Exeter Local History Society provides six lectures every year on a wide variety of subjects. Summaries are below. Click on the title on the left hand column for the full write-up or, to return to the Home page, click on "Home" in the banner at the top of this page.








Jurys Inn — 7pm

Wednesday, 11 October 2017



Ed Williams-Hawkes talked to us about the famous and sumptuous Deller’s of Bedford Street which was so sadly destroyed in the Blitz.  He showed us a selection of slides showing Deller’s in its heyday – part of the remarkable collection which he and his colleagues have worked so tirelessly to amass.  For full details click on  banner on left:       "2017.10.11 Deller's of Bedford Street"



Exeter’s busy Tudor bakers, their wares, their families, their homes and their working lives.



Jurys Inn — 7pm — Thursday, 8 June 2017


Exeter’s Elizabethan bakers produced the staple food that everyone depended on, whether wealthy merchant or poor relief recipients.  Dr Kate Osborne has created individual biographies for over 70 Tudor bakers from local archival sources and she described their daily lives, family connections, homes and family businesses.  She also explored the issues that affected their busy working lives.







Jurys Inn - 7pm - Thursday, 13 April 2017


Exeter’s First World War Red Cross Hospitals were amongst the earliest to be commissioned by the War Office after war broke out. Ready by the end of August, they took their first patients in early October and by Christmas 1914 they provided more Red Cross beds than any other provincial town in Britain. This was a lead they maintained, under their redoubtable administrator Georgiana Buller, the only woman to keep her post as Administrator, in defiance of military protocol, under the War Office takeover of large Red Cross hospitals in 1916.


Dr Julia Neville, who is co-ordinating the project researching the war hospitals, explained Exeter’s key role amongst the ‘home hospitals’ in treating the sick and wounded. Using pictures lent or bequeathed by those who were patients or staff at the time, she illustrated daily life in the eight Exeter hospitals, the treatments available, and how local communities pulled together to give time and money to make the patients’ lives as comfortable as possible.


For more details click on "2017.03.13 Exeter's WW1 Hospitals" on the banner to the left of this page







 Thursday, 9 February 2017


George Williams, a Devon man and a successful London draper, and involved in the Early Closure Movement, became concerned about the lives of his employees.   He instigated the Saturday afternoon holiday and then, in 1844, he and his father-in-law (and boss) conceived the idea for one of the world’s most enduring and widespread organisation, the YMCA.


Two years later a well-known local philanthropist, John Dinham, turned his attention to those in Exeter needing support.  He was actively involved in the founding of the Exeter branch of the YMCA. The organisation has been active on the home front ever since, throughout both world wars – particularly providing services and support in Exeter and Plymouth during the Blitz, despite the organisation’s headquarters being reduced to rubble in the High Street bombing of 1942.  


In more peaceful times the YMCA has embedded itself in the social fabric of the city with its wide variety of charitable activities, including providing athletic facilities, holding classes for a wide variety of skills, humanitarian work and providing supported accommodation for the homeless.






Michael Parrott


Thursday, 8 December 2016 at Jury’s Inn


Over 70 years ago Exeter was defended from the Luftwaffe’s bombing raids by a small band of comrades, the Polish 307 Squadron RAF known as "The Eagle Owls". That night-fighter squadron has become widely forgotten, not just in Exeter but even in Poland. 


When local amateur historian Michael Parrott discovered a wooden plaque in a chapel within the Higher Cemetery, little did he know that it would take him on an amazing journey of discovery about that Squadron. 


He toldl us how he has spent the last four years researching and promoting the role of that Polish squadron.  He has met and recorded interviews with veterans, helped family members discover more about relatives who served in the squadron, and, as a member of the 307 Squadron Project, a British-Polish registered charity, held a number of exhibitions both in the UK and Poland.  They have thousands of followers on Facebook.





Malcolm Foster


Thursday, 13 October at 7pm at Jury’s Inn


William the Conqueror, to consolidate his power, besieged Exeter when the Saxons openly defied him. He won.  Not a hundred years later, civil war raged through England and Exeter is once again at the centre of things. This time the city was besieged by King Stephen while Exeter Castle was held in the name of the Empress Maud.


Malcolm Foster has always been passionate about Medieval English history.  His book “The Eyes of Exeter” was a stunning historical novel about Exeter’s resistance  to William the Conqueror. He followed this up with a second book,  “The Demon in the Bones” in September 2013


He taught the subject at St. John’s, Sidmouth, for many years. He has also written many pieces for piano, as well as a song cycle “On Romney Marsh not far from Rye”, which was recorded in 1986. On top of these accomplishments he has written and produced more than a hundred plays for his pupils at St. John’s as well as producing plays at the Manor Pavilion in Sidmouth and at the lovely theatre in Stonehouse, Plymouth.




