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There is a fire and it never goes out

Updated: Feb 14

Yes, I was a Smiths fan when younger. Well, I guess I still am, but I digress. For this quaint piece of moorland folklore has nothing to do with the iconic Mancunian band and everything to do with an iconic Dartmoor pub. One found on the Postbridge road to Moretonhampstead.

The Warren House Inn on Dartmoor
The Warren House Inn on Dartmoor

I'm talking about the Warren House Inn, which stands in splendid isolation amongst some of the bleakest countryside seen in Southern England. Nowadays this pub, which serves a delicious rabbit pie, relies on day-trippers and tourists for its income. However, it was originally the haunt of tinners from nearby mines.

The Warren House must've been a rough old place in those days, yet still an improvement on the inn that used to stand almost opposite, on the other side of the road. That place, known as the New House Inn, once saw a man killed in a drunken fight. The landlord testifying in court that his killer was provoked beyond tolerance, the guilty party was sentenced to just three weeks in prison.

An astonishingly lenient punishment by any reckoning, but given how the death penalty for theft was only abolished in 1832, incredibly so during the mid-19th century.

The view from the Warren House Inn, possibly showing where the New House used to stand
The view from the Warren House Inn

In 1845, the New House Inn burnt down and embers from the conflagration were carried across the road to light the fireplace in the pub you see now. According to legend, that fire has burnt ever since.

Until recently, vags of peat from nearby blanket bogs were used to fuel it. Each night, the remains were buried in hot ashes, which were then uncovered the following morning and stoked back to life with a little kindling and charcoal. Nowadays, the same is said to be done, only with wood from local conifer plantations.

So, the fire has been burning continuously since 1845? Quite a claim and of course utter nonsense!!

For as a local builder said to me, when we spoke at the bar of The Royal Standard, he was pleased the fire wasn't burning during the days he spent repointing its chimney!!

The fire at the Warren House Inn
The fire at the Warren House Inn

There is another story about the Warren House Inn and it involves a ghost. A friend from Twitter told me that it's haunted by the spirit of a landlord who killed himself during the early twentieth century. I didn't sense anything unusual when visiting last Saturday. Quite the opposite, for the welcome was just warm as the legendary fire. Anyway, I did a little research and found the following tale.

Stephens is a common name locally, and one William Stephens was landlord during the 1920's. At the end of the decade, he took his shotgun into the bar and used it on himself. A verdict of 'suicide during temporary insanity' was returned by the coroner.

But whilst William's widow Mary moved away shortly afterwards, the tragic landlord has never left the Warren House Inn. Instead, it's claimed his ghost is sometimes seen even now in the bar where he ended his life!

The Warren House Inn looking lonely as darkness descends

Sunday roast at the Warren House Inn

Signature dish at the Warren House Inn, homemade rabbit pie
Signature dish at the Warren House Inn, homemade rabbit pie

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Jan 14, 2023

I visited here myself a few days ago. A lovely country pub 👍

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