Medieval Bridge over Exe
Medieval Bridge over Exe


11/02/2021 Post War Housing / talk by Clare Maudling
11/03/2021 St Pancras in the Middle Ages / talk by John Allan
08/04/2021 Exeter's Woollen Industry / talk by Dr Todd Gray
10/06/2021 Exeter's Tudor & Regency Buildings / talk by Robert Hesketh
22/07/2021 Exe Bridge / talk by John Allan
12/08/2021 George III / talk by Professor Black
09/09/2021 Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" / talk by John Fisher
21/09/2021 Canal boat trip to the Double Locks / walk
14/10/2021 Walk around St Pancras / walk
18/11/2021 Eland Books / talk by Richard Holladay
14/12/2021 Christmas in Devon / talk by Dr Todd Gray

Christmas in Devon

by Todd Gray on Thursday, 14 December 2021

The celebration of Christmas has altered in Devon as it has elsewhere but there have been particularly Devonian features of the holiday. Mummers, the Ashen Faggot and A'Thomasing were once particular features of the holiday in Devon. Outdoor festive lights have become a feature of modern Christmas as have seasonal cards and indoor trees but these too were innovations. In the midst of the Commonwealth, when Christmas was cancelled, it was claimed that it was in Devon that the old traditions continued. In this illustrated lecture Dr Gray looked at how Christmas has evolved since the early 1500s.

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Eland Books

by Richard Holladay on Thursday, 18 November 2021

Many society members will remember the wonderful Elands, the book store located in Cathedral Close until its demise in 2016. It had existed for 107 years, dating from 1909 when HENRY SEPTIMUS ELAND bought an existing bookselling business and renamed it “Henry S Eland”.

He extended and rebuilt the premises with an internal gallery and an exhibition art gallery, to exhibit original paintings, at the rear. He also introduced a lending library and continued to be a principal agent for religious books. He was known to “maintain cordial relationships with Roman Catholics, the Cathedral and others"!

Richard Holladay, the great grandson of Henry Septimus, told us all sorts of tales about Elands on 17 November. It was a fascinating evening.

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on Thursday, 14 October 2021

On 14 October John Allan, well known local archaeologist, took us on a walk around St Pancras Parish. He described who lived where in the Middle Ages and what they did for a living. This event was a walk through the past as John described to us the history of these buildings that so many of us hurry past without realising how fascinating they are. Certainly, we will look in future at the whole St Pancras area with new eyes.

Exeter has an exceptional collection of documents, such as sale contracts, from which John has been able to draw up ownership maps through time.

Canal boat trip to the Double Locks

on Tuesday, 21 September 2021

On a fine sunny day many of us met up at the Coffee Cellar for a quick chinwag before, at 11am, stepping onto the boat which was to transport us to the Double Locks for lunch. We numbered twenty two in all and were accompanied by three dogs whose behaviour was impeccable! At the Double Locks we had a splendid lunch (food pre-ordered so no delays there!) which was served to us in their marquee. It also provided us with a great opportunity to make contact with so many who we hadn't seen since lockdown had so limited our social lives. We wandered around the river's edge (where it was almost too hot for comfort) and admired the river locks before boarding our craft for our return journey.

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with John Fisher
Originally scheduled for Thursday, 15 October 2020, but postponed, due to Covid, until Thursday, 9 September 2021

John Fisher, writer, author, script and sketch-writer, cartoonist, public speaker. National Trust Volunteer and would-be ukelele virtuoso, re-visited Christmas hereabouts in Exeter and in particular Charles Dickens’s immortal “A Christmas Carol”.

Winter or summer, at home or abroad, Dickens always wore a button-hole of holly when he gave a public reading of A Christmas Carol. He first picked his holly sprig during an after supper stroll through Rougemont Gardens on a warm August evening in Exeter in 1858.

