Medieval Bridge over Exe
Medieval Bridge over Exe


14/01/2022 Roman History of Exeter / talk by Dr John Salvatore
17/02/2022 Emancipation in Devon in 1834 / talk by Dr Todd Gray
17/03/2022 Gristing & Tucking / talk by Martin Watts
14/04/2022 Farthing Breakfasts / talk by Dr Julia Neville
12/05/2022 History of Higher Cemetery / talk by Michael Parrott
09/06/2022 History of Exeter's Hospitals / talk by Mike Richards
14/07/2022 History of Exeter's Prisons / talk by Charles Scott-Fox
11/08/2022 Exeter City Sight Seeing Tours / talk by Richard Holladay
08/09/2022 St Martins Island / talk by Dr Todd Gray
13/10/2022 Exeter Cathedral Memorials with Links to Empire / talk by Peter Wingfield-Digby
10/11/2022 More Tales from the West Quarter / talk by Dr Julia Neville
07/12/2022 Rougemont Castle: Buildings, Archaeology and Topology / talk by Dr Stuart Blaylock



on Wednesday, 7 December 2022, with Dr. Stuart Blaylock

On Wednesday, 7 December, Dr Stuart Blaylock gave a talk based on research carried out since 1985 and drawn together in a recent book by Dr Blaylock and Dr Robert Higham, published last year by the Devon Archaeological Society.

The talk discussed how knowledge of the extent and features of Exeter Castle had advanced in the light of modern archaeological fieldwork (in its widest sense, i.e. 'above' as well as 'below' ground). Some 28 separate episodes of work over more than thirty years covered an examination of the standing walls and towers, and a detailed survey of the gatehouse tower. Along with these were numerous archaeological observations ranging from formal excavations to opportunistic peering down holes in the ground. All were backed up with a study of rich pictorial and cartographic sources relating to the castle.

This work resulted in a new understanding of the topography of the castle precinct, its place in the townscape, the way the construction of the castle modified the earlier topography of the city, and the nature and development of the castle's structures. It also produced much new information on its 'prehistory', namely the area of the castle precinct in the Anglo-Saxon period.

Until 2004, the inner bailey of the castle accommodated the Crown and County Courts and therefore gave only limited access to the general public. It afforded some amusement that miscreants up before the beak had better access to the castle than the law-abiding public!

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More Tales of Exeter's West Quarter in the 1920s

by Dr Julia Neville on Thursday, 10 November 2022

Dr Julia Neville, already well known to members of Exeter Local History Society, has been continuing to research the West Quarter’s early twentieth century history.

She and her colleagues at the Devon and Exeter Institution have, over the last few months, looked at the evidence from the recently released 1921 census. This gives a snapshot of the families, the jobs they did, and the houses they lived in. In this talk, Julia drew on these records, together with information from local papers and oral history, to paint a picture of the busy life of the Quarter — and debated the question of whether it was as bad a place to live in as its detractors made out!

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on Thursday, 13 October 2022

This illustrated talk by Peter Wingfield-Digby on 13 October 2022 described some of the 63 memorials in Exeter Cathedral with links to Empire. These memorials encompass a wide range of experience: soldiers and sailors, missionaries, explorers, colonial administrators, people employed by the East India Company, and – almost inevitably – some connected with slave plantations in the Caribbean. In his talk Peter gave descriptions of many of the lives memorialised in the Cathedral.

The descriptions are divided up according to the part of the world in which the person (or some close relative) was involved; there are sections for India, the rest of Asia and the Pacific, the Caribbean, North and South America, and Africa.

Peter spent his working life as an international statistical consultant, living and working in developing countries. Since retiring, he has been a guide and steward at Exeter Cathedral for ten years and has written a book describing some 63 memorials in the Cathedral with links to Empire. Each entry in this illustrated book displays the memorial of interest and provides a fascinating description of the person’s life.

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St Martin's Island

by Dr Todd Gray on Thursday, 8 September 2022

St Martin's Island describes those buildings facing the High Street from Martin's Lane to Broadgate and those that back on to them in Cathedral Yard — including the Royal Clarence Hotel until its disastrous fire in 2016. So many of these buildings are of ancient construction and rich historical documentation still exists.

Six years on, that Cathedral Yard fire has cast a long shadow over the city centre but one of its few positive consequences has been the amount of research done into the history of the hotel and the buildings around it.

Todd Gray provided us on 8 September with a fascinating and wonderfully approachable history of these buildings which are so recognisable to so many and which have been shops, workshops or homes for many centuries. Studies of the historical documents and architectural records by Todd Gray and Sue Jackson have enabled them to bring to fascinating life details of the occupants of these properties.

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Exeter City Sightseeing Tours

by Richard Holladay on Thursday, 11 August 2022

Exeter City Sightseeing Tour's ​Inaugural Run was on May 1st 1993. It was opened in great style by the then Mayor, Yolonda Henson, and was attended by loads of Exeter personalities including many former Red Coat Guides, Harry Blundred (boss of Devon General at the time), Peter Thomas, and all sorts of people who thought they were important!

The Open Top Double Decker bus was a former Devon General vehicle. The idea of a City Sightseeing Tour was conceived about a year before and input from Peter Thomas (well known to many members and sadly missed) was essential to getting it off the ground. The service ran for five years until the demise of the Red Bus Services business.

The talk included a video of the Inaugural Run and there was also a fascinating display of literature and publicity material.

