The Elm Tree, named after a tree which once stood on the site, dates back to the 16th century. It has three open plan bars, one with an inglenook fireplace and bread oven. Old photographs of the village and shipwrecks off Chesil Beach hang on the walls. One of the oak beams on the ceiling is made from a ship's mast which in 1780 is said to be used to hang a fisherman from after being chased through the village for lying about his catch to his fellow fishermen.
During the 18th and 19th centuries the villagers of Langton Herring took an active part in the lucrative trade in smuggled goods from France. A bricked up hole in the cellar is thought to be a tunnel used as a hiding place for illicit brandy, tea, tobacco, silks and lace and leading to the church behind the building.
During the second world war the remoteness of the Fleet made it ideal for the covert testing of the bouncing bombs. The shallow water also meant that it was easy to recover the bombs. During this time Barnes Wallis would be a regular visitor to the Elm Tree. In 1994 the Navy recovered one of the bombs from the water directly in front of the coastguard cottages. It was initially taken to Portland Museum and then to Abbotsbury Swannery where it can now be seen.
In the 1960s the Elm Tree became a meeting place of the Portland spy ring. Lovers Harry Houghton who worked at the top security Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment on Portland and Ethel Gee who also worked for the MOD would sit ay an oak corner settle to the right of the inglenook fireplace and drink heavily. They would then board a train to Waterloo where they met up with a KGB agent posing as US naval commander Alex Johnson and hand over parcels containing microdot film and sensitive documents, all desperately sought by the KGB at the height of the Cold War. Today many visitors come to see the spot where Houghton and Gee would rendezvous.
Read the Dorset Echo newspaper article here.