Exeter Roads and Streets (1943)
|Author(s):||Joce. T. J.||Origin:||DA Transactions|
|Topic(s):||roads and Roman roads||Year published:||1943|
By T. J. Joce (1860–1942). Published in Transactions, vol. 75, 1943.
Three important pre-Roman settlements, Dorchester, Exeter and Launceston, lie almost in a line. A through route joined them, as direct as the nature of the ground and the surface-contour permitted. From Dorchester westward on high ground runs the great Ackling Dyke towards Bridport, unmistakably the ancient southern road to the far West. Whether seen by the traveller or shown on the map by the excellent hachures of the 1809 Ordnance Survey, its importance cannot be challenged. After passing Bridport, Chideock, along the side of Stonebarrow Hill, Charmouth and Colway, where it is called Clappentail Lane, it crosses the deep valley of a small stream three-quarters of a mile in from Lyme Regis. Thence an unquestioned portion lies on high ground descending to pass the Axe at its lowest fording-place near Colyford, where it crosses also the Coly. The next downland stretch is named Harepath (war-way) and farther West Elverway. Blackbury Castle, an earthwork, lies a short distance north from which a rampart of earth extends. The descent to the Sid was by Paccombe and Knowle, a more direct and less steep course than that by Trow Hill.
After Sidford the road is named High Street, and at Stowford begins a steep rise, crossing the Sidmouth branch of the Southern Railway. Thence as Greenway Lane, although now almost impassable, it is an example of a state of road common in past centuries. Our way now lies in a pass between Bulverton and Bowd Hill, the one gap in the long rampart of high ground which extends from the northeast angle of the Blackdowns on the borders of Somerset to the sea at Peak Hill, a distance of twenty miles, and gives us certainty of thus being in the course of the early way. The point where the Otter was forded is a little below the bridge and is exactly indicated by the parish boundary which crosses also at that point. The way up is not through the village of Newton Poppleford (pebble ford) but by a footpath at the back of the houses and a lane, on the south side of the village. We rise gradually to 500 feet at Hockland (hock = high), the Half-Way House, thence through Bishop’s Clyst (Clyst St. Mary), crossing the Clyst at Sandy Gate (gate = way) where the friable sandy rock on either side of the marshlands draws to its narrowest, and the wet ground is easiest to pass. The bridge here has been widened but on the underside the excellent masonry and ribs of the early structure may still be seen. The road here is a parish boundary which leads direct into Quarry Lane, straight for Exeter, although but rough, narrow, and little used. Immense quantities of the coarse red breccia have been dug out for local building, and cart tracks have altered the appearance of the hillside. The old course is at first not clear, passing as it does through private ground, belonging to St. Loye’s House. First, an iron gate in a wall, thence a path in a meadow to a footbridge, thence through doors to Salter’s Road, on the other side of which are double field gates closing the road into Broom Park, thence directly across that field, where is a wide gateway in a wall into the grounds of Knole. Although the Wonford stream is crossed in private grounds, yet the ancient right of way is preserved by a public path, a footbridge a few yards downstream, and again a path, hard by the ruined way-chapel dedicated to St. Loye, the patron saint of farriers. The cross, formerly standing near it, has been removed for safety to a position in the grounds of St. Loye’s House.
The line of ancient route, even where not used, is still indicated by three stretches of boundaries to property, defining the track to a point at the end of Church Street, Heavitree, where it merges into the present Wonford Road carried by a modern viaduct across the valley of the Scytebrook, considerably filled in within modern times. Soon the road is named Magdalen (Maudelyn) Street and is of a good width. It continues its direct course down a somewhat steep descent towards the land bordering the river. The truncated angle of street at the Valiant Soldier Inn gives evidence of continuation and is a feature of the site. The houses 87–91 are built on the old way, leaving only a mere passage, Quay Lane. This exiguous alley is the modern representative of a short stretch of a great through-route to the West. On an eighteenth century map owned by the City of Exeter a boundary of property on the south-east side is shown parallel with the Quay Lane, and both shows and confirms its former width. So also does the old wall of the Friars’ Garden. The properties within the original bounds of Quay Lane are all shallow and modern erections. Below the Lane there was ample space for traffic where now are mill-leats and buildings. The point of the river-crossing, in earlier days, the Horsewater, is shown by what appears to be a plank or clapper bridge. Cowick Street is in line with the river-crossing and not with the early Exe Bridge.
