Our History


About Us

The Rifle Volunteer has been at the heart of the community for over 200 years. Landlords Paul & Emma are proud to continue to provide a warm welcome to all of our customers.

All of the team at The Rifle stride to provide great service and to make your visit an enjoyable experience.




The Pub History

There are many public houses of long standing with names which speak of history, echoes of events or circumstances of many years ago. The “Rifle Volunteer” at St Ann’s Chapel, reminds us of a different time, when Victoria ruled the Empire, but fears of an invasion brought about a call to arms.

The Napoleonic Wars and the Crimean War (1853 – 1856) revealed serious flaws in the structure of Britain’s armed forces. Fears of invasion by the French were rife, and there was a growing awareness of the need for an effective fighting force in place throughout the land. The nation’s resources were limited, after a lengthy period of conflict, and so the idea of forming a volunteer force, fully trained and armed, led to the formation of

groups of “Rifle Volunteers.” The volunteers, from all walks of life, were issued with Enfield Rifles (which they had to pay for themselves) and they drilled and practised, ready to respond to the call to arms in the event of an invasion.

Patriotic men in Calstock Parish responded to the call and formed a fighting unit. When the threat of invasion faded, it was eventually

merged into the Duke of Cornwall’s Light infantry, later to be heavily involved, with heavy losses, in the dreadful war of 1914-1918. They came from different walks of life, most with no experience of weaponry whatsoever. They needed to be trained as soldiers and as rifle men, so practice ranges were built. Here volunteers learned to use the deadly weapons they were issued with. One such shooting range can be seen on this extract from a 19th century map.

It is clearly marked “Volunteer Rifle Range” at the top of Whiterocks, opposite Hingston Down Consols and just above the old Calstock Brick Works, of which now little can be seen. Here the local Rifle Volunteers, from whatever their background, of whatever age, prepared themselves to defend their homeland, in the event of an invasion. In the bottom right-hand corner of the same map is marked “P H” for “Public House”. Here, I imagine - and it would seem reasonable to make the assumption - the Rifle Volunteers gathered, after their exertions, to take a little liquid refreshment.

Almost a century and half later, that hostelry still stands, the “Rifle Volunteer” Inn, an echo of history, a reminder of those local men who stood ready to defend their country. In these more peaceful times few remember those brave souls who gave the inn its name.

With thanks to Dorothy Kirk for compiling this information