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Exeter
City of Exeter
City and non-metropolitan district
Clockwise: The Cathedral, The Clock Tower, Devon County Hall, Cathedral Close, The Iron Bridge.
Clockwise: The Cathedral, The Clock Tower, Devon County Hall, Cathedral Close, The Iron Bridge.
Motto: Semper fidelis (Always Faithful)
The District of Exeter including Topsham shown within Devon
The District of Exeter including Topsham shown within Devon
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Constituent country England
Region South West England
Ceremonial and shire county Devon
City status Time immemorial
Non-metropolitan district 1974
Area
 • Total 18.16 sq mi (47.04 km2)
Area rank 274th (of 326)
Population (2005 est.)
 • Rank (of 326)
 • Demonyms Exonian
 • Ethnicity (2011)
Time zone GMT (UTC0)
 • Summer (DST) BST (UTC+1)
Postcode district EX1-6
Area code(s) 01392
Website www.exploreexeter.co.uk

Exeter (Listeni/ˈɛkstər/) is a cathedral city in Devon, England with a population of (mid-2015 est.). It lies within the county of Devon, of which it is the county town as well as the home of Devon County Council. Currently, the administrative area has the status of a non-metropolitan district and is therefore under the administration of the County Council (there was a plan to grant the city unitary authority status, although this was scrapped under the 2010 coalition government). The city is on the River Exe about 37 miles (60 km) northeast of Plymouth and 70 miles (110 km) southwest of Bristol.

Exeter was the most south-westerly Roman fortified settlement in Britain, although there is evidence a Cornish tribe existed in Exeter before the Roman invasion. Exeter became a religious centre during the Middle Ages and into the Tudor times: Exeter Cathedral, founded in the mid 11th century, became Anglican during the 16th-century English Reformation. During the late 19th century, Exeter became an affluent centre for the wool trade, although by the First World War the city was in decline. After the Second World War, much of the city centre was rebuilt and is now considered to be a centre for modern business and tourism in Devon and Cornwall.

Name

The modern name of Exeter is a development of the Old English Escanceaster, from the anglicised form of the river now known as the Exe and the Old English suffix -ceaster, used to mark important fortresses or fortified towns. (The Welsh name for the city, Caerwysg, similarly means "fortress on the Exe".) The Exe is a separate development of the Brittonic name—meaning "water" or, more exactly, "full of fish" (cf. Welsh pysg, pl. "fish")—that also appears in the English Axe and Esk, the Welsh Usk (Welsh: Wysg), and Scottish whisky.

History

Further information: Timeline of Exeter

Prehistory

See also: Dumnonii and British Iron Age

Exeter began as settlements on a dry ridge ending in a spur overlooking a navigable river teeming with fish, with fertile land nearby. Although there have been no major prehistoric finds, these advantages suggest the site was occupied early. Coins have been discovered from the Hellenistic kingdoms, suggesting the existence of a settlement trading with the Mediterranean as early as 250 BC. Such early towns had been a feature of pre-Roman Gaul as described by Julius Caesar in his Commentaries and it is possible that they existed in Britannia as well.

Door through the city walls - geograph.org.uk - 809408
A portion of Exeter's city wall, formed of both Roman and medieval stones.

Roman times

The Romans established a 42-acre (17 ha) 'playing-card' shaped fort (Latin: castrum) named Isca around AD 55. The fort was the southwest terminus of the Fosse Way (Route 15 of the Antonine Itinerary) and served as the base of the 5 000-man Second Augustan Legion (Legio II Augusta) originally led by Vespasian, later Roman Emperor, for the next 20 years before they moved to Caerleon in Wales, which was also known as Isca. To distinguish the two, the Romans also referred to Exeter as Isca Dumnoniorum, "Watertown of the Dumnonii", and Caerleon as Isca Augusta. A small fort was also maintained at Topsham; a supply depot on the route between the two was excavated at St Loyes on Topsham Road in 2010.

The presence of the fort built up an unplanned civilian community (vicus or canabae) of natives and the soldiers' families, mostly to the northeast of the fort. This settlement served as the tribal capital (civitas) of the Dumnonii and was listed as one of their four cities (Greek: poleis) by Ptolemy in his Geography (It also appeared in the 7th-century Ravenna Cosmography, where it appears as an apparently confused entry for Scadu Namorum.) When the fortress was abandoned around the year 75, its grounds were converted to civilian purposes: its very large bathhouse was demolished to make way for a forum and a basilica, and a smaller-scale bath was erected to the southeast. This area was excavated in the 1970s, but could not be maintained for public view owing to its proximity to the present-day cathedral. In January 2015, it was announced that Exeter Cathedral had launched a bid to restore the baths and open an underground centre for visitors.

In the late 2nd century, the ditch and rampart defences around the old fortress were replaced by a bank and wall enclosing a much larger area, some 92 acres (37 ha). Although most of the visible structure is older, the course of the Roman wall was used for Exeter's subsequent city walls. Thus about 70% of the Roman wall remains, and most of its route can be traced on foot. The Devonian Isca seems to have been most prosperous in the first half of the 4th century: more than a thousand Roman coins have been found around the city and there is evidence for copper and bronze working, a stock-yard, and markets for the livestock, crops, and pottery produced in the surrounding countryside. The dating of the coins so far discovered, however, suggests a rapid decline: virtually none have been discovered dated after the year 380.

