There’s One in England

Honeymooning in Devon in 1947, Paul Maher and his wife Pamela found much to remind them of their native Newfoundland. Here is Paul Maher’s own account of his discovery of The Newfoundland Hotel [1]:

‘Coming by Coach into Newton Abbot I sat up and began to take notice. It looked such a pretty place, quaint enough, and seemed to hold good prospects of coloured china, virtually unobtainable in England at the present time. So it came to pass that, while looking for coloured china through the window of the fast moving coach, we spied, as bold as you like “The Newfoundland Hotel.”

Two days afterwards, we took a bus from Torquay back to the fine old town of Newton Abbot, with its cobbled streets, antique shops[2] and a huge old fashioned market place. The Newfoundland was easy to find, and we entered with a light heart, feeling an affinity for a place so far from home. Fred Eales, the proprietor, was there and I introduced myself as a Newfoundlander and asked him to tell me the pub’s history.

Photos of Mr Eales Landlord, Courtenay Street entrance

His story, punctuated with pints of beer, started long ago:

“Somewhere between three and four hundred years ago, when Stage Coaches and Highwaymen livened the English scene Newton Abbot basked in the glory of being on the direct route from London to Plymouth-a route much frequented by Ladies and Gentlemen of the Court, including Royalty itself . This journey of over 230 miles required many stops or stages and Newton Abbot laid square across the main road, was an ideal such stop. The choice of hotel was simple, there being only one, known as  “The One and Only One”, later renamed “The Union” and finally the “Newfoundland Hotel”[3]

No records are available, but it is said Queen Elizabeth I was a caller, and in the last 100 years, other names which ring down through English history have visited. Not only did it lodge the great and the good,  but the Hotel was at the same time a local Police Station, Post Office, Municipal Affairs office, recruiting post for the Army and Navy and dances. The One and Only One was the ideal spot for local Farmers; when asked where they should meet they would shout “See you at “The One and Only”.

When Courtenay Street was built, the hotel’s services were no longer in demand, as the new street had better facilities. However, travelers stayed on their way west as they had done in the days of Sir Francis Drake. 

Street view showing the back entrance to the Hotel (front right)

The One and Only One fell on hard times; its status had gone, with only a very few functions left. One was its position as a “Listening Post” for fishermen signing on for trips to the Newfoundland Fishing grounds, and hence the present name of the hotel

The Hotel in its better days

From that time up to 37 years ago not much is known of the hotel, except it defied the efforts of a long succession of proprietors to put it back on its feet. Then in May 22nd 1909, after the failure of eight successive Inn Keepers, a man destined who was destined to play a leading role in its survival, Fred Eales, a farmer of Newton Abbot, took over. By hard work and diligent planning, by renovations – a new front has been erected – and a business-like direction, Fred Eales has, as he says: “ nearly put her back to what she was.” For 37 years, he has worked to build up the Hotel and has done a notable piece of work. He made modern improvements, but not at the sacrifice to the mellowness of its sturdy oak beams or spacious public rooms. Depth of the building remained as ever; the wide fireplace still stands, and all the plaques on the resounding walls bespeak a courtly past. Fred Eales is rightly proud.

Many others in more recent times have visited and stayed at the Hotel –  American, Canadian, and Newfoundland Servicemen, at one time 17 Americans. Most of the Newfoundlanders were Seamen from Dartmouth of Plymouth Naval Base.

There is a Newfoundlander living in Newton Abbot, and it is the only Newfoundland Hotel in the British Isles.

Blog by George Hampshire

[1] Taken from the Atlantic Guardian April 1947 Vol 3, No 4.

[2] Some observations on Mr Maher’s account: Antique shops, I doubt it in 1947. He was probably referring to Rossiter’s , Jewellers in Courtenay Street, or possibly Middleton’s in Queen Street. I doubt that Queen Elizabeth 1st stayed, but you never know. But a fascinating account of yesteryear.

[3] Fred Eales claim that the Newfoundland was previously known as “The One and Only One”, may have been true, but it is doubtful it was called “The Union”, as the  current “Union” is believed to be the oldest Pub in Newton.  The Hotel was known as the Newfoundland, in 1824, well before Courtenay Street was built in the early 1840’s.