The Fat Pig – formerly the Coachmakers Arms – is located on the corner of Smythen and John Street, this renowned historical public house dates back to the eighteenth century. It had an old-fashioned, local feel despite major refurbishments throughout its history. It is one of only three pubs to remain in the West Quarter despite records from 1897 showing that there were 31 public houses in the same area.
The earliest reference to the Coachmakers Arms was made in the Flying Post newspaper on the 6th February 1765 when it burnt down. Apart from the usual “for sale” and “to let” notices in the Flying Post, the Coachmakers Arms only appears once in an article during the 19th century.
In May 1845 a man was arrested in the pub for stealing a basket of beef from the cabin of a ship after being observed by the master of ship whilst moored at the quay. A chase ensued, ending at the Coachmakers Arms. The article concluded by reporting that the man was discharged for lack of evidence.
In January 1858, there was a theft of a tea caddy containing one and a half sovereigns and thirty shillings in silver from a shelf in the bar, then belonging to the landlord: a Mr Holloway. The case was tried at the Guildhall, and the accused, George Cole, was found guilty and sentenced to nine months.
It is believed the main building is late Victorian, while the rear of the building in John Street was originally built during Tudor times. The overhanging first and second floors at the time would have made the street appear to be much narrower than it already is. The overhang was cut back in former years, and then in the 1920s, the side wall of the pub was extended as a façade across the front of the old building, approximately beyond the second window, where the sign protrudes into the street. The rear of the Tudor building had many rebuilds, all following the layout of the original structure. A small yard provides access to the toilets, and reminds us of the many small courtyards that existed behind many Exeter buildings up until the Second World War.
On the opposite corner of John Street is a plain brick warehouse, which was, until the middle of the twentieth century, a Rougemont stone structure and one of the British restaurants used by workers across the city.
The Coachmakers Arms – the last surviving traditional public house in this part of the west quarter of the city – closed in 2007.
Following private purchase, a renovation programme has uncovered many of old Victorian features, including an old sword, coins and a room with original gas lamps and fireplace revealed.
The building has recently been refurbished and the corner door reinstated. The pub was reopened on Friday 29th February 2008 as the Fat Pig gastro-pub. Why not book a table and soak in the atmosphere?