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Ghosts with axes and winning the spirit licence in 1850 – Who’d Have Thought It Inn

Updated on 05/04 2019

We spoke to Jackie and Paul from The Who’d Have Thought It Inn who are shortlisted for Most Creative Name at the upcoming eviivo awards, to find out how they got that unusual name!


How did the inn get its name?

Well originally, many hundreds of years ago, there was two pubs, one was called ‘The First and Last’ and this pub was called ‘The Welcome Inn.’ And in about 1850, there was a law change in London because of excessive gin drinking, were if you wanted to sell anything other than beers, you had to get a licence from a magistrate. So the story is that both pubs applied for a licence to sell spirits. And everyone thought that it would be ‘The First and Last’ that would get the licence. Then the landlord at ‘The Welcome Inn’ received a letter to say that they’ve been nominated and allowed to sell spirits. And he was so surprised that he walked outside the pub, held his beer glass up, and shouted ‘who’d have thought it?’ He then changed the name of the pub. 

And what do your guests say about the name?  

Well they all think it’s very funny and they are all intrigued as to why it’s got such a strange name. They always ask for an explanation, and we’ve got an explanation written out behind the bar. There is a lot of joking that goes on within the bar about it. We get people that if they are at the bar with a group of friends, and we say would you like a standard one or a large one, and they say ‘oh no I’ll have a large one’ and everyone will erupt into laughter and say ‘who’d a thought it!’ 

What is it about a stay with you that makes it so unique? 

Well, our location on the edge of Dartmoor, it was built in 1540, it’s obviously it’s very very old- certainly a pub since 1701. And we’re very close to Buckland Abbey, which is the home to Sir Francis Drake. We’ve got quite a lot of Sir Francis drake paintings in the pub. And rumour has it that this would have been his local. So we get quite a lot of people who are interested in history coming down and seeing us. We also get Morris dancing and regular music events. It’s just a very unique place to be, because of where we are, who we are and what we are. 


What do you think is the most important thing about running your own accommodation? 

I guess it’s customer satisfaction, we get a lot of satisfaction from people coming down and enjoying the food, the drink and the atmosphere. And we’ve got a great set of locals as well, so that all helps with the ambiance. We keep a large selection of whiskeys and gins which helps. It’s all about the customer. 

So how did you end up in the industry? 

By chance really! I worked in telecommunications actually, and was based up in the South East. I got very fed up with it and fancied a change. We were looking at the hospitality side of things, because we both actually enjoyed that, and we started by looking for a small hotel or a bed and breakfast. And I was actually sat in office and Jackie was in the kitchen and I shouted out ‘who’d have thought it’ and she said ‘who’d have thought what?’ And I grew up in Plymouth, and this was a pub that I used to do a lot of night-rallying in back in the 70’s, so I knew the pub really well. So it was completely by chance that we found it, and came down to see it and then immediately fell in love with it. 

What’s the best part of your job?

It’s the customers reaction when they come in. We get people from America and Australia for example, and they just don’t have anything as old as this pub there. They all want to have their photograph taken behind the bar pulling a pint. And we’ve got little postcards that they can send. It’s a very ancient pub so it’s a very interesting building to be in. 

What’s the hardest part of your job? 

Well it’s certainly long days. I think a lot of people fall in love with the idea of owning a pub, and it’s great but it can be really hard work. But we find it worthwhile. We do often have a laugh. 

What’s the best compliment you’ve received? 

We get a lot of really great compliments. One that stands out is a lovely couple who enjoyed their stay with us so much that one night in the pub, he proposed! And we were so honoured that they would choose us for such a special moment. 

Do you have any funny stories? 

I guess the old cliche is that every old pub is haunted. This is a story that is often repeated by the locals about a landlord who used to be here. A landlord called Abraham Beer (and that really was his name,) it was fairly late and one of the locals called Gordon got up to go to the bar and suddenly his wife called out to him ‘someone’s just gone up behind you holding an axe above your head!’  

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