Page updated 20 June 2009
Linking Cathedral Close and South Street, this narrow street gave its name to the Bear Inn which was the town house of the Abbots of Tavistock. In 1286, the town house of the Abbots was named Bere after the small peninsular of land formed by the Tamar and the Tavy rivers in west Devon. The Abbot of Tavistock was charged by Edward I to administer the silver mines that were situated there. The sign of the inn was a bear with the word Bere, and hence a pun. They seemed to like puns in those days! The Inn remained after the monasteries were dissolved by Henry VIII and was a centre for merchants to trade. A carrier service by Russell's was based at the site of the Bear Inn from before 1800, with heavily laden horse-drawn wagons bound for London departing at dawn, every day of the week. There was a second Bear Inn situated further up South Street from about 1820 to 1871.
Bear Street was very close to the public water conduit situated at the front of the College of the Vicars Choral; the ancient underground passages from St Sidwells fed the conduit with pure water. When the cholera outbreak of 1832 broke out, many from the other side of South Street, in the Westquarter were infected from water from dipping in the leats. Bear Street, although very short, only suffered two deaths from the disease, a result of their clean water supply.
On the marriage of the Prince of Wales in March 1863, the street erected celebratory decorations "Bear-street had a fine bold arch of evergreens, interspersed with coloured lamps, and surmounted by a fine transparency, with the words- "Albert Edward and Alexandra - Health and happiness," belonging to Mr. Hutchingson."
The street was widened from the top at Palace Street down to the last house fronting South Street in 1871, and in 1884, it was macadamized and a pavement created on the north side. Apart from the Bear Inn, the only other public house so far traced to Bear Street is the Crown and Anchor which had a change of licensee in 1873.
list of occupants in 1897 indicate how few lived in Bear
Bear street, South street to Deanery place.
1 Loney Miss Emma, wardrobe dealer
2 Phillips Miss E.crape cleanr
2 Callaway Charles, tailor
3 SiIbey Charles, boot maker
5 Sibley Wra Chas. engraver
Private, F J Hettish, Devonshire Regiment, 1 July 1916.
The Bear Gate was situated at the opposite end of
Bear Street (sometimes referred to as Bear Lane) and its position is
marked with a small ring in the wall. One of seven gates for the
Cathedral Close, it dated from 1286, when the close was walled and
gated to prevent access at night, after the murder of Walter Lechlade, on
the 5 November 1283. It
is thought that the gate had wooden doors and a simple pitched roof. A
chamber was added over the gate by 1613, probably for the keeper. It
was demolished in the Spring of 1813 and a certain Thomas Matthews paid
the princely sum of £10 for
the salvaged materials.
All the buildings dating back several hundred years, on the northern side of Bear Street at the Cathedral Yard end, were demolished in the 1930's. The Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart situated in South Street replaced the old Bear Inn in 1885, on the corner of South Street. On the opposite corner can be found a tree and shrubs, marking the site of the 14th Century Bear Tower which was demolished in January 1966.
Bear Street and the site of the Bear Tower. Arthur Newcombe, wardrobe dealer at 2 Bear Street. He was trading before the First War.
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