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Described by Sidney Heath

Pictured by E. W. Haslehust



Beautiful England

_Volumes Ready_


_Uniform with this Series_

Beautiful Ireland




Exeter from the Canal _Frontispiece_

The Quay 8

Guildhall Porch 14

Mol's Coffee House 20

Rougemont Castle 26

St. Mary Steps 32

The Cathedral from the Palace Grounds 38

The Sanctuary, Exeter Cathedral 42

Old Courtyard in the Close 46

The Abbot's Lodge 50

The Exe at Topsham 54

Countess Weir 58

Plan of Exeter Cathedral 4

[Illustration: Plan of Exeter Cathedral

A. Lady Chapel.
B. Choir.
C. Screen.
D. North Transept.
E. South Transept.
F. Chapter House.
G. Nave.
H. North Porch.
I. Bishop's Throne.]

[Illustration: EXETER]


Just as the five cities of Colchester, Lincoln, York, Gloucester, and
St. Albans, stand on the sites and in some fragmentary measure bear the
names of five Roman municipalities, so Isca Dumnoniorum, now Exeter,
appears to have been a cantonal capital developed out of one of the
great market centres of the Celtic tribes, and as such it was the most
westerly of the larger Romano-British towns. The legendary history of
the place, both temporal and ecclesiastical, goes far back to the days
when, for a late posterity, it is difficult to separate fact from fable.
It is, however, quite established that here was the capital of the
Dumnonii, the British tribe whose dominions included both Devonshire and
Cornwall, and who named their capital _Caer-uisc_, the city of the

With the coming of the Saxons, the river, the Roman Isca, became the
Exa, and the city was called Exanceaster, modified in due course to

In point of position, on a mound rising from the river, it was a
splendid site for a fortress in the days of hand-to-hand warfare, and
the military value of the site lends support to the statement of some
writers that the Romans utilized the British fortifications and built a
castle. In few places of its size can one see so clearly the extent of
the old walled town, while the disposition and formation of its outer
ring of houses, on the lower slopes of the mound, show very clearly the
limits of the mural circumvallation before the city burst asunder its
tight-fitting belt of stone, within which, for the safety of its
populace, it had been imprisoned for centuries.

Climb the higher parts for a bird's-eye view of the city, and the scene
is entrancing. We look down upon the calm-flowing Exe threading its way
through the valley till it debouches at Exmouth; on the riverside
beneath us is the quay, with coasting schooners and barges moored
alongside, and sundry bales of merchandise heaped upon the wharf, as
though the people were playing at commerce to remind the world at large
that Exeter was once an important port, although some ten miles from the
river's mouth.

But the Exe, in a quiet way, has much to boast of in the nature of
beauty and romance, particularly where it flows past the wooded grounds
of Powderham Castle, the Devonshire seat of the great Courtenay family.
Truly there is much to redeem modern Exeter and make it interesting over
and above its historical atmosphere. Yet with comparatively few vestiges
of age the city has an historical past. In both a religious and a
military sense she has played a part in the annals of England, and more
than one ancient document in the Library of the Dean and Chapter bears
testimony to her honour, her valour, and her glory.

It is a city which has the impress of many ages and many minds stamped
upon it. Here each influence - military from the Roman legions,
ecclesiastical from the Saxon prelates, feudal from the Norman
lords - has sunk deeply into the land, and has affected the general plan
of the numerous buildings, as it has moulded the slowly succeeding
phases of the civic and the religious life. It is no mere dream of the
early ages, no sentimental reverie of mediævalism. It is enough to go
through the streets, noting the remnants of the ancient walls, the
brutal strength of the surviving fragment of the castle, the sheltered
position of the tidal basin, the many churches dedicated to the honour
of Saxon saints, the proud beauty and massiveness of the Cathedral, if
one would realize, not the fancies of the artist and the poet, but the
hard facts of history that made the ancient days so great, and which
have caused our own days to be so full of their memories.

