CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

A time capsule in Topsham: The Bridge Inn

PUBLISHED: 11:28 30 May 2017

The Bridge Inn at Topsham

The Bridge Inn at Topsham


Jessica and Ray write about beer and pubs on their blog Boak & Bailey. Their book Brew Britannia was published in 2014 and won the British Guild of Beer Writers’ Gold Tankard award

When the real ale revolution of the 1970s kicked off it gave a particular boost to breweries and pubs that had resisted the urge to modernise. The Bridge Inn at Topsham is one example. It has been a pub since the 18th Century, and under the stewardship of the same family for more than 100 years, but gained its current cult status only in the last 50.

In the mid-20th Century the big brewers who owned most of the country’s pubs went on a spree of modernising and rebuilding their flagship properties. Only pubs that were out of the way or of little apparent value escaped their attention which meant that by the 1970s they looked like relics.

Then, along came the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) – part of a general trend to value rustic over industrial, natural over chemical, and organic over composed – and pubs such as The Bridge came to be viewed as treasures. “Rambling and ancient with hardly a lightbulb over 20 watts” read the entry in the 1976 CAMRA Good Beer Guide.

It didn’t hurt, of course, that The Bridge had good beer, and lots of it. The more CAMRA members came to the pub, the more the pub catered to them, until by 1978 it was offering what was then a remarkable variety – seven or eight different real ales at any one time.

CAMRA didn’t create the pub preservation movement but it grew up alongside it and certainly gave it new momentum. The Bridge was actually given listed status in 1952 but is also now one of the jewels in CAMRA’s sadly too-short list of heritage pub interiors.

Geoff Brandwood, author of the wonderful CAMRA publication Britain’s Best Real Heritage Pubs, describes it as a “glorious old pub… one of the most unspoilt in the country.”

The opening hours are a relic, too: it closes for several hours every afternoon, as if the 1988 Licensing Act never happened.

What really makes The Bridge remarkable, however, is that it is no museum – it still works as a pub, regardless of its historic value or architectural merit.

On our visit during the dregs of winter we found it aglow with warm light, dim in the corners, with an arcane culture all of its own. There are the signs, for one thing, a passive-aggressive laying down of the law: “Nothing ever changes at The Bridge – we are still No Smoking! (Including e-cigs.)”; “Please remember this little parlour is not a public area and is regarded as our family sitting room.”

There is a bar, just about, but most people were being served in the corridor, hovering by the door of the aforementioned parlour which leads directly to the cellar where pints are not pulled but poured direct from the cask.

We sat in the Tap Room enjoying the warmth of the open fire, listening to the murmured conversation of locals and admiring the folksy crocheted beer mats. The only hint at the 21st Century was the contents of our dimpled mugs: Thornbridge Jaipur, a distinctly modern American-style IPA at 5.9% and £4 a pint. Glorious.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Devon Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Devon Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Devon Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Food & Drink

Yesterday, 10:27

Devon Life’s readers and followers have been voting for their favourite food & drink stars and we can now reveal our winners who were honoured at our glamorous ceremony at Sandy Park on November 15

Read more
Wed, 08:31

Public Houses are a cornerstone of life here in Britain, dating back as far as the Roman invasion in 43 AD. Devon is no different and its humble establishments are steeped in history and nostalgia. We’ve taken a look at 11 of the county’s most historical pubs

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

A traditional Christmas pudding recipe, served with clotted cream and a brandy Crème Anglaise with a dash of cognac

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

Whether you have strawberry or raspberry jam on your scones, or prefer Earl Grey to English breakfast tea, we’ve found 12 of the best tearooms that Devon has to offer

Read more
Monday, October 22, 2018

We’ve spoken to award-winning chef Michael Caines MBE to find out more about Lympstone Manor’s wine celebration evenings and when their new vineyard will produce its first bottle of wine

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Sunday lunch is an enduring British institution that’s incredibly important to get right. We’ve chosen 12 places in Devon that will guarantee sublime stuffing, mouth-watering meats and Yorkshire pudding perfection.

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

As the winter begins to close in, there’s nowhere better to take refuge than one of Devon’s many cosy pubs. Here are 9 you should look for when needing to escape the nippy British weather

Read more
Thursday, October 4, 2018

Check out Michael Caines’ column in the latest issue of Devon Life where you can read more about what this recipe will be perfect with

Read more
Wednesday, October 3, 2018

We reveal the winner of Devon’s Tea Room / Coffee Shop of the Year. Sponsored by Radio Exe

Read more
Wednesday, October 3, 2018

We reveal the winner of Devon’s Best Sunday Roast. Sponsored by

Read more
Wednesday, October 3, 2018

We reveal the winner of the Pub of the Year award. Sponsored by WBW Solicitors

Read more
Wednesday, October 3, 2018

We reveal the winner for the Restaurant of the Year award. Sponsored by Westchem

Read more
Wednesday, October 3, 2018

We reveal the winner for the Local Producer of the Year award. Sponsored by Exeter Chiefs

Read more
Wednesday, October 3, 2018

We reveal the winner for the Independent Retailer of the Year award. Sponsored by NFU Mutual

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search