Medieval times

See also: Sub-Roman Britain, Saxon England, and Norman England

Bishop Ussher identified the Cair Pensa vel Coyt listed among the 28 cities of Britain by the History of the Britons as Isca, although David Nash Ford read it as a reference to Penselwood and thought it more likely to be Lindinis (modern Ilchester). Nothing is certainly known of Exeter from the time of the Roman withdrawal from Britain around the year 410 until around 680 when a document about St Boniface reports that he was educated at an abbey in Exeter. By that time, the city was held by the Saxons, who had arrived in Exeter after defeating the British Dumnonians at Peonnum in Somerset in 658. It seems likely that the Saxons maintained a quarter of the city for the Britons under their own laws around present-day Bartholomew Street, which was known as "Britayne" Street until 1637 in memory of its former occupants.

Exeter was known to the Saxons as Escanceaster. In 876, it was attacked and briefly captured by Danish Vikings. Alfred the Great drove them out the next summer. Over the next few years, he elevated Exeter to one of the four burhs in Devon, rebuilding its walls on the Roman lines. These permitted the city to fend off another attack and siege by the Danes in 893. King Athelstan again strengthened the walls around 928, and at the same time drove out the remaining Britons from the city. (It is uncertain, though, whether they had lived in the city continuously since the Roman period or returned from the countryside when Alfred strengthened its defences.) According to William of Malmesbury, they were sent beyond the River Tamar, which was fixed as the boundary of Devon. (This may, however, have served as a territorial boundary within the former kingdom of Dumnonia as well.) Other references suggest that the British simply moved to what is now the St. David's area, not far outside Exeter's walls. The quarter vacated by the Britons was apparently adapted as "the earl's burh" and was still named Irlesberi in the 12th century. In 1001, the Danes again failed to get into the city, but they were able to plunder it in 1003 because they were let in, for unknown reasons, by the French reeve of Emma of Normandy, who had been given the city as part of her dowry on her marriage to Æthelred the Unready the previous year.

Rougemont Castle Gatehouse, Exeter - geograph.org.uk - 333534
The gatehouse of Rougemont Castle

Two years after the Norman conquest of England, Exeter rebelled against King William. Gytha Thorkelsdóttir, the mother of the slain King Harold, was living in the city at the time, and William promptly marched west and initiated a siege. After 18 days, William accepted the city's honourable surrender, swearing an oath not to harm the city or increase its ancient tribute. However, William quickly arranged for the building of Rougemont Castle to strengthen Norman control over the area. Properties owned by Saxon landlords were transferred into Norman hands and, on the death of Bishop Leofric in 1072, the Norman Osbern FitzOsbern was appointed his successor.

In 1136, early in the Anarchy, Rougemont Castle was held against King Stephen by Baldwin de Redvers. Redvers submitted only after a three-month siege, not when the three wells in the castle ran dry, but only after the exhaustion of the large supplies of wine that the garrison was using for drinking, baking, cooking, and putting out fires set by the besiegers. During the siege, King Stephen built an earthen fortification at the site now known (erroneously) as Danes Castle.

Exeter medieval bridge
Remains of the medieval Exe Bridge, built around 1200

The city held a weekly market for the benefit of its citizens from at least 1213, and by 1281 Exeter was the only town in the south west to have three market days per week. There are also records of seven annual fairs, the earliest of which dates from 1130, and all of which continued until at least the early 16th century.

During the high medieval period, both the cathedral clergy and the citizens enjoyed access to sophisticated aqueduct systems which brought pure drinking water into the city from springs in the neighbouring parish of St Sidwell's. For part of their length, these aqueducts were conveyed through a remarkable network of subterranean tunnels, or underground passages, which survive largely intact and which may still be visited today.

Modern times

Exeter, 1563
An illustration of Exeter in 1563, entitled Civitas Exoniae (vulgo Excester) urbs primaria in comitatu Devoniae

In 1537, the city was made a county corporate. In 1549, the city successfully withstood a month-long siege by the so-called Prayer Book rebels: Devon and Cornish folk who had been infuriated by the radical religious policies of King Edward VI. The insurgents occupied the suburbs of Exeter, burnt down two of the city gates and attempted to undermine the city walls, but were eventually forced to abandon the siege after they had been worsted in a series of bloody battles with the king’s army. A number of rebels were executed in the immediate aftermath of the siege. The Livery Dole almshouses and chapel at Heavitree were founded in March 1591 and finished in 1594.

The city's motto, Semper fidelis, is traditionally held to have been suggested by Elizabeth I, in acknowledgement of the city's contribution of ships to help defeat the Spanish Armada in 1588; however its first documented use is in 1660. Schools in Exeter teach that the motto was bestowed by Charles II in 1660 at the Restoration due to Exeter's role in the English Civil War.

When in 1638 Reverend John Wheelwright was exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and subsequently established a community on the banks of the Squamscott River, he named the region Exeter after its Devonian counterpart. During the American Revolution it became the capital of New Hampshire.