As compared with the sister counties of Cornwall and Dorset, Devonshire
is not particularly well represented in memorials of the Roman
occupation, although an immense number of Roman coins have been
unearthed at various times. Coins, however, unless found with definite
structural remains, indicate presence rather than a settled occupation,
for large quantities of the Roman coinage must have continued in
circulation long after the last of the legions of imperial Rome had
departed from British shores. The few Roman antiquities of Exeter that
have been found are important in a comparative sense, although they
contrast poorly in structural character with those of our other
Romano-British towns. It has been held that not only were the
foundations of the city walls Roman, but part of the existing remains of
Rougemont Castle have also been assigned to this period.

Mr. L. Davidson was of opinion that the old church tower of St. Mary
Major (now removed) exhibited traces of Roman work, and foundations
presumed to be Roman were noted by him as having been found at the
corner of Castle Street and High Street, in St. Mary Arches Street,
Bedford Circus, Market Street, South Street, and Mint Lane.

[Illustration: THE QUAY]

In 1836 more definite structural remains were found in High Street,
consisting of a family sepulchral vault, 7 feet square, arched over, and
containing five coarse cinerary urns arranged in niches around its
interior. This was discovered behind the "Three Tuns" inn, and during
the same year at a great depth below the site of the County Bank, a
low-arched chamber was found in which were a quantity of bones of men
and animals.

No Exonian find, however, exceeds in interest the discovery, in 1833, of
a bath and tesselated pavement behind the Deanery walls in South Street.
The walls were of Heavitree stone and brick, and the original pavement
was of black-and-white tesseræ set in concrete. The associated remains
of a thirteenth-century encaustic-tile pavement indicates the use of the
old Roman bath a thousand years or so after it had been made. Several
other tesselated pavements are recorded as having been found in Pancras
Lane, on the site of Bedford Circus, and on the north side of the
Cathedral near the Speke Chapel. In 1836 a small bronze figure of Julius
Cæsar (now in the British Museum) about three inches in height, was dug
up during the removal of some walls in the Westgate quarter of the city.
The only recorded find of a military weapon is the bronze hilt of a
dagger unearthed in South Street in 1833. This is of more than passing
interest, as it bears the name of its owner - E. MEFITI. [=E]O.
FRI[=S]. - which has been read thus: "Servii or Marcii Mefiti Tribuni
Equitum Frisiorum" - Servius or Mercius Mefitus, tribune of the Frisians.

The antiquary Leland mentions two Roman inscriptions as built into the
city wall near Southernhay, but they are gone, and besides the inscribed
dagger we have only a seal of Severius Pompeyus, and sundry graffiti or
funereal pottery, in the way of literary relics of Roman Exeter. The
poverty of Devonshire in memorials of the Roman period is shown by the
fact that, outside Exeter, there are not a dozen places in the county
which have yielded Roman vestigia other than coins.

In 926 the Britons were driven from Exeter by Athelstan, who banished
them into Cornwall, and fixed the River Tamar as their boundary.
Athelstan was one of the greatest benefactors the city has had; for, in
addition to increasing the fortifications by means of a massive wall
flanked by towers, he built a castle on the Red Mount, now known as
Rougemont Castle. Although very little of this now remains, a portion of
the ruins is generally known as "Athelstan's Tower", and has a window
with a triangular head, which is certainly of Saxon style and date. In
932 Athelstan rebuilt the Monastery of Our Lady and St. Peter, staffing
it with monks of the Benedictine Order, and presenting them with the
reputed relics of St. Sidwell, a saint who is still somewhat of a puzzle
to ecclesiologists. A few years later the monastery was plundered by the
Danes, when the monks beat a hasty retreat, but returned in 968 on the
entreaty of King Edgar. A mint was shortly established here, wherein the
first coins were struck naming Athelstan "King of England".

The Danes made continuous raids in the neighbourhood, but were
decisively defeated by the West Countrymen in 1001, at Pinhoe, a few
miles from Exeter. From that time until the treacherous massacre of the
Danes in Wessex upon St. Brice's Day in 1002 by Ethelred, this part of
the country was comparatively free from their inroads; but Gunhilda, the
sister of Swegen, King of Denmark, being among the slain, this king came
to avenge her death. He sailed up the Exe, burning and plundering the
villages on its banks, and for four years his army marched in every
direction across Wessex, and was at length induced to withdraw on being
paid a _wergeld_ (war tax) which was first levied on Exeter.