By the church this street is of a considerable width and in parallel alignment, a condition which must date from very far back for it is shown as now on eighteenth century maps and there has been no widening; until recent years St. Thomas was a retired country village.
The route we are traversing crosses the Alphin stream at Rolls Bridge and takes the rising stretch of Long Down, thence to Hackway Down, onwards to the Harepath and so to Launceston. (T.D.A., 1918, 411.) Thus the ancient route is shown entire, passing the hill settlement, but not entering it.
To arrive at any understanding of the disposition of the roads, streets and defences of Exeter some knowledge of the contour of land is the first requisite, and then of the immediate surroundings. The hill settlement occupied but a small portion of a large tract of land, having excellent natural defences, land for tillage, and springs of water, the whole forming what may be justly termed the Greater Ex-cester.
To the south and west the Exe and Culm formed a water defence which could be crossed at few points. To the east lay the valley of the Clyst, a slow stream with scarcely a ford, but with flat, far-stretching morass-lands. Morass-land was ever found a real defence. The undrained condition is shown in the names Polton Moor, Middle Moor, Lower Moor, Broadclyst Moor. The whole extent of this formerly water-logged land may be seen from Stoke Hill by observing the low-lying mists on a still morning following, as a lake, exactly the outlines of the wet ground.
The tract of land thus bounded by water had for its land communications one narrow strip only, to the northward, and a crossing-place of the Culm.
The site of the hill-settlement of Exeter was a position with stream valleys on the north-west and south-east sides, that on the former being steep. Higher still was the commanding height of Stoke Hill, taking name from the earthwork at the summit, of which but a small portion remains, just sufficient to show its former importance. From this earthen rampart a connecting way led right round the hill-crest to the acclivity ending at Pinhoe. From Stoke Post to Vicarage Hill the sharp fall of the ground to the north-east backed by the ring road makes it a very defensible position for the northern narrow land-communication. The one way out to the northward was further guarded by Dolbury, a rocky fortress, close to the passage of the river Culm, now Ellerhayes Bridge.
From the great through-route at its point of crossing the Exe the natural way was up the slope of Stepcote Lane to the level, where the defensive stockade would certainly be set. A straight line ran along Smythen Street through the market, which does not break the street way, through a passage where the right of way persists, along Little Stile and the side of Peter’s Churchyard to Catherine Street, through the arch of St. John’s School to the City Wall, through the arch in it, now closed, but still to be seen behind the arcade and, keeping the direct line still, along the level of Sidwell Street, there was a ridgeway between the stream valleys on either side. This street, the way out to the north and northeast, passes up Stoke Hill to Stoke Post and thence along the strip between the Exe and the Culm to cross the latter by Atherleigh Mill. On the farther side the way divided, one track led over Copy Down and other high ground to the Severn Sea, the other turnings eastward to the dry grounds by Taunton. No other road led north from Exeter for many centuries, and even in the early part of the nineteenth century it was still the Bristol road.
The Roman invasion of Britain had resulted in the conquest of the southern part of the island by the reign of Claudius, A.D. 43, and as for many years previously there had been much trading intercourse with Gaul it is not surprising that there is no record of warfare during the occupation nor are there evidences of military activity in the south-west. The evidences of Roman settlement are somewhat slight in Exeter. Two or more mosaic floors, only moderately ornate, many coins, fragments of pottery, masonry, concrete and part of a water-gully, tiles and slating are sufficient to indicate occupation of the region by officers for collection of tribute and the like. No road-bed has yet been uncovered which can be claimed as of the Roman period.
