Medieval Bridge over Exe
Medieval Bridge over Exe


12/01/2023 Life in Exeter Since 1757 / talk by Brian Thornton
09/02/2023 Squilometre Project / talk by JoJo Sprinks
09/03/2023 Devon’s Railway Heritage / talk by Robert Hesketh
13/04/2023 Men of the Royal Navy / talk by Charlotte Coles
11/05/2023 Devon General: Preserving the Legacy of the Devon General Bus Company / talk by Paul Jenkins
08/06/2023 Grievous Bodley harm? The strange affair of Exeter's medieval manuscripts / talk by Ian Maxted
13/07/2023 How to look at Exeter's Colourful Heraldry / talk by David Oates
13/07/2023 Lost Buildings of Exeter, the 1800s, and visit to St Katherine's Priory / visit with Dr Todd Grey
17/08/2023 "The Gatekeepers to Heaven" / visit
14/09/2023 Recent Excavations and Building Studies in Exeter Cathedral Cloisters / talk by John Allan
09/11/2023 General Sir Redvers Buller VC – In his Own Time and Our Time / talk by Dr. Robert Guyver
13/12/2023 Fire in Exeter / talk by Dr. Todd Gray

Fire in Exeter

with Dr. Todd Gray on Wednesday, 13 December 2023
at 7pm at The Mint Methodist Church Centre, Exeter

In this illustrated lecture, Dr. Todd Gray looked at the incidence of fire and the subsequent loss of buildings in Exeter in comparison with other urban areas in Devon. Arson and the accidental outbreak of fire changed particular streets in the city, and these losses continue to leave their mark four generations later.

Dr. Todd Gray is a well-known historian of Exeter and Devon, has published numerous volumes on the history of the county, and has frequently spoken to the Society.

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General Sir Redvers Buller VC (1839-1908)

In his Own Time and Our Time
with Dr. Robert Guyver on Thursday, 9 November 2023 at 7pm at The Mint, Exeter

Some kind of joining up the dots is needed to appraise (a) the military and to some extent the associated diplomatic-political career of Buller (if his time in Ireland is regarded as not entirely military) in the context of his own time, with (b) current post-colonial concerns about the effects of the actions of the British on the lives of indigenous people (and others, like the South African Afrikaners or ‘Boers’) in different parts of the British Empire (especially in Africa), and in those other places that are named (but including some like Ireland that are not named) on his statue. The new information board which has been placed opposite the statue at the top of Hele Road reflects these concerns.

Buller was clearly not a stranger to controversy even in his own lifetime, having been accused of military inefficiency in the opening stages of the Second Boer War, and then of indiscretion in talking after his return to England about a telegram which might have been interpreted as an invitation to surrender the besieged town of Ladysmith. Nevertheless, his physical bravery and disregard for his own safety, and his concern for the welfare of those serving under his command, inspired great respect and indeed love across Devon. As a strategist and military organiser, his reforms had a lasting effect.

Sir Redvers was involved in several colourful campaigns, some of which involved immense physical endurance, and many of which had travel by river as the central challenge (e.g., the Red River in Canada; the Nile in Sudan; the Tugela in Natal). Aspects of his life reveal rivalries and jealousies between military factions (the Africa group under Wolseley against the India group under Roberts). Despite the difficulties faced in his long-distance experiences well away from home, and some of those faced in London after he returned, he remained at heart a country squire and could see his military responsibilities and his relationships with others through this lens.

Dr. Robert Guyver showed us the General Sir Redvers Buller of his time and talked about the controversies over his legacy in the present-day discourse.

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Exeter’s Lost Buildings, Destruction from 1800 to 1899

lecture by Dr. Todd Gray on Thursday, 26 October 2023
at 2pm at the Guildhall

In this two-part lecture, Dr Todd Gray changes the way we think about Exeter's history by opening up the topic of the loss of the city's historic buildings in the 1800s. He began by introducing the hitherto-unappreciated collection of images that chronicle destruction in the city centre. In the second part Gray outlined the main reasons for loss which have not been previously understood.

Recent Excavations and Building Studies in Exeter Cathedral Cloisters

with John Allan on Thursday, 14 September 2023

Since the 1990s the cathedral cloisters have been the subject of much detailed archaeological work: excavation, studies of the standing buildings, and documentary study. This talk by John Allan described and explained the findings.

The earliest remains date from the Roman legionary fortress (c. AD 50-75), followed by portions of Roman town houses. The excavations have also revealed post-Roman graves and have been studying the post-Roman soils. Above them, evidence for a previously unknown medieval cloister has been found, as well as new evidence for the form of the later medieval cloisters. Finally, the standing buildings include 17th-century, Georgian and Victorian buildings, both domestic and ecclesiastical.

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The Gatekeepers to Heaven

A members' visit to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum for a guided tour of the special exhibition of the medieval manuscripts

by Assistant Curator Tom Cadbury on Thursday, 17 August 2023 at 2.30pm

The ancient city of Exeter has one of the most impressive cathedrals in medieval England, and its bishops were at the heart of the religious, cultural and political life of the city and country. For most ordinary people, these guardians of the church and its sacred texts were truly the “Gatekeepers to Heaven”. Among Exeter’s most powerful bishops were Leofric (1050-1072) and John Grandisson (1327-1369). Both amassed magnificent collections of manuscripts, making the cathedral library a renowned centre of European learning.

On 17 August 2023, a group of Society members visitedthe Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) and, under the guidance of Tom Cadbury, toured the Gatekeepers to Heaven exhibition.