After the Battle of Hastings, Gytha, the mother of Harold, took refuge
in Exeter, and Leofric, the bishop, offered to render homage to William
as Royal suzerain; but the Conqueror would have no half-hearted
submission, so Exeter closed its gates to the Normans. It held out for
eighteen days, when the military science of the Normans, and
particularly the skill they showed in undermining the walls, caused it
to surrender. The resistance won the besiegers' respect and brought
unusually good terms from so ruthless a victor as William. The lives of
the garrison were spared, Gytha was allowed to seek safety by sea, and
it has been said that the victorious troops were withdrawn from the city
gates to prevent them from claiming the licentious privileges so
generally granted to their followers by the Norman kings.

As is fitting for its county town, the first entry in the Devonshire
Domesday deals with Exeter, in which city, it is recorded, the king had
285 houses rendering customary dues. The generally debased character of
the coinage of the time led to various expedients being adopted by the
Exchequer for securing approximately accurate payment of a specified sum
of money. Among other things the entries in Domesday state that in the
total -

"This (city of Exeter) renders 18 pounds per annum. Of these
Baldwin the Sheriff has six pounds by weight and assay, and Colvin
has of them 12 pounds by tale for the service of Queen Eadgyth".

This entry is significant, for one pound or twenty shillings meant one
pound or twelve ounces troy of silver; and when money was payable by
weight twenty shillings were not taken as the equivalent of one pound
unless they fully weighed one pound. In this instance it is observable
that the portion of the customary dues rendered for the 285 houses,
which went to the Exchequer, was collected by the sheriff under the
strictest rules of weight and assay, whereas the portion allotted to the
widow of Edward the Confessor was received by the tale only. The
authorities took care that the sheriff collected the full amount due to
the Crown, but did not trouble themselves about the ex-queen's share.

It has been affirmed that it was by the Normans that the fairs of
England were moulded into the shape with which we are most familiar. At
Exeter, in 1276, in reply to a writ of _quo warranto_, it was
satisfactorily shown that the rights of the city, its fee-farm rent and
its farms, dated from pre-Conquest days. The privileges and emoluments
attached to fairs in large towns were very great. During the time
allotted to them the citizens were often debarred from selling anything,
whereas strangers could vend their wares during the fair, but at no
other period of the year. In Cossin's _Reminiscences of Exeter_ (1877)
we are told how "at Exeter, on the occasion of the Lammas Fair, a
procession yet perambulates the city, one man bearing a pole with a
gigantic stuffed glove at the top of it, the latter being subsequently
hung out at the Guildhall".

Many of England's reigning sovereigns have visited the city, among them
being Edward IV and Richard III. Henry VII came thither on 7 October,
1497, on the suppression of Perkin Warbeck's rebellion, when that rebel
had attempted to capture the city. The rebels were brought before the
king, bareheaded and with halters round their necks, and after they had
pleaded for mercy Henry pardoned them. On his departure, the king
presented the civic authorities with a sword and cap of maintenance,
both of which are still carried before the Mayor and Corporation on
occasions of state.

The citizens of Exeter have always been noted for their stanch loyalty
to the reigning house, with the consequence that many rights and
privileges have been granted to it. The city motto, _Semper Fidelis_,
was conferred by Queen Elizabeth in recognition of the contributions,
both of men and money, made to the fleet that vanquished the Spanish
Armada. That the motto was merited is evident when we recall the fact
that, with the exception of Frobisher and Cavendish, practically the
whole of the leading seamen who chased the Spanish ships along the
Channel were born in the land of the Tamar, the Tavy, and the Dart.