The elder Davidson testifies that he saw workmen breaking up a Roman road-bed on Moorcox Hill between Axminster and Honiton in the course of road-making operations. This fact indicates that the Roman surveyors drove a road which avoided descent into four river valleys by branching at Charmouth from the ancient route already traversed, taking a north-westerly course, passing Hogchester, to the summit-level near Hunter’s Inn, thence along Kilmington Hill towards Honiton, probably not touching Axminster. Of the Honiton–Exeter road there are two stretches which may certainly claim to be aligned Roman work – the 6m. to 8m. and the 13m. to 15m. The portions of full width, the many evident enclosings here and there alongside, cottages and gardens squatted on the margins, old lanes running into the main road, all are indications of its greatness. This road makes a slight divergence to the south-west to a point where the Clyst marshlands can be most easily passed at Clyst Honiton. Immediately afterwards the former line of direction is resumed, heading for the end of Sidwell Street, the point for reaching the East Gate of Exeter. This road, now almost deserted, is known as Gipsy Lane. It is seen to have been a wide, straight road. The parish boundary which it carries is at one point within the hedge of the adjoining field, and this boundary was of course in the centre of the wide road. Long strips have been filched from it, and gardens and cottages squatted thereon. Careful search and probing has failed to find any trace of road-bed, but as the way is on sand the going was always dry, and the absence of a road-bed made the loss of the line near Exeter all the more possible. This approach to the city from the east joined that from the north-east and entered the old East Gate.
The Roman road-book, the Antonine Itinerary, shows that from Durnovaria (Dorchester) to Moridunum (or Muridunum) is 36 millia Passuum and thence to Isca Damnoniorum (or Dumnoniorum) is 15 M.P. These two measurements of Roman miles are fairly accurate as regards the distance between Exeter and Dorchester, and the much-debated Moridunum should lie at about Waringstone near to the Honiton road or Sidford on the earlier track, where the mansio may have been nor far from Mans-ton, though from the date of the Itinerary it is more likely to be by the Honiton road.
The claim of Seaton can scarcely be taken seriously since the distances by no means agree. It is far from the earlier pre-Roman road, and could not have been a changing-place. Moreover the road described as Roman from Axminster to the sea is wholly on the other side of the Axe from Seaton, and the discovery of a Roman dwelling-house a mile inland from the town is insufficient evidence for Moridunum.
Roman system would provide Isca with a wall. From the old East Gate the present line by the Crollditch (curl) along to the southern angle of the former garden of the archdeacon of Exeter can be no other than the Roman line. At that point in the City Wall the boundary of the church land changes in direction, passing Palace Gate on a boundary of two ancient parishes to Bear Gate.
This boundary of church interests which were important in Exeter in Saxon times is evidence that the line was an already existing one. It runs in the same direction as a piece of sturdy walling which is embedded in houses near the top of Bull Hill. This, if shown to be Roman, would fix the site of the Roman West Gate at the west side of the street, nearly opposite Little Stile. On the north-west of the town the steep-sided valley would preclude any other position for the first wall than that which it occupies to-day and it turned southward not far from the North Gate of later years.
Another approach may here be mentioned. From the ancient British trackway which crossed Haldon and the Exe estuary on its way eastward (T.D.A., XLIII, 262) a road, known still to horsemen as Port Street (port = market), branched near Gulliford, in a northerly direction. In four places it is a parish boundary. Passing along the ridge above Kenn church it joined a southern way to the city from an important ford on the estuary of the Teign, entering Exeter by way of Pole House Lane, joining Cowick Street at the Double-headed Cross (T.D.A., LIX, 271).
By name there appears no record of the Saxon meeting-place which undoubtedly existed. The open space by the south door of St. Petrock’s church (an early foundation, with right of way through it) and the ground on which but a few generations ago the Globe Hotel was built, form a space, which, with some approach to certainty, was the town-mote, being within the wall, also by the side of the old main street and always open to the sky.