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King George III, An Underrated King

by Professor Jeremy Black on Thursday, 12 August 2021

Professor Jeremy Black says of George III (who visited Exeter in 1789): “Madness is hilarious when it occurs two centuries ago. The character of King George III — bewigged and bonkers — provides comic relief for many.” Poor George has not figured highly in British minds. His reign from 1760 to 1820 was marred by that American debacle, trouble in Ireland, war with France, the Gordon Riots, discord in parliament and an embarrassing descent into lunacy.

Professor Black has been teaching a wide range of courses at Exeter University since 1996. He says he greatly enjoyed the teaching and developed a lecturing style of speaking without notes offering contrasting interpretations which he sought to drum home in lectures, seminars and tutorials. Extensive past debating experience at school and university, always extempore, helped greatly.

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Exe Bridge

by John Allan on Thursday, 22 July 2021

At this event, the wonderful John Allan talked to us via Zoom about the Exe Bridge, the most substantial survivor of the great bridges built in England in the 12th and early 13th centuries. These were novel and daring feats of engineering built over wide spans of fast-flowing water; nothing like them had been seen in Britain since Roman times, and even then stone bridges were rare.

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Exeter's Tudor and Regency Building

by Robert Hesketh on Thursday, 10 June 2021

On Thursday, 10 June 2021 at 7pm, Robert Hesketh related Exeter and Topsham’s rich heritage of Tudor and Regency buildings to some of the main events that happened in Exeter during these two periods. The talk was illustrated with over 130 high resolution images of both public and residential buildings, the fruit of many hours exploration.

Robert Hesketh is a writer and photographer who lives in Devon. To date, he has published over sixty West Country books illustrated with his own photographs including walks books, guidebooks, local histories and special interest titles. Country Walking, Trail, Countryman, Dartmoor Magazine, and Cornwall Life are among the magazines to which he contributes.

Woollen cloth-making:

Exeter’s most important export for many centuries
by Dr. Todd Gray on Thursday, 8 April 2021

For hundreds of years cloth making was Exeter’s principal industry and the recent discovery of an Exeter manuscript containing 2,475 swatches of Exeter cloth made in the 1760s has been hailed by Prof. Catherine Rider, Associate Professor in Medieval History, as `the discovery of a generation’.

In his talk Todd discussed the work of twelve specialists who have examined various aspects of cloth making in Exeter. The Exeter Cloth Dispatch Book 1763-5 is currently available at a launch price of £25 through

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St Pancras in the Middle Ages

by John Allan on Thursday, 11 March 2021

John Allan described who lived where in St Pancras Parish in the Middle Ages and what they did for a living - and other things they got up to ! Due to Covid restrictions, this talk was via Zoom.

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Rehousing Exeter after the War:

Factory Made Houses and Model Estates
Talk by Clare Maudling on Thursday, 11 February 2021

“EXETER WAS A JEWEL AND WE HAVE DESTROYED IT” boasted German radio in May 1942. The extensive damage to the city centre caused by those air raids obscured another problem created by war damage: housing. The raids destroyed around 1,500 houses and seriously damaged another 2000; by some estimates there was barely a house in the city which emerged unscathed.

Added to the plight of the bombed out was the pre-war problem of poor housing which, alongside a growing number of newly-married couples and young families in want of a home of their own, created a post-war Council housing list of 5000.

Clare Maudling, who described to us in 2014 how Exeter’s centre was revamped, took us through a tale of innovative temporary ‘pre-fabs’ and new, award-winning, housing estates. The estates at Stoke Hill, Whipton Barton and Countess Wear were built according to the new concept of ‘neighbourhood planning’ i.e. based on the concept of the ‘garden suburb’ to create new communities complete with their own shops, schools, churches, pubs and leisure buildings. They were designed with thought and care, with the Stoke Hill Estate receiving national recognition for its design.

Clare described the thinking that went into the building of these estates and the problems the council encountered in its efforts to ensure that the people of Exeter had homes they could be proud of.

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