill Street, is an attractive building of cob and thatch which probably dates from the 17th century. As well as selling ‘fine beers and wines’ it has a Thai Diner which offers authentic Thai cuisine.
Old directories from the 19th century show that there were at least 16 public houses in Torrington at that time. In 1878 a referendum was held to close public houses on Sundays and the result was 505 in favour, 8 against and 22 neutral. In 1880 a ‘coffee tavern’ was opened in the square under the auspices of the local temperance movement.
Inns that no longer exist include the Black Swan and the Star in Potacre Street, the Rising Sun and the Setting Sun opposite each other in Cornmarket Street, the Greyhound, Nelson and Canal Tavern (which burnt down in 1859) in Mill Street and numerous pubs in New Street including the Glovers Arms, Ring of Bells, Tradesmens Arms and White Hart (the badge of Richard II in the 14th century). (For a full list, see ‘Torrington Uncovered’ by Moira Brewer).