The Three Crowns Inn, Chagford
Nestling within the gentle countryside of the Teign Valley, the pretty village of Chagford is one of Devon's most pleasant and prosperous communities. Wild moorland scenery is within a few minutes' drive, yet none strolling through Chagford's gentrified centre would know it, and neither would they guess at the village's tin mining heritage. Chagford was once a centre of the stannary world, home to hardworking tinners, yet nowadays it plays host to art galleries, interesting shops, foodie heavens, and any number of great places to eat.
One of these places is the Three Crowns Inn.
Formerly known as Whiddon House, the historic Three Crowns Inn is home to more than one ghost. Its most famous spectral resident is Sidney Godolphin, a Cornish nobleman who found himself embroiled in The English Civil War.
February 1643 and the nation tore itself apart beneath the banners of King and Parliament. Brother fought brother in as bloody and pointless a conflict as this island ever saw. A small group of Parliamentarian 'Roundheads' billeted overnight at Whiddon House, a handsome manor dating back to the 13th century. There being little possibility of violence in such a quiet and remote spot, they no doubt spent the dark hours of February 7th carousing with local women, wine and song before its fine open fires.
Such peace was not to last! Upon daybreak, an identically small band of dashing cavaliers entered the town. Happening upon one another, shots were fired and blood spilt. Sidney Godolphin, a young man of 32 and a poet, a chap described by friends as "absolutely a piece of virtue as ever our nation bred" was hit by a musket ball.
He died on the stone floor of Whiddon House's front porch. His body was buried in Okehampton two days later, an occasion the whole of Cornwall grieved. Whatever people's allegiances, whichever side they'd felt moved to take arms for, all agreed that a fine and noble gentleman had lost his life.
Sidney's ghost is said to haunt the Three Crowns still. He's been seen at night in many of its guest bedrooms, especially the inn's signature suite, which bears his name all these centuries later. Unsurprisingly, he's also been seen standing on the porch where he died. Those lucky enough to have witnessed Sidney speak of a cavalier in full regalia, wearing a flamboyant feathered hat.
As befits his status of gentleman and poet, one dragged reluctantly into war, his ghost poses no threat to those who see him. On the contrary, Sidney is always described as calm, gentle, courteous and quiet.
I visited the Three Crowns the weekend before last and it's a wonderfully historic and atmospheric inn. The fireplaces are huge and the fires within them welcoming. The food is excellent, with Friday's dinner being the best venison I ever ate. The beer from St Austell Brewery is very good, and the red wine too. My girlfriend and I even stayed for two nights in the haunted Sidney Godolphin suite, which is extremely spacious and comfortable, with a massive bed! I couldn't recommend it highly enough.
Unfortunately neither of us saw any trace of the cavalier himself, nor sensed anything unusual in the inn's atmosphere. That's pretty odd given how sensitive we both are to such things, and the fact we saw and heard plenty in the haunted tinners' pub I used to own on Dartmoor.
But that, as people say, is another story altogether....