Exeter was secured for Parliament at the beginning of the English Civil War, and its defences very much strengthened, but in September 1643 it was captured by the Cornish Royalist Army led by Prince Maurice. Thereafter, the city remained firmly under the king’s control until near the end of the war, being one of the final Royalist cities to fall into Parliamentarian hands. The surrender of Exeter was negotiated in April 1646 at Poltimore House by Thomas Fairfax. During this period, Exeter was an economically powerful city, with a strong trade of wool. This was partly due to the surrounding area which was "more fertile and better inhabited than that passed over the preceding day" according to Count Lorenzo Magalotti who visited the city when he was 26 years old. Magalotti writes of over thirty thousand people being employed in the county of Devon as part of the wool and cloth industries, merchandise that was sold to "the West Indies, Spain, France and Italy". Celia Fiennes also visited Exeter during this period, in the early 1700s. She remarked on the "vast trade" and "incredible quantity" in Exeter, recording that "it turns the most money in a week of anything in England", between £10,000 and £15,000.

Roque's Map of Exeter 1744
John Rocque's 1744 map of Exeter

Early in the Industrial Revolution, Exeter's industry developed on the basis of locally available agricultural products and, since the city's location on a fast-flowing river gave it ready access to water power, an early industrial site developed on drained marshland to the west of the city, at Exe Island. However, when steam power replaced water in the 19th century, Exeter was too far from sources of coal (or iron) to develop further. As a result, the city declined in relative importance, and was spared the rapid 19th century development that changed many historic European cities. Extensive canal redevelopments during this period further expanded Exeter's economy, with "vessels of 15 to 16 tons burthen [bringing] up goods and merchandise from Topsham to the City Quay". In 1778 a new bridge across the Exe was opened to replace the old medieval bridge. Built at a cost of £30,000, it had three arches and was built of stone.

Thomas-Shapter-HistoryOfCholeraInExeter1832-map
Frontispiece to Shapter's "History of the Cholera in Exeter in 1832"

In 1832, cholera, which had been erupting all across Europe, reached Exeter. The only known documentation of this event was written by Dr Thomas Shapter, one of the medical doctors present during the epidemic.

The first railway to arrive in Exeter was the Bristol and Exeter Railway that opened a station at St Davids on the western edge in 1844. The South Devon Railway Company extended the line westwards to Plymouth, opening their own smaller station at St Thomas, above Cowick Street. A more central railway station, that at Queen Street, was opened by the London and South Western Railway in 1860 when it opened its alternative route to London. Butchers Lloyd Maunder moved to their present base in 1915, to gain better access to the Great Western Railway for transportation of meat products to London.

High Street, Exeter, England, ca. 1895
The High Street ca. 1895

The first electricity in Exeter was provided by the Exeter Electric Light Company, which was formed at the end of the 1880s, but it was municipalised in 1896 and became the City of Exeter Electricity Company.

The first horse-drawn trams in Exeter were introduced in 1882 with 3 lines radiating from the city's East Gate. One line went to St David's station via New North Road, the Obelisk (where the Clock Tower now stands) and St David's Hill. The second line went out along Heavitree Road to Livery Dole and the third went to Mount Pleasant along Sidwell Street. There was a depot off New North Road.

20th century

Lamp standard and ferry, Exeter Quay - geograph.org.uk - 836757
Lamp standard from the 1905 Exe bridge, installed at Butts Ferry on Exeter Quayside in 1983

On 29 March 1905 a new bridge across the Exe was opened replacing the former Georgian bridge. Made of cast-iron and steel with a three hinged arch design, it cost £25,000 and was designed by Sir John Wolfe Barry. Also in 1905 electric trams replaced the horse trams with a new route which passed along the High Street, down Fore Street and over the new Exe Bridge. Once over the Exe the line divided, with one route along Alphington Road and another along Cowick Street. The line to St David's Station travelled along Queen Street instead of along New North Road and the line to Heavitree was extended. On 17 March 1917, a tram went out of control going down Fore Street, hit a horse-drawn wagon, then overturned on Exe Bridge and one female passenger was killed. By the 1920s, there were problems with congestion caused by the trams, a need for expensive track renewal work and the slow speed of the trams in Exeter's narrow streets. After much discussion the council decided to replace the tram service with double-decker buses and the last tram ran on 19 August 1931. The only remaining Exeter tram in service is car 19, now at the Seaton Tramway.

Exeter was bombed by the German Luftwaffe in the Second World War, when a total of 18 raids between 1940 and 1942 flattened much of the city centre. In 1942, as part of the Baedeker Blitz and specifically in response to the RAF bombing of Lübeck and Rostock, 40 acres (16 ha) of the city, particularly adjacent to its central High Street and Sidwell Street, were levelled by incendiary bombing. Many historic buildings in the heart of the city were destroyed and others, including the Cathedral, were damaged. 156 people were killed in the attacks.