[Illustration: GUILDHALL PORCH]

During the early part of the Civil War the citizens were divided in
their sympathies, some supporting the Parliament and others the King;
but the city soon fell into the hands of the former. In 1643, however,
Sir Ralph Hopton, the famous Royalist general, marched on Exeter with a
force made all the more formidable for siege purposes by the cannon he
had previously captured at Halton. The immediate capture of the city by
the Royalist forces was expected, the _Mercurius Aulius_ of 1 June,
1643, remarking that: "if the old observation be of any credit, that
cats and mice doe commonly forsake a ruinous and decaying house, that
Citie (Exeter) is not like to continue long in the Rebels' hands". The
proud and rebellious city was assaulted and captured by the Royalist
forces under Prince Maurice on 4 September, 1643, after a siege lasting
sixteen days, and a full account of its fall appeared in the issue of
the _Mercurius Aulius_ of 8 September.

In May, 1644, Queen Henrietta Maria took up her abode in the city, at
Bedford House, where, on 16 June of the same year, the Princess
Henrietta was born. In the following month Charles I came to see his
little daughter, and again in September, when he appointed Thomas
Fuller, Vicar of Broadwindsor, in Dorset, as chaplain to the princess.
The queen, who had retired to Exeter as a safe place for her
confinement, soon afterwards had to leave there suddenly on the approach
of a Parliamentary army in command of the Earl of Essex. Her Majesty's
easiest way to France was by sea, and to prevent this Cromwell had sent
a fleet to Torbay to intercept her, should she attempt to leave England
by that route. Finding this road closed, she made for Falmouth, from
which port she got safely away.

During the siege by Fairfax the inhabitants of the city suffered
considerably, owing to the food supplies being intercepted. One day a
flight of larks came into the town, "which were", says Fuller, "as
welcome as quails in the wilderness". The birds were so numerous that,
notwithstanding the prevailing famine, they were sold for twopence a
dozen. "Of this miraculous event", wrote Fuller, "I was not only an eye
but a mouth witness."

The city capitulated on 13 April, 1646, among the conditions of
surrender being that the Cathedral should be spared, and the garrison
accorded the honours of war.

After the landing of William of Orange at Brixham, in 1688, he marched
through the county to Exeter and entered the city by its western gate.
He proceeded direct to the Cathedral and took his seat in the bishop's
throne with his chaplain Burnet near him. A few of the prebendaries and
choristers attended the service, but when Burnet began to read the
Prince's Declaration, after the singing of the Te Deum, they hurriedly
departed. The bishop, Thomas Lamplugh, had proceeded to James on hearing
that the Dutch had landed, and was rewarded with the Archbishopric of
York. He afterwards assisted at William III's coronation. The Dean of
Exeter had also left the city, and the Deanery was prepared for the
Prince's reception. George III was the last English sovereign to stay in
Exeter, and he also resided at the Deanery.

Although the Cathedral is the main attraction modern Exeter has to offer
to the tourist, a walk through the historic old city will reveal the
fact that, in addition to some highly interesting old churches, it
possesses a not inconsiderable number of ancient buildings. At the same
time there has been an appalling amount of destruction, some of it
apparently of an unnecessary kind, as the recent dismantling of the
beautiful old courtyard in the rear of Bampfylde House, the city
residence of the Poltimore family.

The visitor who arrives at Exeter either by the Great Western or the
South-Western Railway, the station of the latter being the more central
of the two, can soon reach the busy and picturesque High Street by way
of Queen Street, one of the broadest thoroughfares in the city. The most
interesting building in High Street, and one that, in this respect,
ranks next to the Cathedral, is the Guildhall, with a portico projecting
over the pavement. It is probably one of the oldest municipal buildings
in the country, for in 1330 we find that the Guildhall was in a ruinous
condition, and it was then rebuilt. Again, in 1464, it was built up anew
in a more commodious and efficient manner, while the building as we see
it to-day, with its façade, is the result of still further alterations
in 1592. The entrance porch is separated from the inner hall by a
massive oak doorway, and the hall itself, 60 feet long and 25 feet wide,
is panelled throughout in oak, with a frieze consisting of shields
charged with the arms of former mayors, aldermen, recorders, and of the
city companies. Curious brackets, of figures bearing staves, support the
roof. The judge's chair is of carved oak, and bears the name and date of
the donor: "Christopher Ball, Esq., 1697". On the walls hang six large
portraits, among them those of George III and General Monk, the latter
by Sir Peter Lely, and over this picture hang the colours of the 4th
Devons, a regiment raised in the city by the general in 1681.