100 Things You Should Know About Exeter


On Tuesday, 6 September 2016, members enjoyed an exceptional evening when the well-known and entertaining historian (and member), Dr Todd Gray, took us skipping through the city’s history by relating little-known but fascinating events that have occurred in the City over the last 500 years.


Todd is well known throughout Exeter for his many books on the city’s history (numbering over 40!) and for his delightful and often very humorous presentations of our past.  We were delighted that Todd  explored some little known events in our history and there certainly were some startling revelations. 



On 14 April 2016, Tony Lethbridge, who is a local historian and who also has a life long interest in military history, gave us a talk on the First World War from the viewpoint of Exeter.  He had visited many historic battlefields and in the last ten years particularly those of the First World War.


His talk outlined life in Exeter during the war years along with events in Flanders and other places where Exonians were involved in the conflict.





Talk by Christine Trigger


On 11 February, 2016, immediately after our AGM, we were honoured by a talk from our

well-known member, Christine Trigger, about a little-known artist, Sidney Endacott.  His paintings are delightful and show an Exeter long gone. 


Christine took us through his life and showed us slides of his superb canvases of the Exeter area. His painting of the meeting room at Tucker’s Hall graces the front cover of Christine’s book (members will remember this room from having our own meeting there on 12 June 2014).   Endacott died in 1918 leaving as his legacy beautiful records of Exeter around the turn of the century.

For full details click here: 11.02.16: Sidney Endacott's LOST EXETER



Retailing in Exeter 1880-1940


On Thursday, 10 December 2015, Richard Holladay explained that Exeter's city centre in the 60 years before 1940 has changed almost out of all recognition. Through adverts of the period he showed us at the familiar and the unfamilar, and we saw how products were promoted and marketed – a far cry from the restrictions of the Trades Description Act that we have to abide by nowadays.  And of course we observed how the style and format of advertising has changed, not to mention the products.


With the help of over 50 images Richard took us back to the inter-war years – and beyond. . . back into Victoria’s reign. . . 


For full details double cllick on:  11.12.15: RETAILING IN EXETER 1880-1940



John with the founder of the firm

On Thursday, 8 October, 2015, Society members were delighted with a talk by David Force of Force & Son, Estate Agents.  Here are a couple of anecdotes from his talk; full details of the talk are available by clicking Force & Son on the left column.


"...An ancestor, too crippled by arthritis and therefore unable to mount the horse-drawn trams which he favoured, paid a small boy to carry fo him a mounting stool.  The boy was then expected to run along beside the tram to have the stool ready outside Force & Son to enable his employer to dismount.  The boy then took the stool home and the process was repeated in reverse every evening!"


"...Force were also funeral directors but gave up the business after Arthur (David’s father) went to collect a corpse who had died sitting up.  Attempts to straighten the body caused it to fall forward and wrap its arms round poor Arthur.  After that they sold the  business!





 On 13th August, 2015, David Cornforth showed us photographs from every walk of life - children "sledging" on the frozen river, the Tower Bridge look-alike over the river, a wingless plane being pushed along the road having landed in a cornfield and been unable to take off again from the long corn! Also the railway, canal and river, the site of what became Middlemoor, the Deaf School, Colleton Crescent, the Gas Works, the Cattle Market, the greyhound track and Speedway, and many many more.

For full details click here: 13.8.15: Pre-WW2 Photographs




A fascinating talk exploring the railway which carried goods and people to and from Exeter, the former for export around England and indeed the world, the latter to enjoy themselves and get the last train home (when the pubs closed). There are photographs taken fifty years ago of stations, bridges and engines which have since been destroyed (some by nature, some by man).


For full details click here:





Steve Patterson is a woodcarver and a folklorist whose main interests are the magical traditions of the West Country. Steve will be sharing some local accounts of witchcraft and magical practices and will also be looking at the development of our ideas of magic and witchcraft …and indeed the very ideas of folklore and history themselves.


WYNARDS ALMSHOUSES These old and very beautiful buildings have a long history.  Now privately owned, for many centuries they provided shelter for the Christian poor (who were fined if they missed Church!) though their managers/owners were often in trouble for not following the terms of the endowment.


All talks are on the second Wednesday 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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