Exeter Local History Society



Report by Sue Jackson


Den Perrin was our guide for this walk which commenced outside the Livery Dole Almshouses in Magdalen Road. Den related the story of Thomas Benet who had been burnt at the stake for heresy in 1531 [this land at Livery Dole having been used a hundred years before for the same purpose in 1431]. It had been hoped to see the inside of St. Clare's Chapel next door but the keyholder had been unable to make it. Points of interest noted were the Edward VII letterbox in the wall outside the entrance to the Almshouses and the Gordon Lamp.


From there we crossed the road and Den gave us the history of the Gordon Lamp erected in memory of General Gordon. Money for this was raised by the vicar of Heavitree, Prebendary Barnes, a friend of General Gordon. Prebendary Barnes' daughters, Dame Irene Vanbrugh and Violet who were both born at the vicarage became celebrated actresses. We then progressed along the narrow lane leading from Church Terrace to Heavitree Church, St. Michael and All Angels which had been largely rebuilt in 1846 with the new tower added in 1890. An ancient yew tree stands outside the main door. There was speculation as to the origins of the name of Heavitree which Den said was recorded as Hevetrova in the Domesday Book of 1086. Popular belief is that it probably stems from a personal name "Hefa's-tree". Another piece of history concerned Richard Ford who built Heavitree House in 1834 on a site opposite the Church with an extensive garden. The house had become derelict and then demolished. Richard Ford was famous for having written his Hand-book for Travellers in Spain and other travel books.


Before leaving the churchyard, the gravestone of Robert Theodore Garland was pointed out who died 14 April 1860 aged 85. The grave also commemorated his widow Elizabeth who died 20 October aged 98, and his son, also Robert Theodore, who died 8 April 1889 aged 74, and the son's wife Charlotte who died 7 February 1917 aged 97. Census research has revealed some interesting information about the father and son bearing the same name, the elder Robert listed as a bookseller and the younger a portrait painter (one of whom Den said was an artist who drew pictures of the Cathedral) and also of a third generation, all of whom lived in Heavitree [to be the subject of a piece for a forthcoming Newsletter]. As we left the churchyard, the site of Heavitree House was pointed out on the corner of Church Street and the street sign of Kingsway.


We walked down Sivell Place and Den pointed out a house which was used as Heavitree UDC's mortuary and the building next door which was used as the cooperage for Heavitree Brewery. We emerged to look at the Heavitree Arch in Gordon's Place and crossed Fore Street to see the poem set into stones in a circular pattern around a tree - both of these intended to enhance this area of Heavitree and be of interest to visitors heading for the city centre.
Walking down Fore Street we turned into Whipton Lane opposite Ducke's Almshouses into Heavitree Pleasure Ground where our walk ended at the oak tree to read the plaque which was "Planted in Commemoration of the Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary on 22nd June 1911 by J.R.Nethercott esq. J.P., Chairman of the Heavitree Urban District Council". Colin Laskey gave a vote of thanks to Den, and we went our separate ways.


[Further details may be found as follows:
Exeter's Almshouses by Jane Passmore, 2010, pp.78-82 Livery Dole Almshouses, and pp.35-38 Ducke's Almshouses.
Discovering Exeter 3/Heavitree by Trevor Falla, 1983.
Article on Heavitree House in ELHS Newsletter May 2012.
Heavitree of Yesteryear by Chips Barber, 1997.
Exeter's Executed on David Cornforth's 'Exeter Memories' website, www.exetermemories.co.uk]


All talks are now on the second Thursday of alternate months (February, April, June, August, October & December).                                          All meetings start at 7 pm and are held at JURYS INN, Western Way, Exeter EX1 2DB.                                                                  Free parking is available from 6pm in the Triangle Car Park at the rear of Jurys.                                                                                Walks/visits are usually on the second Wednesday of alternate months (January, March, May, July, September November). 

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