Another portrait here by Lely is of the Princess Henrietta, concerning
which the old records state that: "In 1671 the King (Charles II), in
order to keep his promise made the last year when he visited this city
in person, and as a signal testimony of his love towards the same, was
pleased to send hither the effigy or portraiture, at length and richly
framed of his dear sister, the Duchess of Orleans (lately deceased), a
princess born within this city, and for beauty was esteemed to be one of
the fairest in Christendom; which said picture being placed in a fair
case of timber, richly adorned with gold, is erected in the open
guildhall of the said city, there to remain as a perpetual monument of
his majesty's high favour towards this his truly ancient, loyal, and
honourable city of Exeter".

The upper room is known as the "Mayor's Parlour", where are many more
portraits, and the city sword and cap of maintenance. The scabbard of
the sword, which is the one presented by Edward IV, is still draped in
crape, as it used to be for the processions on "King Charles Martyr's"
Day (30 Jan.). The cap of maintenance presented to the city, together
with his sword, by Henry VII, was sent up to London to be repaired, the
cost for "sarcanet, damask, and pin lace" amounting to four guineas. The
original cap still remains within its covering, and it appears to
consist of two pieces of black felt sewn together. During the fifteenth
century the Chapel of St. George and St. John was built over the
Guildhall, with an apartment above for the priest who served it, the
chapel being probably connected with a religious guild.

The junction of North and South Streets with Fore and High Streets was
formerly known as the Carfoix, or Carfax (_quatre voyes_, i.e. four
ways), where at one time many executions took place. Here also stood the
ancient conduit which supplied the city with water, but this was removed
to South Street in 1779. At the corner, looking down Fore Street, was a
fine fourteenth-century life-size figure of St. Peter, holding a model
of a church in his right hand and a book in his left, his feet trampling
on a demon. This has been removed from its original position and placed
high up in a niche over a shop close by. On the opposite side of High
Street is St. Petrock's Church, at one time almost hidden from sight by
the adjacent buildings. It is a curious little church, of which portions
have been assigned to the Saxon period. The parish of St. Petrock is in
the centre of the city, and was one of the oldest and most important,
being one of the nineteen churches to which William I ordered the
provost to pay a silver penny yearly. The church was enlarged on the
south side during the fifteenth century, and in the following century
the Jesus aisle was added, when Thomas Chard, acting as Bishop Oldham's
suffragan, reconsecrated the church. The chancel is now towards the east
in what was once an aisle, the original chancel being where the north
aisle is now, with the consequence that the interior of the church has a
very curious appearance.

[Illustration: MOL'S COFFEE HOUSE]

Farther up High Street, on the same side, are some picturesque houses
with Elizabethan gables, the interiors of many of them adorned with fine
specimens of oak carving in situ. The building now occupied by Messrs.
Green as a drapery establishment was at one time the "New Inn", and it
is mentioned in this capacity so early as 1456 in a lease relating to
the building, in which it is referred to as "le Newe Inne". In 1554 the
cloth mart was established here, and early in the seventeenth century
the New Inn Hall was used as the exchange where the cloth merchants met
to transact their business. The house was rebuilt towards the close of
the century, and the Apollo Room was added as a banqueting hall for the
judges on circuit. This is now used as a showroom, but it still retains
its elaborate plaster ceiling bearing the date 1695, and the original
oak panelling. The frieze consists of a series of wreaths upholding
shields charged with the armorial bearings of many county families,
together with the royal arms and those of the city.

Farther up the street is the church of St. Stephen, mentioned in
Domesday. The original church was destroyed by the Commonwealth in 1658,
and rebuilt in 1664. Stephen's Bow, the adjacent archway, was always a

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