Large areas of the city centre were rebuilt in the 1950s, when little attempt was made to preserve Exeter's heritage. Damaged buildings were generally demolished rather than restored, and the street plan was altered in an attempt to improve traffic circulation. Former landmarks such as St. Lawrence and the College of the Vicars Choral disappeared. The modern architecture stands in sharp contrast to the red sandstone of buildings that survived the Blitz.

Exe Flood Relief Channel - geograph.org.uk - 695255
Exe Flood Relief Channel built after the floods of 1960

On 27 October 1960, following very heavy rain, the Exe overflowed and flooded large areas of Exeter including Exwick, St Thomas and Alphington. The water rose as high as 2 metres above ground level in places and 150 employees of the local firm Beach Bros were trapped for nine hours. 2,500 properties were flooded. Later the same year on 3 December the river levels rose again, flooding 1,200 properties. These floods led to the construction of new flood defences for Exeter. Work began in 1965, took 12 years to complete and cost £8 million. The defences included three flood relief channels, and were complemented by the construction of two new concrete bridges (built in 1969 and 1972) to replace the old Exe Bridge which had obstructed the flow of the river and made the flooding worse.

21st century

The Princesshay shopping centre adjoining the Cathedral Close and the High Street was redeveloped between 2005 and 2007, despite some local opposition. It incorporates 123 varied residential units.

To enable people with limited mobility to enjoy the city, Exeter Community Transport Association provides manual and powered wheelchairs and scooters (called Shopmobility) for use by anyone suffering from short or long-term mobility impairment to access to the city centre and shopping facilities, events and meetings with friends and company.

In May 2008 there was an attempted terrorist attack on the Giraffe cafe in Princesshay, but the bomber was the only one injured.

A £30 million improvement scheme for the flood defences was approved in March 2015. The plans involve the removal of check weirs and a deeper, "meandering stream" in the centre of the drainage channels to improve flow. The plans followed a study by the Environment Agency that revealed weaknesses in the current defences. A community currency for the city, the Exeter Pound, was introduced in 2015.

A serious fire broke out in buildings in central Exeter on 28 October 2016. The fire largely destroyed the Royal Clarence Hotel, considered the first venue in England to call itself a hotel. Other historic buildings, including 18 Cathedral Yard, were also destroyed.

Geography

See also: List of places in Exeter
River Exe at Exeter - geograph.org.uk - 258229
The River Exe

The city of Exeter was established on the eastern bank of the River Exe on a ridge of land backed by a steep hill. It is at this point that the Exe, having just been joined by the River Creedy, opens onto a wide flood plain and estuary which results in quite common flooding. Historically this was the lowest bridging point of the River Exe which was tidal and navigable up to the city until the construction of weirs later in its history. This combined with the easily defensible higher ground of the ridge made the current location of the city a natural choice for settlement and trade. In George Oliver's The History of the City of Exeter, it is noted that the most likely reasons for the original settling of what would become modern Exeter was the "fertility of the surrounding countryside" and the area's "beautiful and commanding elevation [and] its rapid and navigable river". Its woodland would also have been ideal for natural resources and hunting.

Exeter sits predominantly on sandstone and conglomerate geology, although the structure of the surrounding areas is varied. The topography of the ridge which forms the backbone of the city includes a volcanic plug, on which the Rougemont Castle is situated. The Cathedral is located on the edge of this ridge and is therefore visible for a considerable distance.

Climate

Exeter has mild wet winters and warm changeable summers with hot and cooler rainy spells. Temperatures do not vary much throughout the year. The hottest month is July with an average high of 21.7 °C (71.1 °F), and the coldest month is January with an average high of 8.8 °C (47.8 °F). October is the wettest month with 88.9 millimetres (3.50 in) of rain. Because of shelter from Dartmoor, Exeter is more frost prone than areas to the southwest, such as Plymouth. It is also drier, and warmer in the summer for the same reason. The highest recorded temperature in Exeter stands at 33.5 °C (92.3 °F) recorded in June 1976, whilst the lowest recorded temperature in Exeter is −16.4 °C (2.5 °F) recorded in December 2010.

