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A Klass - Fore Street

Page updated 28 January 2011

Devonport Arms aka Vivo, Velvet Lounge, Crazy Horse, Moloko, Splash Bar

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As the title indicates this pub has undergone a series of name changes in the last few years. It managed to hold onto its original name from at least 1828 (Besley) until the 1990's when it became the Crazy Horse and Velvet Lounge. Its latest reincarnation is as A Klass, while previously it was a gay bar, named the Vivo. It has a licence until 2am with entertainment every night - not much change there then as its previous clientel probably fell out of the door at 10.40 pm into the waiting arms of the Military Police!

Devonport Arms
Between 1844 and 1859 members of the Ware family ran the pub starting with Samuel Ware and from 1850 Grace Ware. Other innkeepers include John Roberts (1878), Henry Furby Pratt (1897), Woolf William Boam (1923) and Frederick J Thorn in 1956.

In March 1863, the whole of Exeter celebrated the wedding of the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII. All the businesses lining the High Street and Fore Street put up decorations and lighting. The Devonport Inn's landlord, named Upright displayed "numerous flags with transparencies". The King Alfred Inn, also in Fore Street hung Chinese lanterns, and the Western Times office displayed a star and crown illuminated with gas light. It must have been quite a sight.

Elizabeth Taphouse sold shell fish on the street and going into pubs. She entered the Devonport Inn in March 1869 and sold a bag of mussels to William Broad, whom she later claimed refused to pay for them and tried to pick pocket from her. He was acquitted at the Guildhall of the charge.

There are numerous records of disturbances at the Devonport, and in 1881, Charles Welcher, a private of the 11th Regiment at the Higher Barracks was ejected for drunkenness. He then assaulted a policeman and received 7 days hard labour; not the first nor last soldier to get into trouble in the Devonport Inn.

The wonderful facade of pink stone and elaborate name board has been ruined by the removal of the 'ARMS' from the name in a crude and insensitive manner. During the Second War, it was a popular pub for the services, and remained a squaddies bar in later years. During the 1980's and 90's it remained one of the few reminders, along with an old fashioned grocer's store, named Darch, just a few doors down, of the old Edwardian Fore Street.

Peter Hinchliffe remembers

This well known pub owned by Heavitree Brewery was greatly favoured by Irish workers right up to the mid 1980s when the Licensing laws were relaxed to allow all day opening. For years the police knew that illegal all day drinking went on in the pub, but there was little they could do about it. The rear of the pub is completely surrounded by buildings, so there was no way to see what was happening in the rear lounge.

When time was called at 2p.m. those with a thirst went to the rear lounge to cure it. The front door was locked, no one entered or left until the licensed hours started again, the front of the pub looked all deserted, so they were left in peace. I never recall hearing of any fights or problems happening during the afternoon illicit drinking sessions. Oh happy days!

The Devonport, 1970's.
The Devonport in the 1970's. Photo Alan H Mazonowicz.

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