With the Norman invasion Exeter became for the third time a conquered town. A castle dominating the Saxon town arose at the north-west angle on a rocky natural mound. A strong wall was thrown round castle and town and included a larger area than the Roman circuit. From the castle the wall extended south-west above the deep ravine of the Longbrook to the western escarpment of a cliff where the wall turns southward along its brow and the ground falls to the level of the present West Gate. Thence onward on a low cliff again turning eastward and rising with the ancient way alongside (now Quay Lane). Thence it continued on the Roman line bounding the church lands and curving gently round East Gate.
The East Gate which had served for centuries was presumably closed, but its place was maintained. A new East Gate, nearer to the castle, was built, narrow of entry and later supplied with drawbridge and fosse. Thus was begun a change which was to affect the whole arrangement of the city. A street commenced to grow within the new gate-house, not greatly wider than the entry, without sight alignment but by accommodation. Gradually it lengthened itself, in moderately straight order until the wall was reached at the opposite side of the town, clear evidence that it grew as was convenient and not by town-planning. The Norman crypt of St. Stephen’s church and its position is evidence of the growth of the new street at this period. Having thus grown until dead up to the wall, a steep little lane (West Street) just within it, permitted access at right angles down to the West Gate and so led outside the city.
Seven or eight bastions remain in the circuit and from similarity indicate one period. Le Barbicane, now Snail Tower, at the south-west has a house built upon it, with the walk on the wall near.
It is evident that as the Norman street grew backwards, so to speak, from the East Gate it would in time cut across the line of the Roman Wall and the clear-way immediately within, which latter would remain what it had been – a narrow street of the settlement. Now, no point for this is possible save the spot between North Street and South Street, and the clear-way would be in the two narrow streets. This would also agree with the portion of old wall already mentioned, and the rubbish pit with Roman fragments lately opened would be outside the city wall.
If we regard then the site of the Roman West Gate as nearly opposite Little Stile the descent would be by Smythen Street, a name descriptive of a street beyond the wall where was a forge, the street also known as Old Fore Street.
The earliest information respecting the bridging of the river that has come down to us is of a decrepit wooden structure at the end of the twelfth century, of which portions were frequently carried away by floods. Afterwards in the middle of the thirteenth century the famous Exe Bridge spanned the river, to be associated with the name of Mayor Gervase and with the city’s history onward for five hundred years. It was narrow, and consisted of thirteen arches in picturesque irregularity; a chapel and later several wooden houses stood on it. The whole may be said to have formed a street from near West Gate, past St. Edmund’s church into St. Thomas parish. Happily not all of the venerable bridge was cleared away, for some land arches remain, now in private ownership, in perfect condition and showing fine square-section ribs.
The ground level of the city has great contrasts. Deep pits have been formed by quarrying out stone or loam for earthen walls, and later filled in with town rubbish, to a depth of perhaps 15ft., while not far away the made ground in High Street is but 4 or 4½ft. deep. The floor of the ancient church of St. Pancras is down two steps and on the north side the ground has risen almost to the windows. An old house floor in St. Stephen’s passage is down two steps. The Norman foundation of St. Martin is almost at ground level. The twelfth century house in Smythen Street is down two steps. The filling of North Street buried a window several feet below the paving. St. Nicholas’ Priory undercroft is down one step. The cathedral floor is down a continuous incline from Broadgate, and from the cathedral the ground falls southward. In the Deanery garden Roman tesserae were found 6ft. below the surface. The Guildhall floor is at street level. So also is the nave of St. Mary Arches. The Roman pavement in the Police Office was about 5ft. down. In the grounds of St. John’s School the earth is almost to the rim of the bastion, a very considerable height above the basements of Southernhay, and those basements are many feet above the bottom of the Crolditch. St. Catherine’s is at street level. The valley of the Scytebrook has been greatly changed by filling at the upper end, but the Longbrook flows in a culvert from 40 to 50ft. below ground level.
In contrast to the natural hollows of the site a considerable tor or rocky hill is shown in the South Quarter on Roque’s map, giving name to Rock Lane. In the course of years the rock has been quarried away and the lane is now Combe Street.