Climate data for Exeter, elevation: 7 m or 23 ft (1981–2010) extremes (1960–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 16.6
(61.9)
14.3
(57.7)
21.0
(69.8)
23.6
(74.5)
27.5
(81.5)
33.5
(92.3)
32.2
(90)
32.4
(90.3)
26.9
(80.4)
26.0
(78.8)
18.6
(65.5)
15.9
(60.6)
33.5
(92.3)
Average high °C (°F) 8.8
(47.8)
8.8
(47.8)
11.1
(52)
13.3
(55.9)
16.8
(62.2)
19.8
(67.6)
21.7
(71.1)
21.5
(70.7)
19.2
(66.6)
15.2
(59.4)
11.7
(53.1)
9.1
(48.4)
14.8
(58.6)
Daily mean °C (°F) 5.8
(42.4)
5.6
(42.1)
7.4
(45.3)
8.9
(48)
12.2
(54)
15.2
(59.4)
17.1
(62.8)
16.9
(62.4)
14.8
(58.6)
11.6
(52.9)
8.3
(46.9)
5.8
(42.4)
10.8
(51.4)
Average low °C (°F) 2.7
(36.9)
2.4
(36.3)
3.7
(38.7)
4.5
(40.1)
7.6
(45.7)
10.5
(50.9)
12.4
(54.3)
12.3
(54.1)
10.3
(50.5)
8.0
(46.4)
4.8
(40.6)
2.4
(36.3)
6.8
(44.2)
Record low °C (°F) -13.1
(8.4)
-9.3
(15.3)
-9.6
(14.7)
-4.4
(24.1)
-1.7
(28.9)
0.9
(33.6)
2.1
(35.8)
2.0
(35.6)
-1.0
(30.2)
-3.9
(25)
-6.2
(20.8)
-16.4
(2.5)
-16.4
(2.5)
Precipitation mm (inches) 82.2
(3.236)
60.7
(2.39)
56.8
(2.236)
62.1
(2.445)
57.2
(2.252)
48.4
(1.906)
45.8
(1.803)
53.4
(2.102)
58.8
(2.315)
88.9
(3.5)
83.4
(3.283)
87.3
(3.437)
784.9
(30.902)
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 12.4 10.4 10.2 9.9 9.7 7.4 7.8 7.9 8.8 12.1 12.6 12.0 121.0
Sunshine hours 57.7 73.1 109.5 162.9 190.4 194.7 192.6 177.4 136.0 96.6 71.5 51.0 1,513.1
Source #1: Met Office
Source #2: KNMI

Demography

From the 2011 Census, the Office for National Statistics published that Exeter's district area population was 117,773; 6,697 more people than that of the last census from 2001, which indicated that Exeter had a population of 111,076. At the time of the 2011 UK census, the ethnic composition of Exeter's population was 93.1% White, with the largest minority ethnic group being Chinese at 1.7%. The White British, White Irish and other ethnic group all declined in numbers since the 2001 census (−1%, -6% and −10% respectively). Meanwhile, the Chinese and Other Asian had the largest increases (429% and 434% respectively). This excludes the two new ethnic groups added to the 2011 census of Gypsy or Irish Traveller and Arab. Below are the 10 largest immigrant groups in Exeter as of 2011.

Country of Birth Immigrants in Exeter (2011 Census)
 China 1,665
 Poland 1,296
 Germany 710
 India 653
 Ireland 469
 South Africa 438
 USA 350
 France 310
 Philippines 295
 Australia 242

In 2011, the city of Exeter had a population of 117,773, while its inner urban subdivision had a population of 113,507. The Exeter USD does not include the outlying suburb of Topsham.

Exeter compared 2011 Exeter USD Exeter City
White British 88.1% 88.3%
Asian 4.0% 3.9%
Black 0.6% 0.5%

In 2011, 11.9% of the population of the Exeter USD (urban subdivision) were non white British, compared with 11.7% for the actual city and surrounding borough of Exeter.

In 2009, Exeter City was 89.1% White British, compared with 88.3% in 2011.

The Exeter Urban Area had a population of 124,079 in 2014, compared with 124,328 for the city and borough of Exeter. While the Exeter Metropolitan Area had a population of 467,257 in the same year and includes Exeter along with Teignbridge, Mid Devon and East Devon.

Landmarks

Further information: Grade I listed buildings in Exeter and Grade II* listed buildings in Exeter
A panorama of the city taken from the roof of the north tower of the cathedral

Among the notable buildings in Exeter are:

Religious buildings

ExeterCathedral-4
Exeter Cathedral and the Devon County War Memorial
See also: Exeter#Religion
  • The cathedral, founded in 1050 when the bishop's seat was moved from the nearby town of Crediton (birthplace of Saint Boniface) because Exeter's Roman walls offered better protection against "pirates", presumably Vikings. A statue of Richard Hooker, the 16th century Anglican theologian, who was born in Exeter, has a prominent place in the Cathedral Close.
  • St Nicholas Priory in Mint Lane, the remains of a monastery, later used as a private house and now a museum owned by the city council. The priory was founded in 1087 and was home to Benedictine monks for over 400 years, until it was closed and partly demolished by Henry VIII. The remaining buildings were then sold off in 1602 and became the home of the locally wealthy Hurst family. The property has been fully renovated by Exeter City Council, and the small garden area features Tudor plants and herbs
  • A number of medieval churches including St Mary Steps which has an elaborate clock.
  • The Exeter Synagogue is the third oldest synagogue in Britain, completed in 1763.
A panorama of Exeter Cathedral and Cathedral Close

