The origins of the Ship Inn are obscure although it is said to be over 300 years old. Although uncorroborated it is believed to have developed out of a former ships’ chandlery established in the 17th century. In 1746 a lease for agricultural land situated within the castle ditch was granted to an Edward Postlethwaite who is described as an innkeeper from the “Pile of Fowdrey” A description from 1813 paints a vivid picture of the life of the innkeeper at that time:
“There is a public-house on the island, the only habitation, tenanted by an old Scotchman, who has been lord of this domain for many years, and goes through the duties of guide and expositor among the ruins of the castle with admirable fluency. The custom of seamen from the roadstead, and the donations of occasional visitors in the summer time support him in a state of which he has no right, he thinks, to complain: but he acknowledged that when there were no vessels in the roadstead he found his situation rather too lonesome, and apt to drive him to his beer-barrel for company.”
The late 19th Century was a period of increased social activity in Piel Channel, with boating for pleasure becoming an important pursuit for many people. Many used the Ship Inn but drunken revellers did occasionally become casualties of boating accidents and in one case the coroner stated that “the landlord of the Ship Inn should not supply drink as to make incapable men who may have to take charge of a boat”. Piel was popular with yachtsmen and a regatta regularly held. In such an event in 1889 the inauguration of a new landlord, a Mr. Walmsley took place.