Exeter to the middle of the eighteenth century remained a close-confined mediaeval city of narrow streets and alleys of timber-built, jutting, over-hanging houses, excessively irregular, with low-browed pents to shops for protection from rain; an unlighted, ill-paved, insanitary region, the recognized abode of epidemics, known then as visitations. Some noble mansions there were, we know, often town houses of great personages, but most of the dwellings were crowded together in incommodious passages where various handicrafts were exercised.
Within the Precinct wall the affairs of the ecclesiastics went on, but not always in harmony with the laity. Peter’s Churchyard was the city burying-place from early times, and so continued until at length the earth had become heaped to a level with the sills of the cathedral windows, a testimony to the countless interments, a menace to the health of the citizens.
The East and South Norman gateways had twin semicircular towers and a drawbridge, the last-named being a veritable fortress used as the city prison. The entry itself was a long, dark tunnel. Its position was determined by the road to the tidal port where Beer stone came by ship for the great church then in building and along it lumbering vehicles conveyed heavy loads, giving the name Carteren Street. When worn to a great depth it received its present name, Holloway. The expression used of it in the records throws a light on its condition: “The City Council ordered it to be filled up”. There are to this day houses standing down in the hollow several feet below the neighbouring ground.
The South Gate, demolished in 1819, also served the great road to Honiton and Dorchester and beyond.
North Gate is shown on the site by a representation in marble. It was little more than a barrier, as the excessive steepness of approach up from the deep hollow called the Pit was a sufficient deterrent to an enemy. This was pulled down in 1769.
There was little masonry at West Gate, and some indication of it still remains. One cannot suppose that a gate so opposed to the ideas of warfare satisfied the citizens or their over-lords. It is probable that an early leat with drawbridge gave needed safety. West Gate was removed in 1815 and East Gate in 1784.
There was no public market place, a strange lack for so important a town. If the open space already referred to on the south side of St. Petrock’s church as the possible town-mote had been included within the Precinct by the influence of the clergy in Norman times, the market ground of the Saxons may have been lost. The cramped conditions for citizens and market folk were notorious for centuries. Weavers of serge spread their piece-goods in South Street. Pigs lay in one part of High Street. Calves stood in another. Poultry and dairy produce occupied their allotted portion of roadway and with jealous watchfulness after a precise number of weeks the marketing was transferred to the other side of the way, a matter of perhaps three yards. Bad weather made the market-day sheer misery until 1838.
The passing of horsemen or a line of pack-horses so disturbed the concourse of buyers and sellers that the City Council was entreated to chain off sections of street against horse traffic in order that business might be carried on without hurt or damage, but horsemen, pack-horses and the jostling throngs went on as before.
Communication between the ancient settlement of Crediton, where was the bishopstool, and Exeter to which it was transferred, was by way of Fordtown and Whitestone into Okehampton Street. After the first Cowley (Covlegh) Bridge was built, and the Creedy valley followed, Exeter was approached by St. David’s Hill to the North Gate. This could scarcely have been an improvement for the way descended into the Pit, a headlong progress, hindered by irregular buildings and much mire; then followed the merciless ascent from the brook up to High Street. So disturbed were the citizens at the grievous condition of things that a fervent appeal was made to King Henry VIII about a house which was building, and would cause still more trouble, by reason of the “broyles between the servants of persons of quality passing there”. The King’s reply is not known.
Outside South Gate foul pools, euphemistically described as “2 Pitts of water”, awaited the steps of belated citizens, and after a time the City Fathers ordered them to be filled up.
Town streets were “ordered to be pavyd” we read in records. This usually means cobblestone pitching. One street in Exeter preserves the gutter in its original and orthodox position, that is, down the middle, and though, like other streets it is clean and tidy, yet it is a survival, and a worthy one.
During the years of the Crusades there had been much traffic through Exeter to Dartmouth, and the continued deterioration of the tracks that were called roads had ended in the virtual isolation of the city. In parochial records the ways were not only muddy but deep (lutosa et profunda). Ten miles in the day was considered good for a horse. The Elizabethan period also brought much Dartmouth and Plymouth traffic through Exeter, many inn-names being reminiscent of those days.