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History of Exeter's Prisons

by Charles Scott-Fox on Thursday, 14 July 2022

The establishments used to house offenders are part of the history of imprisonment in this country, as are the means that society chose to deal with men and women who committed, or were alleged to have committed, offences of all categories dating from the Normans to the Elizabethans of this twenty-first century.

Today the role of the Victorian building (above) on New North Road, known as Her Majesty’s Prison Exeter and built in 1853, is to serve the Courts of the south-west counties as a Remand Centre and Local Prison for short-term offences.

This extensive building, which dominates the view from Exeter’s Rougemont Castle and gardens across the valley and Queen Street railway station, is the sole remaining prison from the six that previously fulfilled the role of holding felons, debtors and petty criminals in Exeter.

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History of Exeter's Hospitals

with Mike Richards on Thursday, 9 June 2022

This talk detailed the history of many hospitals and similar establishments in and around Exeter from Roman times to the 21st century. It doesn't deal with ALL local establishments for that would be impossible in the time allowed, nor does it deal with Asylums and Psychiatric care....that is a work still in progress.

Mike was a Chief Inspector with the Devon and Cornwall Police who developed an interest in local history in his retirement. He is a Redcoat Guide and a Cathedral Guide, helps to train aspiring guides in both organisations and is also a member of the Civic Society and the Exeter Forum. He is married with three children and lives in Exeter. Mike enjoys meeting people, learning new things, walking and playing golf (very badly!).

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History of the Friends of Higher Cemetery

with Michael Parrott on Thursday, 12 May 2022

Michael Parrott is well known to Society members all for his work promoting the achievements of the Polish 307 Squadron during the Second World War with exhibitions and support for relatives. He also gave us a magnificent talk about the Gregory family who lived by the Exe River and who saved over 500 people from drowning during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

On 12 May he turned his attention to the beautiful Higher Cemetery and the superb work that the Friends have done to maintain its excellent standards.

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Farthing Breakfasts and Penny Dinners:

Images and Realities of Poverty in 1920s Exeter
Talk by Dr Julia Neville on Thursday, 14 April 2022

Dr Julia Neville is already well known to many members of the Exeter Local History Society. Many will remember her Exeter's War Hospitals Exhibition held at St Stephens Church in 2017 as well as her promotion in 2019 of her research project on Devon in the 1920s.

As part of that project she has been working with a research group on the history of Exeter’s West Quarter in the 1920s and has uncovered the stories that lie behind a group of paintings by Charles Tucker who lived in the West Quarter. The paintings are now in the ownership of RAMM.

In this talk, using his paintings and other pictures from the 1920s, Julia explores what it was like to grow up in Exeter in extreme poverty, as Charles Tucker did.

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Gristing and Tucking

Talk by Martin Watts on Thursday, 17 March 2022

Exe Island, situated between the river and the city wall, was historically the industrial area of Exeter, using water taken from the river Exe to power waterwheels and machinery. In medieval times this power was used primarily for grist – grinding grain to produce flour for bread and malt for brewing – and for tucking or fulling, that is, for finishing woollen cloth. Later other industries such as pumping water, grinding dyewoods for use in the cloth industry, turning and sawing timber, paper making and metal working were also carried on there.

This talk will look at the history and development of the leat system and the principal mill sites. Although the higher leat still carries water, only Cricklepit Mill - which was established some 800 years ago - now survives as an important representative of Exeter's water-powered past.

After restoring a derelict watermill in south Devon to working order and setting up a stoneground flour business, Martin Watts worked for over 30 years as a freelance millwright, repairing and conserving a wide variety of water- and wind-powered machinery, including the restoration of Cricklepit Mill. Now retired, he is still actively researching various aspects of Devon's water-power heritage.

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Devon & Emancipation in 1834

by Dr. Todd Gray on Thursday, 17 February 2022

On 1 August 1834 enslaved people across the British Empire were emancipated. The lack of published research on Devon’s role in slave ownership has given rise to many assumptions but in this lecture Dr Gray focussed squarely on what the evidence can tell us about the past. This subject is the most divisive in Devon but the emancipation period has left behind documents which uniquely reveal ownership at one point in time.

Dr Gray is a historian who, for nearly forty years, has specialised in the study of Devon through primary sources and has edited twelve volumes of Devon documents. His most recent book is "Devon’s Last Slave-Owners" which is available through

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Exeter's Roman History

with Dr John Salvatore on Thursday, 13 January 2022

In 1972 John Salvatore worked as a novice excavator on the excavation of the Roman military bath-house beneath the Cathedral Green. He was subsequently involved in the excavations throughout the city which proved that Exeter had been the fortress base of Legion II Augusta – one of the four legions which invaded Britain in AD 43. Inspired by the discoveries John went on to study Roman military archaeology at Birmingham University emerging with a Doctorate in 1996. Returning to Exeter in 2000, he has seen further discoveries which have demonstrated that Exeter and the riverside strip between the fortress and Topsham accommodated the largest complex of sites of the Neronian and early Flavian period in Britain. One of these, the as yet unpublished site of St Loye’s on Topsham Road, appears to be that of a small civilian town which was occupied at the same as the fortress.

John last talked to us in 2004. Since then, excavations at Princesshay, the Bus Station and numerous sites along Topsham Road have added to the story. We had a fascinating evening as John brought us up to date with the latest discoveries relating to Roman military Exeter and he will be adding the relatively new story of how an archaeological discovery of 1990 may explain why the Boudican revolt of AD 60/61 had significant repercussions at Exeter.

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