Set in the heart of Devon on the River Exe, a city break in Exeter provides for an exciting opportunity to explore attractions from the historic Quayside to the glorious Cathedral, as well as architectural delights such as the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery. With underground passageways dating back to the 14th century running under the High Street, Exeter’s rich heritage offers a chance to visit the likes of Tuckers Hall and St Nicholas Priory, transporting you back in time some 900 years.
There is evidence of settlements in the Exeter area dating back as early as 250 BC, with the Romans making the area their home in 50AD. The walls surrounding the city, built by the Romans, remain relatively intact today, although work to repair and rebuild the walls was carried out during the time of Alfred the Great. The site of the Roman city has been the subject of many excavations with discoveries including Roman baths as well as a military base, with a significant collection of Roman coins also unearthed. From around 658AD, the Saxons and the Britons were also in residence at Exeter, with Danish invasions taking place in both 876 and 893, the latter of which proved unsuccessful.
1050 saw Exeter Cathedral founded, and today is the Seat of the Bishop of Exeter. 1107 saw work on the building of a new cathedral begin, led by William the Conqueror’s nephew, William Warelwast. Having taken a number of years to complete, further developments were made from 1258 with the addition of architecture of gothic design. With both the Chapter House and Chantry Chapel later additions to the Cathedral, sadly on 4 May 1942, the Cathedral sustained a direct hit during an air raid, which caused extensive damage. Thankfully, many of the treasures and precious artefacts which were housed within the Cathedral had already been moved in anticipation of such an attack. The cathedral is recognised as being one of the finest examples of its kind, with its vaulted ceiling measuring 96m making it the longest medieval example in the world.
Work also began on building Rougemont Castle (Exeter Castle) in 1068, following the medieval rebellion by the people of Exeter against William the Conqueror. Further additions were made to the castle including an outer bailey in the 12th Century, with the site extensively redeveloped in the 1770’s to allow for the inclusion of the courthouse. The beautiful parklands of Rougemont and Northernhay Gardens surround the castle, which was referenced by William Shakespeare in Richard III.
Exeter’s motto remains Semper Fidelis which translates to Always Faithful or Always Loyal.
Exeter is an historic and cultural city, and has also been a focus in popular culture.
Films & TV
The Onedin Line was a TV series which ran from 1971-1980, it starred Peter Gilmore and Jessica Banton and was shot on location throughout Devon including scenes filmed in Exeter.
Inspector Morse – starring the late John Thaw and Kevin Wheatley, consisted of 7 series which ran from 1987 – 1993, which were then followed by 5 one off specials. Filmed in various locations throughout the UK, with Exeter College used to film scenes set in the fictitious Lonsdale College.
The Crowner John Mysteries – written by Bernard Knight, are a series of novels which feature the character Sir John de Wolfe, who is the King’s Crowner (Coroner) for Devon. With 14 books included in the series, Exeter features in a number of these gripping mysteries.
The Exeter Blitz – written by the award winning author David Rees, focusses on the life of the Lockwoods family during the Second World War, and the devastating effects that an air raid has on their lives.
Chris Martin – Lead singer and founding member of the band Coldplay was born in Exeter on 2 March 1977. As well as the incredible success achieved with the band, Martin is also an accomplished solo artist and has worked on numerous collaborations including Jay-Z, The Streets and Nelly Furtado.
Michael Caines – the award winning Michelin Star chef was born in Exeter in 1969, he currently holds the position of Head Chef at Gidleigh Park and the Royal Clarence in Exeter.
Mary Carpenter – Born in Exeter on 3 April 1807, Mary Carpenter was known for her work on educational reform, with a focus to provide education to children from poor families who previously had no access to learning. Carpenter authored many books during her lifetime, and travelled extensively to India, Europe and America in order to pursue education and penal reform.
Exeter Guildhall – this Grade I listed building has been in use for over 600 years, located in Exeter’s High Street, it is believe that the original site provided the location of the Guild as early as 1000AD.
Tuckers Hall – dating back to 1400’s, visitors to Tuckers Hall can explore this beautiful building free of charge, and learn more about the history of the Guild of Weavers, Tuckers and Shearmen. The amazing barrel roof and ornate carvings within the hall are a sight to behold, and following a major development a new Interpretation Centre is now accessible within this attraction.
Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (RAMM) – located in Queen Street, admission is free to the amazing Museum, which now includes new galleries and displays following extensive refurbishment and expansion. The Museum is home to a vast array of historical collections including examples of natural history, the fine arts, and antiquities. With fascinating archaeological finds to extensive collections of decorative arts and textiles, something for everyone can be found at the museum.