In 1625 Charles I journeyed to Plymouth, and apparently avoided Exeter for fear of infection, crossing the Exe about Topsham. An important official was the Surveyor of the Ways, whose duty it was to go on a few days before the royal cavalcade with labourers and tools to make sure there was some prospect of his Majesty getting through, help being commandeered if necessary to remove obstacles and fill up hollows.
In 1643 a guide, presumably from Taunton, received 5/- for accompanying Col. Ruthen to Exeter. More than a hundred years later, in the House of Commons in a debate on the execrable state of the roads, a Somerset Member undertook to prove that it would be no more expense to render them navigable than fit for carriages. The great West Road out of London was, beyond Basingstoke, a mere cart track.
In the eighteenth century coaches made their appearance from distant towns, for the Turnpike Acts empowered the making of new roads and improving those already existing. The roads from London to Exeter eventually became renowned for their fine condition.
But the mediaeval city by the Exe was unprepared as yet for the change and in 1773–6 the Council was compelled by the conditions of traffic to obtain parliamentary authority to commence such alterations as should affect the whole frame, scheme and appearance of the city.
The old bridge was cleared away and a new one begun a little higher up stream. Much dissatisfaction arose over this new structure and indignation meetings resulted in its being removed amid general execration. The next was a bridge of fine appearance, having three arches, but it had also a grave fault which its sturdy old predecessor had not, a sharp and needless rise in the middle. New Bridge Street was its continuation, and thence a rising viaduct passed over Exe Island and the leat up to the cliff on which was the city wall. A portion of this and the church of All Hallows on the Wall and some houses were taken down, and thus a long main street was formed with outlet to the west, down to the river and across to St. Thomas. Considerable cutting-away of earth and rock had to be done in order to ease the gradient, sufficiently severe at the present day. Unfortunately the period of street improvement was also that of setting up hurriedly and cheaply houses of paltry and pretentious construction. Here and there some worthy old houses still remain and apparently are being treated with due respect.
At the eastern end, the gatehouse having been removed, the straight level ridge of Sidwell Street was cleared of erections which had been squatted on the road itself, leaving but a narrow space for traffic. These being gone the proper width of the street was recognized. The newness of the houses and the true alignment give cause to suppose it a great new street laid out by the City Council. This is an error, for in Roque’s Map of 1744 the clear, wide street is shown, much as Roman cities had in their approach. No Saxon laid the line. It was earlier.
The approach from the northward, incredibly difficult by modern standards, was improved in 1834 by a viaduct — the Iron Bridge, useful no doubt, but not markedly handsome. The change of level at one house at least, an inn, was adjusted by making a way from the Iron Bridge through one of the upper story windows.
The road traffic grew until it was claimed that sixty coaches came to Exeter daily. For the way to North Devon a better connection than the Iron Bridge was required. In 1836 a new street, straight, level and wide was formed across the site of the Swan Inn, joining High Street opposite St. Martin’s Passage, crossing the Longbrook Valley by an arch, making connection with the roads to Tiverton, Crediton and Barnstaple and also round to the New London Inn, where, so it was claimed, the stables provided accommodation for 300 horses. This road, appropriately named after the young Queen, brought vehicles conveniently into the centre of the city.
From the higher ground by Duryard the city was reached by Longbrook Street. The old Longbrook Bridge can still be seen by those willing to descend a shaft of about 45ft. in depth.
Traffic for Okehampton and Cornwall had the difficult and rugged way by Whitestone and Heath Cross. The increasing importance of Falmouth as a naval and packet station during the wars with France demanded road alterations and a new one was made over Bow Hill which went up the Alphin Valley, joining the old way at Tedburn St. Mary. This, though better, is still a hard road to travel.
The Plymouth road until past Alphington was not greatly changed. But at the western end of St. Thomas or Cowick Street old buildings and awkward corners underwent such changes as to be recorded for all time in the jubilant name, Improvement Place.
