Hatherleigh – The Smallest Town in Devon?
If you google ‘smallest town in Devon’ the result will be Hatherleigh. I’ve no clue if it really is and, if it is, how much it would need to grow to become the second smallest. Is its size judged on area, or people, or buildings? It’s not based on sheep population for sure as we’re not short of sheep here. But it is certainly small and some visitors might even call it a village but those people are swiftly dealt with. Whatever it is, it’s our home and we love it here. We’re not locals and we never will be, we’re incomers and we’ve come to terms with that now. But as we’ve lived here for 12 years we’re no longer grockles and for that we’re grateful.
For a small
village town Hatherleigh has much to offer. It is said (but only in the pub) that there once were 17 pubs in Hatherleigh. We’ve heard many entertaining stories about how homes, businesses and pockets of land exchanged hands during card games in these pubs in time gone by. We know of a few homes which have garden spaces behind their neighbour’s house, rather than their own, and vice versa – imagine crossing paths in your PJs en route to the washing line. Evidence perhaps of land being passed around during a tipsy game of poker? Maybe a mixture of urban myth and a little splash of fact but it gives you a flavour of the quirky place we call home.
As you wander through the town you can clearly spot the houses that were public in the past, not quite 17 but enough of them for sure. We currently have two excellent pubs, the Tally Ho and the George Inn, both of which are close to the town square (which is actually more triangle than square).
The Tally Ho! Country Inn & Brewery is a local favourite. Steeped in history, Grade II listed, and dating back to the 15 th Century, it is full of cosy corners and dark beams. An intimate, warm and friendly place where you will always find someone propping up the bar, and a notice board by the door full of local information and the occasional missing cat poster. It would be a crime to visit Hatherleigh and not try the Tally’s locally famous ale from their own onsite brewery. Sunday lunches are very popular here, as is the sizeable beer garden. The Tally is always jam-packed during local festivities and public holidays.
The George Inn is another 15th century pub but with a twist. One of Hatherleigh’s most historic buildings documented back to around 1450, it had been a courthouse, tavern, posting inn for the Plymouth-Bideford stagecoach and a welcome rest for the four-horse mail coach in the 18th century. Sadly, it burned down in 2008 but then an impressive two-year rebuild followed using local reclaimed materials, traditional building methods and carefully following the blueprint of the original. Now it is again a lovely pub, full of history and local tales but with no wonky floorboards or cobwebs. With a menu of locally sourced food (and a Sunday carvery) plus live music, local craft fairs, and hosting all manner of organised events this is deservedly a very popular pub.
Our two pubs aren’t the only places to fill tummies in Devon’s smallest town.
One Market Street Café is a fabulous little independent eatery with local food and proper coffee. A top spot for a full English breakfast with great veggie and gluten free options too and delicious home-made cream teas and cakes. All is available for takeaway too so you can grab a breakfast and take it back to bed with you! Genius.
If you have places to be and no time to sit and be looked after, there is also the Hatherleigh Fish Bar. Not just fish and chips, they also serve Chinese takeaway. It’s a popular option on a Friday night so get there early.
There’s more to Hatherleigh than food and drink though!
Hatherleigh is a market town, an ancient (and small) one. The licence to hold a market here was granted by Henry III in 1220. But we can go back further than that… Hatherleigh was first recorded in 981 as a Saxon settlement named Haegporn Leah (hawthorn glade). Ancient enough? I think so. There has been a market in the town every Tuesday morning since 1693. No longer a livestock market, it’s now a bustling jolly weekly event where you can buy, amongst other things, local food and drink…
Food and drink and fascinating history aside, Hatherleigh is also a town full of community spirit that loves to celebrate…. But more on that later.