Visit Exeter and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Exeter, Devon. One of Britain's oldest towns, a cathedral and university city, administrative capital of Devon. In May 1942 German bombs flattened much of its centre; subsequent rebuilding has been worthy rather than artistic, with an over-enthusiasm for red brick. But a fair amount that is fine and/or old survives, above all its tremendous cathedral, spared in the same miraculous way as was St Paul's.
In barest outline the city's lively history is as follows. It was founded in c. A.D. 50 by the Romans, who surrounded it in c. 200 with a great red-stone wall much of which, strengthened in Norman times but Roman at base, still stands and can be well seen in the car parks off Paul Street and Southernhay and where the lower ring road cuts through it. Exeter became an important town under the Anglo-Saxons. Twice the Danes ravaged it: in 876, occupying it for three years, and in 1003. Not till 1068 and after an 18-day siege did William the Conqueror capture it. The town became an important cloth manufacturing and trading centre, and so remained till the late 18th century. It was also a busy port, except for the period from c. 1285, when the Countess of Devon, out of spite, built a weir across the River Exe (hence Countess Weir on the by-pass), till 1563 when its ship canal, the first in England, was opened. But the price of importance was painful involvement in most of the insurrections and calamities of history from 1350 to 1700. After the 1549 Prayer Book Rebellion, for instance, one of its vicars hung for four years from the top of his church tower.
A cathedral was established at Exeter in 1050 but it was rebuilt by the Normans between 1107 and 1137. In about 1260, however, the building was demolished except for the two towers, which were incorporated in the present cathedral, built between then and c. 1394. The l4th-century west front is adorned with fine stone figures. The interior has magnificent rib-vaulting, and among its most notable features are the minstrels' gallery, the chantry chapels and the finely carved bishop's throne.
The city's most attractive areas are the Cathedral Close; just east of it the excellent Georgian (c. 1805 red-brick terraces of Southernhay round pretty municipal gardens, and a little north east Barnfield Crescent of the same period; and the Quay district east of the two road bridges. The Close's best buildings are along its north-east side; several are medieval. The art shop on the corner was formerly Mol's Coffee House in the first-floor room of which, it is said, Drake, Hawkins and others used to meet. The Bishop's Palace, south east of the cathedral, is not open but the Cathedral Library sometimes is and contains some of the most valuable Anglo-Saxon manuscripts extant. The. porticoed Guildhall in the High Street is nice inside with excellent 15th-century roof and panelling and some good portraits. The portico dates from 1595. Of the little red-stone churches scattered among modern shops all over this area, the best is St Mary Arches, the most completely Norman church in Devon. St Mary's Steps has an entertaining clock, and the steep and cobbled Stepcote Lane beside it retains an ancient atmosphere. Nearby are some 16th-century buildings, close to where the city's west gate was and the lower ring road is. Halfway up Fore Street, Tucker's Hall, built for the Guild of Weavers, Fullers and Shearmen in 1471, has a fine timbered roof. The underground passages, which provided medieval Exeter with, unlike most medieval cities, a constant supply of pure spring water. There is another museum, good for Roman remains, in Castle Street near the restored red gate-tower of the otherwise demolished Norman Rougemont Castle. Also nearby are the County Courts (1774) and the very pleasant Rougemont Gardens. The Ship, the White Hart and the Turk's Head (where Dickens found his Fat Boy) are all basically medieval pubs.
All these things are within walking range of the several central car parks. And so, really, is the Quay. This area has a splendid, tall, early-l9th-century. warehouse, 1681 Customs House, good pubs and night-club overlooked by the exceptionally pretty late- 18th-century. Colleton Crescent, and a l3th-century bridge has been excavated.
The spired church, even more conspicuous than the cathedral, is St Michael's, built 1867-8.
The University campus is on the northern edge of the town, superbly sited in an estate presented to it in 1922 with an arboretum containing 150 varieties. The university buildings, dating from 1925 to 1964, are, with Plymouth's town centre, the most ambitious modern group in the West Country.
Nearby towns: Budleigh Salterton, Chagford, Crediton, Cullompton, Exmouth, Honiton, Newton Abbot, Ottery St Mary, Sidmouth, Teignmouth, Topsham
Nearby villages: Bickleigh, Broadclyst, Chudleigh, Dog Village, Farringdon, Shaldon, Silverton, Whimple
Have you decided to visit Exeter or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Exeter bed and breakfast (a Exeter B&B or Exeter b and b)
- a Exeter guesthouse
- a Exeter hotel (or motel)
- a Exeter self-catering establishment, or
- other Exeter accommodation