An account of Mr & Mrs Samuel Willing’s tenancy of The Maltster’s Arms, Tuckenhay, in the 1880s and 1890s by Sheila Little (nee Willing)
My grandfather, Samuel Willing,was born in New Road, Brixham in 1861. He married an Exmouth lady called Elizabeth Faith Graves and they kept the Maltster’s Arms in Tuckenhay, near Totnes, in the 1880s and 90s. My father, Edwin Willing, was the youngest of their five children and was born in 1895. Samuel was familiar with the pub trade – his father, John Wotton Willing, had kept the Seale Arms in Dartmouth in the 1860s and 70s.
Samuel Willing, besides being the tenant of the pub, was also the millwright at the famous paper mill at Tuckenhay. It was their paper from which Indian rupees were made as well as for several other colonial currencies. It was known as one of the best paper mills in the country. The coal for the paper mill came in by schooner to the quay at The Maltster’s Arms and was unloaded by coal humpers from Dartmouth. The coal was then transported by Farmer Manning’s horses and wagons to the mill. Unfortunately, the mill closed in the 1950s or 60s. My father was nearly drowned in the creek as a young child. His mother jumped in and swam out and saved his life!
Late in 1912, my father and his older brothers joined the 5th Devon Territorials at Totnes. They used to drill and camp at Totnes racecourse! When war broke out in 1914, my Uncle Percy and my father went to Salisbury Plain and then to Plymouth prior to embarkation to the battle front. The went to the Middle East, Palestine. He said they were just outside Jerusalem but they were not allowed to enter the city. They were also in Egypt. Previous to this they had spend time in India. When my father was quite old (he died at the age of 89 in 1984) and we had been to France on holiday, he told us he had been from Egypt to Marseilles by sea and across France to Germany shortly before the end of the war in 1918, and was wounded, leaving a piece of shrapnel in his hand which was there until almost the end of his life when it suddenly popped out! After the end of the war he returned to Tuckenhay and worked in the paper mill and helped in the pub.
After my grandparents died, my Aunt Daisy (Bessie Mabel her real name) had married Wilfred Harvey of Ashprington and together they ran the pub until my Uncle Wilf died of a heart attack walking back from Totnes. My Aunt had a flourishing business. Throughout the second world war (1939-45) she ran her front room as a grocer’s shop, dealt with all the rationing books and coupons, sold cold meat etc. She always kept a cooked ham and a loaf of bread on hand to make sandwiches for village workers. I can well remember her big dish of cold new potatoes! She continued with the business until she was in her mid seventies – the oldest tenant that Plymouth Breweries had ever had at that time. She was offered the purchase of the pub but feeling to old to cope with it alone, she asked other members of the family if they would come and live with her and run it, Sadly, we had all seen too much of the hours of work entailed in pub work and nobody felt they had the ability to cope with it. So the Maltsters passed out of the control of our family after about 80 years. I think was bought by the Manning family (not sure).
My Aunt Daisy retired to Kingswear where she ended her days – I think still missing the pub a lot.