Secular buildings

The House that Moved in Exeter - geograph.org.uk - 1727313
"The House that Moved", West Street, Exeter
  • The ruins of Rougemont Castle, built soon after the Norman Conquest; later parts of the castle were still in use as a County Court until early 2006 when a new Crown Courts building opened. A plaque near the ruined Norman gatehouse recalls the fate of Alice Molland, tried for witchcraft at Exeter in 1685, and reputedly the last person in England to have been executed for that crime. Other supposed ‘witches’ are known to have hanged in Exeter in 1581, 1610 and 1682.
  • The Guildhall, which has medieval foundations and has been claimed to be the oldest municipal building in England still in use.
  • Mol's Coffee House, a historic building in the Cathedral Close.
  • Tuckers' Hall, a fine old building that is still used for smart functions.
  • The Custom House in the attractive Quay area, which is the oldest brick building surviving in the city.
  • "The House That Moved", a 14th-century Tudor building, earned its name in 1961 when it was moved from its original location on the corner of Edmund Street in order for a new road to be built in its place. Weighing more than twenty-one tonnes, it was strapped together and slowly moved a few inches at a time to its present-day position.
  • Parliament Street in the city centre is one of the narrowest streets in the world.
  • The Butts Ferry, an ancient cable ferry across the River Exe.
  • Wyvern Barracks, a former artillery barracks, dates back to about 1800.
  • Higher Barracks, a former cavalry barracks, dates back to 1794.
  • The Devon County War Memorial in the Cathedral Close, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and unveiled in 1922 by Edward, Prince of Wales.

Many of these are built in the local dark red sandstone, which gives its name to the castle and the park that now surrounds it (Rougemont means red hill). The pavements on Queen Street are composed of the rock diorite and exhibit feldspar crystals, while those around Princesshay are composed of granodiorite.

Northernhay Gardens

Located just outside the castle, Northernhay Gardens is the oldest public open space in England, being originally laid out in 1612 as a pleasure walk for Exeter residents. Much of Northernhay Gardens now reflects Victorian design, with trees, mature shrubs and bushes and plenty of flower beds. There are many statues here, including the war memorial by John Angel, The Deer Stalker by E. B. Stephens, and the Volunteer Memorial from 1895, which commemorates the formation of the 1st Rifle Volunteers in 1852. Other statues include John Dinham, Thomas Dyke Acland and Stafford Northcote (a local landowner who was a Victorian Chancellor of the Exchequer).

Transport

Car

M5 Bridge crosses the River Exe - geograph.org.uk - 1109085
Bridge carrying the M5 motorway across the River Exe

The M5 motorway to Bristol and Exeter starts at Birmingham, and connects at Bristol with the M4 to London and South Wales. The older A30 road provides a more direct route to London via the A303 and M3. The M5 is the modern lowest bridging point of the River Exe. Going westwards, the A38 connects Exeter to Plymouth and south east Cornwall, whilst the A30 continues via Okehampton to north and west Cornwall. The cities of Bristol, Plymouth, Bath, Salisbury and Truro can all be reached within 2 hours.

Travel by car in the city is often difficult with regular jams centred on the Exe Bridges area. Historically, the bridges were a significant bottleneck for holiday traffic heading to southwest England, leading to the construction of the first bypass in the mid-1930s over Countess Wear Bridge, followed by the M5 in 1977. To further address the problem of congestion in the city centre, Devon County Council has current park and ride services and is considering the introduction of congestion charges.

Bus

Exeter's main operator of local buses is Stagecoach South West, which operates most of the services in the city. Dartline is a minor operator in the City. Former Cooks Coaches were taken over by Stagecoach forming Stagecoach South West. Western Greyhound was also a main operator connecting Exeter to Cornwall, Somerset and many different places in South West England until being taken over by First Devon & Cornwall, Plymouth Citybus and Stagecoach South West in March 2015.

The High Street, pedestrianised except for bus and bicycle traffic, serves as the main hub for local buses. Country and express services operate from the city's bus station, in Paris Street, which intersects the High Street at its eastern end; some also call at Exeter St Davids railway station for direct connection to train services.

Country bus services, mostly operated by Stagecoach, run from Exeter to most places in East and North Devon, but some are very infrequent. Regional express services run to Plymouth, Torbay, Bude, and along the Jurassic Coast to Lyme Regis and Weymouth, some operated by Stagecoach and others by First Bus. National Express operates long distance routes, for example to Heathrow and London.

Railway

2008 at Exeter St Davids - station frontage
Exeter St Davids Railway Station

Exeter is considered to be a rail hub within the south-west and is linked to most branch lines in Devon, including to Paignton, Exmouth, Barnstaple and Okehampton (by a special service). This makes it possible to reach most stations in Devon directly from Exeter St. Davids, although only during the summer months.

Exeter is served by three main railway stations. Exeter St Davids is served by all services and is a major interchange station within the South West Peninsula's rail network, whilst Exeter Central is more convenient for the city centre but served only by local services and the main line route to London Waterloo. In the south-west of the city, Exeter St Thomas serves the western side of the city. There are also six suburban stations, Topsham, St James Park, Polsloe Bridge, Pinhoe, Digby & Sowton and Newcourt, served only by local services.

There are two main line railway routes from Exeter to London, the faster route via Taunton and Reading to London Paddington and the slower West of England Main Line via Salisbury and Basingstoke to London Waterloo. Another main line, the Cross Country Route, links Exeter with Bristol, Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Great Western Railway and CrossCountry services continue westwards along the Exeter to Plymouth Line, variously serving Torquay, Plymouth and Cornwall. Local branch lines run to Paignton (see Riviera Line), Exmouth (see Avocet Line) and Barnstaple (see Tarka Line). There is also a summer weekend service to Okehampton for access to Dartmoor.

