In the early 1840s John and Betty Harse leased Steep Holm for a few years. Betty ran the inn while John farmed.
The tenancy of Steep Holm was acquired by Frederick and Mary Harris c1846. They moved to the island with their children Emily, Mary, Frederick Henry and Rosa. Fred Harris was an accomplished sailor and he ferried visitors to and from the island in his own boat. Sailors waiting in the Bristol Channel for high tide to enable them to sail into Bristol or the Welsh ports also frequented the inn. In 1851 Rosa Harris drowned off Steep Holm, aged 4½ .
In 1854, while on a trip to the Newport area, Fred exchanged his Newfoundland dog for a young Russian bear. In 1857 the bear severely injured a young Italian governess called Ann Caroline Besozzi, who was visiting the island. In 1858 a civil action was held at Bristol Assizes to obtain compensation for the governess. Fred Harris was ordered to pay her £50 in addition to court costs for both sides. He failed to pay and the following year he was called to Taunton County Court where he pleaded insolvency and the judge believed him, although in reality he had transferred all his assets to other people.
In 1859 there was a great storm in the Bristol Channel. Fred Harris’s boat Mystery was badly damaged and Steep Holm’s harbour wall collapsed, which made it much harder for people to land on the island. The wall was never rebuilt.
In 1866 the inn was enlarged by the building of an adjacent three storey annexe to house workers building the forts on the island. The inn prospered from 1866-8 with all the extra resident customers.
By 1871 Fred and Mary Harris were managing the Royal Claremont Pier Hotel in Weston-super-Mare, which was renamed Harris’s. The Steep Holm Inn was being run by Frederick Henry’s wife Ann. In 1872 their daughter was born on the island. She was named Beatrice Steep Holmes Anne Cooper Harris.
In May 1884 Frederick Henry Harris was summoned to Axbridge Petty Session Court to answer charges of selling alcohol without a licence. He argued that Steep Holm was not part of Somerset and that in the 38 years his family had run the inn they had never been asked to obtain a licence. The case was dismissed but the Inland Revenue appealed to the High Court and in 1885 they won. The Harris family gave up their tenancy of the island the same year but soon after they leased Flat Holm and ran an inn there.
Mrs Caroline Davies and her two adult sons Harold and Wallace/Wallis rented Steep Holm in 1885. They ran day excursions and fishing and rabbit shooting trips to the island and also grew crops and raised farm livestock. However their business was not a success and they sold their stock and equipment to Thomas Henry Waite-Hall from Glastonbury the following year. The annexe to the inn was probably damaged by a lightning strike on its chimney during his tenancy. The annexe was patched up but Mr Waite-Hall had left the island by 1891 and the inn was closed for the last time.
By the 1930s the inn was derelict and during the refortification of the island in 1941 the walls of the inn and annexe were demolished to make way for a narrow gauge railway. The walls were rebuilt and the inn reroofed in the early 1980s by the Kenneth Allsop Trust for use as a wardens’ depot and store but it proved to be too damp to be of much use.