A Little Local History
Because of its strategic location, Exeter was besieged by the Danes in the 9th and 11th centuries, by William the Conqueror in 1068, by Yorkists in the 15th century and by religious factions in the middle of the 16th century. There are ruins of the Roman walls, and of Rougemont Castle (11th century), built by William the Conqueor. Exeter was severely damaged by bombing in the Second World War, and the greater part of the city has since been rebuilt. There are, however, many fine examples of English archetecture in and around the city centre, including the Cathedral, and the Guildhall, in High Street. Exeter, on the River Exe, is the administrative centre of the county of Devon. It is a market, transportation and distribution centre. There is light manufacturing, with metal and leather goods, paper, and farm implements as the chief products. In my view, Exeter is a pleasant city for shopping, and better than Plymouth.
Upscale Pub Grub & A Decent Pint of Beer
The Well House, part of the next-door Royal Clarence Hotel, is first and foremost a proper old-fashioned Alehouse with a range of 6, mostly local, beers on draught plus all the usual bits that a pub should have.
It doesn't do food in the evenings but the lunchtime fare is well worth sampling. The menu is relatively short but nevertheless is pretty comprehensive covering all the usual pub culprits such as fish and chips, pye (sic) of the day, sausage and mash, ploughmans & etc but as befits food from a Michael Caines kitchen everything is done with an added touch of panache.
Perhaps not the cheapest place in town to eat but definitely one of the best for a good simple pub lunch and of course overlooking the Cathedral Green is a bit of a plus too! Even tho' I do normally like a bit of variety when eating out I have found myself always ordering the smoked duck salad - it's just so delish: slices of flavoursomely smoked duck breast, perfectly pink with an interesting salad and a zingy hazelnut dressing makes for an excellent light lunch (HA and leaves plenty of room for the ensuing beers!).
City Wall Bridge
Until our last visit to Exeter, I hadnt noticed this lovely little footbridge before, (I must have had my VT head on during this visit ) (~_~). The iron footbridge was built in 1814, spanning over a small cobbled road called New Cut Ally linking the city walls, approaching the rear of the cathedral. Its very quaint, I have yet to discover if its still in use, the edges looked a little overgrown, so I imagine not.
Aka Isca Dumnoniorum
Although there have always been people lgving round here, it was the Romans who first really created Exter. The open farmland by the river Exe, with good lookout points on the hills around, was ideal as the winter headquarters of the Roman legions (the Second Augustan) whilst they made south-west England subservient to the empire.
A fort was constructed first, with encircling ditch and ramparts. Inside was the usual grid of streets to house the 6000 troops. As often the way in england, a small settlement quickly grew up outside the fort proper (the 'vicus') where local traders/inns/ladies could supply the soldiers' needs (and take their money!).
Exeter became the Roman capital for the region; Isca (Celtic name for the Exe) Dumnoniorum ('of the Dumnonii', the local tribes). Stone buildings and town walls were built (some of the Roman wall is still visible), with a forum and a few mosaic-floored houses. Most of the excavation in exter has been within the walled town, but there was no doubt a great deal of occupation around the city too.
As with many Roman towns in England, the gradual collapse of the Empire led to apparent decay of both the towns themselves and, eventually, urban life. By the end of the 4th century there was farming within the walled city and it seems to have been more or less abandoned during the 5th.
In the 7th century a monastery was established in the centre of the walled area (it lies under the grassy area to the right as you look towards the cathedral entrance). Bishop Leofric moved to this site in 1050, and it became a cathedral. The Norman-built cathedral dates from 1114, the old minster becoming a parish church.
Exeter cathedral is light and airy, with many interesting features (see travelogue) We were lucky; there are regular (free) guided tours throughout the spring/summer and on the day we visited we were the only customers, so got a personal guide for an hour!
The Saxons re-built Exeter, using a different street pattern to the Romans, and by 1000 it was a prosperous city which included a mint. The town walls continued to be maintained over the centuries; the patchwork of different building styles and materials can be seen in those walls still standing (more than 70%, although the town gates are long gone).
Exeter has a university, and seems to be a vibrant little city. Its history is still visible in many places although much of the high street is, sadly, the same as most other places in the England. There are free guided walking tours available every day; an excellent way to discover more. Sadly, we didn't have time to join one.