The Exeter to Plymouth line of the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) used to provide an alternative route via Okehampton connecting Cornwall and Plymouth to Exeter and the rest of the UK railway system until its closure in 1968. There are proposals to reopen the line from Okehampton, Tavistock to Bere Alston for a through service to Plymouth. On the night of 4 February 2014, amid high winds and extremely rough seas, part of the South Devon Railway sea wall at Dawlish was breached, washing away around 40 metres (130 ft) of the wall and the ballast under the railway immediately behind and closing the Exeter to Plymouth Line. Network Rail began repair work and the line reopened on 4 April 2014. In the wake of widespread disruption caused by damage to the mainline track at Dawlish by coastal storms in February 2014, Network Rail are considering reopening the Bere Alston to Okehampton and Exeter section of the former LSWR line as an alternative to the coastal route.

Air

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Exeter International Airport

Exeter International Airport lies east of the city, and the local airline, previously called Jersey European and British European but now known as Flybe, is a significant local employer. It is also a base for Thomson Airways with flights to Faro, Mallorca, Lanzarote and elsewhere. The airport offers a range of scheduled flights to British and Irish regional airports and charter flights. Connections to international hubs began with Paris-Charles de Gaulle in 2005 and later a daily service to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.

Canal

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Exeter Canal Basin

The Exeter Canal also known as the Exeter Ship Canal was first completed in about 1566, making it one of the oldest artificial waterways in Britain. It was cut to bypass weirs that had been built across the River Exe to prevent trade in the city and to force boats to unload at Topsham from where the Earls of Devon were able to exact large tolls to transport goods to Exeter. Originally 3 feet deep and 16 feet wide (0.9 m by 5 m), it ran 1.75 miles (2.82 km) from just below the Countess Weir to the centre of Exeter. It was later extended to Topsham, deepened and widened, and was successful until the middle of the 19th century since when its use gradually declined – the last commercial use was in 1972. However it is now widely used for leisure purposes, and the city basin is being included as part of a £24 million redevelopment scheme.

Religion

St Michael's church, and Episcopal building, Exeter - geograph.org.uk - 287157
St. Michael's Church & Episcopal Building

There are many churches in Exeter belonging to different Christian denominations and an Anglican cathedral. It is the seat of the Anglican Bishop of Exeter. The present building was complete by about 1400, and has the longest uninterrupted vaulted ceiling in England, and other notable features. The Anglican churches form the Exeter Deanery. The Catholic community has two main Churches, the Sacred Heart and the Blessed Sacrament, with congregations reflecting the nature of older and more recent immigration.

Exeter Synagogue, located off Mary Arches Street, was completed in 1763. Exeter's mosque and Islamic centre is on York Road. A purpose-built mosque is currently being constructed on the same site.

At the 2001 census, 69.12% of the population stated their religion as Christian, which is lower than the regional average of 73.99% and the national average of 71.74%. All other religions were under 1%, which was slighter higher than regional averages, although much lower than national averages, except for Buddhism, which was slightly higher than the average. 20.45% stated as having no religion, which was higher than the regional average of 16.75% and the national average of 14.59% and the percentage of people not stating their religion was also slightly higher.

Anglican churches

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St. David's Church, Exeter

John Betjeman (writing in 1958) selects St David's ("Caroe's best church"), St Martin's ("characteristic little city church, 15th century"), St Mary Steps ("medieval city church; font"), St Michael's ("Victorian, on a fine site"), and St. Thomas's ("fittings"). His coverage of St Mary Arches is more detailed: "worth seeing ... as the completest Norman church in Devon: beautifully light and airy after its restoration from the bombing in 1942. 18th-century altar arrangements. Memorials to Exeter worthies, 16th to 18th centuries."

The churches include St David's, near Exeter St Davids Station. It is a fine building by W. D. Caroe and was built between 1897 and 1900. The tower stands on the northeast side, and the whole design is, according to Nikolaus Pevsner, "highly picturesque". Many of the windows are by Kempe & Tower. St Edmund-on-the-Bridge was built on the Exe Bridge ca. 1230–40. Two arches of the bridge remain under the undercroft though the church was rebuilt in the Perpendicular style in 1835, using the old materials.

St Martin's is in the Cathedral Close; the plan is odd, and there are numerous items of church furniture, though these are not of high aesthetic value. St Mary Arches is a Norman church with aisles. St Mary Steps was originally by the West Gate of the city; the font is Norman, and there is a remarkable early clock. St Michael, Heavitree was built in 1844–46 and extended later in the century. St Pancras is of the 13th century and has a nave and chancel only; the font is Norman. The plan of St Petroc's church is highly unusual: a second chancel has been added facing north while the original chancel has another use and faces east. There are two aisles on the south, one of 1413 and another of the 16th century.

St Sidwell's church is by W. Burgess, 1812, in the Perpendicular style. St Stephen's church is partly of the 13th century but most of the structure is as rebuilt in 1826. St Michael and All Angels Church on Mount Dinham has a spire which exceeds the height of the towers of Exeter Cathedral.