Happily for Exeter, not all the new buildings were of lath and plaster, for there arose those dignified Georgian residences which have proved themselves a right and proper asset to a cathedral city.
Outside the wall to the south-cast lay an expanse of useful ground given over to horse fairs, shows and wanderers generally, This was bordered by offensive ditch of surprising depth, the general receptacle of refuse. The ditch was filled, the ground cleared and fine houses arose in Southernhay (correctly Southenhay), their windows looking on to a refreshing town garden. Dixsfield is similar. Colleton Crescent is a fine group of the same period and Turner used it with much effect In his drawing of Exeter.
Crack mail coaches like the Exeter Telegraph and Quicksilver kept marvellous times, running within the variation of a few minutes, the way to London by Honiton, Yeovil and Salisbury being the upper road and that by Axminster and Dorchester the lower. But only the Trust roads had any surface worth the name, and even in the immediate vicinity of Exeter the occupants of a carriage were bruised and battered on the ordinary thoroughfares, so much so that ladies arriving at a country house on a visit were usually carried to bed by the servants until they recovered. A coach and six has come to be regarded as indicating by its grandeur the high estate of the person using the equipage, but it was by no means for display but rather to make sure of completing the journey in safety. In the middle of the eighteenth century a coach and six was regularly entered on the Tables of Hire. For twenty miles and back the charge was £3 3s. od., but on no ordinary road in Devon could such an exploit be accomplished, for pack-horse traffic being so general, no road-surface fit for vehicles could exist. Even sleds on runners were used in the city where practicable.
Of all the inns whose history is bound up with travel and trade the departed Mermaid arouses the deepest regret, the house of Tudor days and personalities, down to recent times, a noble old building, the rendezvous of many carriers, whence Iliffe the owner sent out his fly-wagon, and packhorses arrived and departed throughout each day. From its windows the waterway to Topsham was in view and the country lying spread to Haldon. The destruction and wrecking of its goodly timbers was a grievous loss to Exeter. Upon this site, an honoured, historical portion of the city’s ground, arose – model dwellings.
Paris (Paree) Street it is suggested is named from a garden (Paradis). It came into existence as a divergence on Heavitree hill towards East Gate, the older road leading on to South Gate. In the height of the coaching traffic a new road was cut across Sweetlands by which, under the name of London Road, vehicles came in over the hill, and up Paris Street to pull up at the Bude Haven, the New London or the Half-Moon.
Temporary or secondary names became attached to streets, such as Billeter Street, where those lived who lodged and fed soldiers, pressed men or recruits, while waiting for the company to be made up, a process sometimes lasting for weeks; and Cookrow at the top of Bull Hill where even now market ordinaries are provided. Mint or Minter St. (Lane) refers to Nicholas’ Priory (Minster); Rack Street (Lane) to frames for dressing serges; Rock Street, now Combe Street, is the hollow below South Street. Le Small Lane is evidently noteworthy among many narrow thoroughfares and is probably Parliament Street; perhaps a whimsical name. Fysshefolde, not far from Goldsmith Street, appears to be a corner or closed alley where fish was sold. Yellond may be merely Yeo-land water-land. Wethypytt would certainly be the same. Tythestrete is now Tighe Place, and Ratenlane is Bampfylde Street.
In recent years another gap was widened in High Street. The narrow alley to Bedford Circus of Georgian houses, the garden of which is the Black Friars’ garden, was made into a street and continued through the Wall and Southernhay across the Barnfield in the direction of Heavitree.
Exeter people have always been in the habit of using the roadway of their High Street as their evening parading ground, especially on Saturdays, and motorists make half-amused comments on finding a stream of pedestrians in the road, all cheerful and orderly. Those whose memory goes back to a distant childhood recall the old practice, a roadway filled with townsfolk of a compact community, proud of their city.
[This paper preserves the views of one who had made a long and accurate study of Devon roads. It was written before building changed the neighbourhood of St. Loyes, and before Exeter suffered so much from hostile action.]