Wednesday, 14 March and repeated, due to
popular demand, on 4 April 2018
We met in Waitrose’s carpark – where the workhouse once stood. In fact, the first workhouse, for the poor of Newtown, was built in the 17th century on what is now the Triangle Carpark.
Subsequently, on the land where we were standing, was built a large replacement workhouse and behind it a hospital (which building still exists). Beside Waitrose was the children’s home which is presently being torn down - except the front which fortunately is listed. When new, that building became a hospital for the wounded of WW1, to the disappointment of the children who had to wait for the war’s end to have their own accommodation.
Newtown was once a self contained village with rows of Victorian cottages built for workers at the local brickworks. It was separate from Exeter, as were many others such as Heavitree and Pinhoe. As Exeter enlarged, they became absorbed by the city. There used also to be many shops, mostly now converted into houses, which some of us remembered – the butcher, the baker, the ice cream shop (which closed during the war because the Italian proprietor was interned).
The Sports Centre is a lightweight aluminium building because beneath it is an old landfill site. This means that houses can’t be built there because the ground is not solid enough to take the weight of a conventional building. Also, the rubbish gives off methane and we saw nearby pipes with sealed caps sticking up just above ground. These are unlocked at intervals to let the gases out.
We saw a delightful small building behind the Sports Centre decorated with many different styles of brick. We learnt that this had been the nearby brick company’s sales office and the exterior of the building allowed prospective buyers to see and select their choice. The clay for the bricks came, of course, from the pit now filled with rubbish under the Sports Centre.
We learnt that Newtown had held its Coronation party in front of this building back in 1953.
Many of Newtown’s Victorian cottages were destroyed in the Blitz. Most have been replaced but some gaps remain as attractive grassed areas. On one of these was a strange granite pillar (left) which locals believe came from somewhere famous and had then been used to prop up a house before it was blitzed !
On the edge of Newtown is Belmont Park. Its last wooden building (right) is one of many erected during WW2. It has now been condemned and is to be replaced after the always very popular Respect Festival has been held on the last weekend in June 2018. (One of our earlier walks started at the hut in this photo).
We ended our walk at the delightful olde worlde Clifton Inn where some of us chose to sample their excellent food – all cooked to order.