Culture

Literature

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Pyramid in High Street, Exeter

The Exeter Book, an original manuscript and one of the most important documents in Anglo-Saxon literature, is kept in the vaults of the cathedral. The Exeter Book dates back to the 10th century and is one of four manuscripts that between them contain virtually all the surviving poetry in Old English. It includes most of the more highly regarded shorter poems, some religious pieces, and a series of riddles, a handful of which are famously lewd. Some of the riddles are inscribed on a highly polished steel obelisk in the High Street, placed there on 30 March 2005.

The Exon Domesday (so called from the preservation of the volume at Exeter), is a volume of Domesday Book that contains the full details which the original returns supplied, but only for part of south-west England, i.e. Cornwall, Devon, part of Somerset, part of Dorset and one manor of Wiltshire; it also contains a record of the geld of 1084 for the whole of these counties.

One of Rosemary Sutcliff's best-known children's books, The Eagle of the Ninth, begins in Roman Isca Dumnoniorum. Lindsey Davis' Marcus Didius Falco was stationed with the Second Augusta legion in Isca, and revisits it in The Silver Pigs. The Crowner John Mysteries by Bernard Knight are a series of books set in 12th century Exeter.

Van Helsing, in Bram Stoker's Dracula, travels there.

Exeter is mentioned in Martin's Close, a short ghost story by M.R. James, first published in More Ghost Stories in 1911.

Theatre

The Northcott Theatre is located on the Streatham campus of the University of Exeter and is one of relatively few provincial English theatres to maintain its own repertory company. This theatre is the successor to the former Theatre Royal, Exeter.

Barnfield Theatre (geograph 4203993)
Barnfield Theatre

There are also three other theatres in Exeter. The Barnfield Theatre was converted in 1972 from the Barnfield Hall which was built towards the end of the 19th century by Exeter Literary Society. The theatre is a charity and is used as a venue for both amateur and professional theatrical companies. The Cygnet Theatre in Friars Walk is the home of the Cygnet Training Theatre and is a member of the Conference of Drama Schools. As well as performances given by students in training, this theatre also stages performances from visiting repertory companies and has a good reputation for quality events. In September 2010, the Bike Shed Theatre opened in basement premises of a shop at the upper end of Fore Street, providing an intimate environment for theatre, comedy and live music.

In addition, more innovative and contemporary performances, theatrical productions and dance pieces are programmed by Exeter Phoenix off Gandy Street in the City Centre and The Exeter Corn Exchange in Market Street.

Music

There are two festivals each year, of all the arts but with a particular concentration of musical events: the annual "Vibraphonic" festival held in March provides a fortnight of soul, blues, jazz, funk, reggae and electronic music. The largest orchestra based in Exeter is the EMG Symphony Orchestra which presents regular concerts at the University of Exeter and in Exeter Cathedral.

Museums and galleries

  • The city museum is the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Queen Street. The museum recently underwent extensive refurbishment. It reopened on 14 December 2011, and was subsequently awarded the National Art Fund Prize – UK Museum of the Year 2012. The Museum also runs St Nicholas Priory which is just off Fore Street.
  • Exeter Phoenix and the adjacent digital Media Centre occupies the former university site in Gandy Street and programmes international, national and outstanding regional artists.
  • The Spacex (art gallery) shows exhibitions of contemporary art and promotes artist-led projects, events and research.

Newspapers

  • Express and Echo, twice-weekly with a Monday edition and a Thursday edition.
  • The Exeter Times, formerly known as the Exeter Leader, a free weekly paper which ceased publication in 2011.
  • Exeter Flying Post, weekly (discontinued 1917, but title revived in 1976 as an alternative community magazine).
  • The Western Morning News, a Plymouth-printed daily regional paper, is also popular.
  • Exeposé, the University's student paper printed fortnightly, also gets a bit of local attraction and has Exeter-related local news in it.

Radio

BBC Radio Devon broadcasts to Exeter locally on FM (95.8) and AM (990 AM/MW), although the majority of programming comes from Plymouth. In the evenings, BBC Radio Devon joins the South West Regional service. Heart South West, formerly Gemini FM and Devonair, covers the city on 97.0 FM, with East Devon and Torbay using their own frequencies. Both Heart and BBC Devon broadcast from the St. Thomas transmitter, which also provides the city with television coverage; AM radio is broadcast from Pearce's Hill next to J31 of the M5. Other radio stations include Exeter FM, an easy listening station broadcasting on 107.3 FM, Phonic.FM which provides a "no adverts no playlist" alternative on 106.8 FM or online at www.phonic.fm, VI, a station broadcasting from the West of England School and College on 1386 AM/MW. The University has a well established student station, Xpression FM, which broadcasts on 87.7 FM using two low-powered transmitters, although it can be heard over much of the north of the city.

The local commercial radio station is Radio Exe.

Television

BBC Spotlight and ITV Westcountry provide Exeter with regional news outputs. The majority of the local BBC output originates in Plymouth, and ITV Westcountry is broadcast from Bristol. Both services have newsrooms in Exeter. The St Thomas and Stockland Hill transmitting station cover the city, with both transmitters now having completed the digital switchover.

Twin towns

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Piazza Terracina, Exeter, named after Terracina, Italy

Exeter is twinned with Rennes in France, Bad Homburg in Germany, Yaroslavl in Russia, and Terracina in Italy.

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