The establishment is situated right next to the site of the former North Gate. The removal of the gate in 1769 meant that the way into the city, although steep could be tackled by stage coaches and in the same year, a regular stage coach service was introduced from Barnstaple. The old inn which dated from the 1600's was rebuilt in 1770 to cater for this trade. However, passengers disembarked at the Barnstaple Inn, directly opposite, to allow the stage coach to ascend North Street with a lighter load.
It was known as the Crown & Sceptre from at least 1778 when Trewman's Exeter Flying Post printed an announcement that the landlord was leaving to run the George Inn. It was probably the Crown & Sceptre from before 1770.
An ostler who was responsible for the 1770 rebuilding, called Johnny Doe was a well known character in the city. A saying of his reused by many locals ran "...one of Johnny Doe's days - better day than it turned out".
It was in 1834, when the Ironbridge was constructed, that the inn was rebuilt again to align with the new roadway that was about 20 ft higher. The way over St David's Down and across the flat Ironbridge enabled horse drawn coaches to enter the city from the north with a full load. The Crown and Sceptre was also listed as the departure point for Dunn's carriers to many places in North Devon including Bow and Crediton, departing every Friday at 4pm. This service was still in existence in 1915 when the landlord was John Pelling.
A timeline for the Crown & Sceptre:
1778 - announcement in the Flying Post that the landlord was leaving.
1794 - an advert for the Crown & Sceptre in the Flying Post
1816 - Crown & Sceptre public-house North street, Sam Cole, Exeter Pocket Journal
1827 to 1833 - Tucker W crown & sceptre p.h. north-st, Exeter Pocket Journal
1832/3 - Crown & Sceptre, Cole, Si., North Street - Pigot's
1844 - Crown & Sceptre William Tucker - Pigott's
1851 - Crown & Sceptre, William Tucker - Exeter Journal and Almanack
1878 - Crown & Sceptre, Mrs Anne Rattenbury - White's
1897 - Crown & Sceptre, F. H. Tucker, 2 Ironbridge, Exeter - Kelly's, Frederick Hodge Tucker to be precise
1923 - Crown & Sceptre - John Delling - Post Office
1956 - Crown & Sceptre, Geoffrey H. Denning - Kelly's
James Bell remembers an incident during the Second World War outside of the Crown & Sceptre:
"I was passing the Crown & Sceptre Hotel on the Iron Bridge, when a fish lorry lost a box of fish which fell into the road. He did not stop, and some twenty large cod fell out of the box. Housewives passing, rushed out and fought each other. In less than a minute the only thing left was ice, even the box wood disappeared. "
It was a lively place in the 1980's, with the cellar bar often completely full of people listening to local bands. However, decline set in and in 1991 the Crown and Sceptre closed down. It remained closed until 1997 when it was reopened. There were plans to improve the place and to add more bedrooms when a disastrous fire in 1999 badly damaged the roof. A partly closed Crown and Sceptre reopened in 2000 while the insurance claim was sorted. New owners invested £1.3 million changed the name and reopened in 2003. From coaching inn to a 21st century wireless hotspot for the internet, the City Gate has changed with the times.
Source: Express and Echo clippings, Trewman's Exeter Flying Post and various trade directories.
The City Gate Hotel.
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