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Workshop: Lost Buildings of Exeter, the 1800s

with Dr. Todd Gray on Thursday, 13 July 2023
at 10am at St Katherine's Priory

This workshop took place at St Katherine's Priory and was led by Dr. Todd Gray. We discussed Todd's ongoing project — and his upcoming book — on Exeter's buildings lost in the 1800s.

Dr. Todd Gray is a well-known historian of Exeter and Devon, has published numerous volumes on the history of the county, and has frequently spoken to the Society.

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How to look at Exeter's Colourful Heraldry

with David Oates on Thursday, 13 July 2023
at 7pm at Leonardo Hotel Exeter [Jurys Inn Exeter Hotel]

Heraldic designs and coats of arms are a common sight in our streets, churches, and many other places. From pub signs to elaborate shields on tombs in cathedrals, they tell us much about the individuals, places, and organisations that they represent.

Using a wide variety of examples from Exeter and its neighbourhood, we learnt what to look out for to interpret this rich symbology and determine its relationship to our local history. Heraldry has a fascinating language of its own to describe the devices. We will look briefly at that and what determines the right to bear arms.

David Oates has been interested in heraldry since his schooldays. Latterly he helped produce the Devon section of the “Hatchments in England” series. He speaks regularly on heraldic topics, recently including to the Heraldry Society and the Cambridge University Heraldry and Genealogy Society. He is a member of both..

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Grievous Bodley harm?

The strange affair of Exeter's medieval manuscripts

with Ian Maxted on Thursday, 8 June 2023
at 7pm at Leonardo Hotel Exeter [Jurys Inn Exeter Hotel]

Who is Sir Thomas Bodley? What are his links to Exeter and the Exeter Cathedral Library? What are some of the remarkable libraries (and manuscripts) in Exeter’s history, how were they established, built, and re-built over centuries? These are some of the questions that were addressed in Ian Maxted’s talk. He discussed the figure of Sir Thomas Bodley in the history of the Exeter Cathedral Library, showed images of some of the manuscripts involved, talked about the rebuilding of the library in the north cloisters in 1412, and ended with the long view on the rise, fall, and resurrection of Exeter's libraries over the centuries.

Ian Maxted has been a vagabond through the world of the book in Devon and beyond for half a century. He was Devon's local studies librarian from 1977 to 2005 and the compiler of the Devon bibliography.

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Devon General

History of Bus Transport in Devon

with Paul Jenkins on Thursday, 11 May 2023

The Devon General Omnibus and Touring Company started its operations in 1919 with two lines connecting Exeter and Torquay. Over time, its area of operation expanded to include most of south and east Devon, and many people will remember Devon General, either as local residents travelling by bus to school, to work or out shopping, or as visitors touring the South West.

Paul Jenkin’s talk outlined the history of the Devon General bus company up to its absorption into Western National in 1971, and the efforts of bus enthusiasts at the Devon General Omnibus Trust to keep memories of the company alive. The trust advances the education of the public in the history of public road transport, and especially regarding the history of the Devon General Omnibus & Touring Company and its successors.

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Men of the Royal Navy

with Charlotte Coles (AC Archaeology) on Thursday, 13 April 2023

In 2018, AC Archaeology excavated within a Royal Navy cemetery in Plymouth. The remains of the sailors have helped us build up a detailed picture of the medical and social developments of the day and what everyday life was like in the Royal Navy in the 18th and 19th centuries. In this talk we discovered who the sailors were, where they came from and the diseases like scurvy they suffered from as well as the more dramatic battle injuries. We also learnt about how they were treated after death including post mortems and the items they were buried with.

Charlotte Coles has been working in commercial archaeology for ten years. She has a master’s degree in Osteoarchaeology and she carries out animal and human bone analysis as well as archiving and other finds reporting.

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Devon’s Railway Heritage

with Robert Hesketh on Thursday, 9 March 2023

Railways came to Devon in the 1840s and profoundly altered it. On the 9th of March, Robert Hesketh gave a talk exploring the rich and varied heritage of railways in Devon. We heard about Devon's two mainlines and four branch lines, as well as our excellent preserved railways, two cliff railways and the cycleways/walkways established on former track. The talk included over 130 images.

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with JoJo Spinks on Thursday, 9 February 2023

A Squilometre defines (roughly) a square kilometre where residents can nominate any street or feature in their area for a creative project. Everyone then gets a chance to vote for the nominations and the topic with the most votes is the one that moves forward first. The Squilometre enables the people in that area to commission their own creative activity, to be fully involved in it and to make the decisions about how it should be.

On Thursday, 9 February 2023, JoJo Spinks talked about the fascinating hidden histories that this approach had uncovered - including the Heavitree Quarry Trails, the lost Great House of Wonford and slavery compensation in Mont-le-Grand.

JoJo Spinks is the founder of Interwoven Productions CIC, a not-for-profit company that works alongside local residents helping them explore and celebrate the heritage of their place – one street at a time. This work started in early 2015 in Heavitree and has expanded since to see a further four neighbourhood projects in Exeter and one in Exmouth, each facilitating a range of community-connecting activities for residents using local history as a bond.

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Seen through the lives of some extraordinary Freemasons

on Thursday, 12 January 2023

Exeter hosts one of the oldest Freemasons lodges in England and they have minute books dating from 1757 which contain some very interesting evidence of life in Exeter over the centuries. The minutes also confirm the membership of some very famous and infamous Exonians, including FJ Widgery, Andrew Brice, and Bishop Surtees.

Brian Thornton, the Secretary of the St John the Baptist Lodge, introduced us to the fascinating tales about many of the past members.

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