Visits and Walks

Exeter Local History Society usually organises six visits or walks every year to a wide variety of destinations within Exeter. Walks prior to 2020 are listed under "Details of Walks and Talks" while  2020 and 2021 walks are detaileded on the left; just click on whichever title you wish for full information.  A brief summary of recent visits is below.


(There are also regular bi-monthly talks.  Just double click on

"Recent Talks" on the header bar for full information).


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. 

Guided tour visiting some of the glorious sculptures in the University grounds


Thursday, 10 September 2020

The  beautiful Streatham Campus hosts 39 sculptures, mostly in the open.    The variety of the many sculptures is quite amazing and they are all situated in the University's beautiful grounds. This walk was mainly on the level and we met at the bus stop in Queen’s Drive.  Sadly, we had no coffee break (due to current covid rules) and the walk took approximately two hours. 

For full details press "My Button" below.


Wednesday, 12 March 2020


A guided tour behind the scenes at the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum 


Exploring the development of pre-cinema visual culture up to 1910 and celebrating cinema from 1910 to the present.  We were shown artefacts  covering all aspects of cinema and pre-cinema and covered the history of the moving image over the last 400 years!


For more information click on "My Button" below.











Wednesday 22 January 2020


We had a great event on 22 January – an all-day visit to the Northcott Theatre.  There were guided tours backstage in the morning together with talks about the history of the theatre and of the University.  An excellent lunch was followed by "Ghost The Musical" at 2.30. Lots more information   It was a great day!  


Lots more information if you click on MyButton below.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019



A guided tour in and around the High Street  


The walk started and finished in the city centre. We stopped at each plaque for some information about the subject, so it was not all just walking.  For detailed information, click on the appropriate heading near the top of the banner on the left of this page.For more information click on "My Button" below.


For more information click on "My Button" below.




Thursday, 10 & 18 July 2019


This visit to the University College of the South West, precursor of Exeter University, commenced at the Garden Entrance of RAMM (the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery) where we will learn how education was integral to the vision of the founders. From there we moved on to visit and learn about those nearby buildings erected at the beginning of the 20th Century to provide Schools of Art and Science, the Royal Albert Memorial College, teacher training for women (men had St Lukes) and a student hostel for women. 


All this was the realisation of  the founders' concept of providing excellent third-tier education for all in the South West. It was not until 1955 that they were granted full university status.


Lots more information if you click on MyButton below.

Exploring the Quay and its History

Wednesday, 8 May and repeated onThursday, 16 May 2019


We met our guide at 11.00 for a short talk  and then a walk past the solitary cannon, up to Transit Shed and across past Smith's to Cricklepit Bridge - and then around the Canal Basin (with its relics of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's railway and Exeter's tram system) and along the Canal, over Willey's Bridge, and back to pass the Port Royal. The tour then visited the Custom House (guns,guns, guns!) and provided an opportunity to examine John Abbot's superb plasterwork.


The whole morning's visit was interspersed with interesting stories about the history of the places we visited and ended around 12.30pm - when some of us chose to stay on and have lunch on the Quay.


For full details see banner on left.


Friday, 22 March 2019

at 7pm


We celebrated the 100th anniversary of our newsletter at the wonderful St Katherine's Priory, which is somewhat older than our newsletters as founded around 1159 !


Double click on "St Katherine's Priory" on the banner on the left of this article for full details.





17 January 2019


This wonderful building has been magnificently restored by the Exeter Historic Buildings Trust. Founded by William the Conqueror in about 1087, with the Dissolution of the Monasteries it was turned into a home  by the wealthy Hurst family.  It displays Tudor panelling painted in the bright colours of the period, is adorned with quality replica furniture and has the most enormous fireplaces (sadly not in use so dressing warmly is essential!).


We were taken on a guided tour of the building - exclusively for us - starting with a cuppa at 11 am.   Full details are on the banner on the left of this article.


Friday, 14 December 2018




A short walk along the leat that fed three of the many mills which were so productive more than a hundred years ago.  This walk includes a guided visit to the only surviving working mill and to see the millers hard at work !


(For full details, click on 2018.11.16 Exeter's Leats & Mills on left hand banner of this page)



     Walk on 12 September 2018 

  (and repeated 0n 26 September)

Trees are a prominent and much-loved feature in the Devon countryside, and their history and environmental importance cannot be overemphasised.   An ancient woodland right on Exeter’s doorstep is the Clyst Valley and while some parts are well known - Killerton, for example - others are less accessible and await discovery. 


On 12 September we experienced a guided discovery walk to explore the history and archaeology of Ashclyst Forest, from medieval field systems and hollow ways right up to the Second World War.  We were guided by Jon Freeman, an archaeologist who is the Great Trees in the Clyst Valley Project Officer.   


We learnt to identify and appreciate the natural history of sunken lanes, flood meadows, and hill forts, and see with fresh eyes the varied and fascinating historic landscape - thanks to intrepid volunteers who, using historic maps and aerial photographs to navigate, have been hunting for ancient, veteran and notable trees to record in the national inventory.  A repeat of this walk was held on 26 September for those who were unable to join the 12 September event. 





For the very first time since Powderham opened to visitors in 1957, the tour routes and the tales told of Devon’s 600-year-old family home are changing.  After years of study and with input from Universities of Exeter, Plymouth and Pennsylvania, Charlie and AJ (the new Earl and Countess of Devon) are excited to launch this fresh telling of the ancient and unique Powderham story. 


The State Room Tour guides guests through the gardens, the grange and the grandest rooms of the Castle – the public face of Powderham.  We exploredPowderham’s illustrious architectural history, from its medieval foundation, through Civil War sieges, Georgian, Rococo and Regency expansion, to its dramatic neo-Gothic culmination.  All of this via secret doors, long libraries and even a hidden ballroom.


The Upstairs/Downstairs Tour offered a different view – Powderham as the private home of the Courtenay family and their staff for over 600 years.  We saw never-before-seen family bedrooms, and were offered a host of intimate and personal insights, spooky stories and winding staircases used for generations.



Walk on Wednesday, 9 May 2018


We visited three churches in Heavitree.  This was a wonderful opportunity to see inside St Clare’s, that tiny little chapel in the middle of the road – a traffic planner’s nightmare !   It was built so that people could pray for the souls of those being hanged outside ! 


We started our walk, however, at the Catholic Church and ended it at the Anglican Church, St Michael and All Angels.  We also viewed Gordon’s Memorial (from the days when European countries raced each other to annex portions of Africa) and examined the scene of public hangings and burnings (from the days when such punishments were considered acceptable).

Wednesday, 4 April 2018 Walk

We went for a walk around Newtown with a guide who explained the history of the area.  We met up at the Waitrose Carpart and finished two hours later at the Clifton Inn where some of us sampled their excellent lunches. Click "2018.03.14 A Walk Around Newtown" on left for full details.

Wednesday 17 January 2018 Visit


  • In 1003 the Vikings burnt Exeter to the ground – even St Peter’s, not yet a cathedral - and hundreds perished.   Why ?  Could this have been prevented ?
  • In 1886 Exeter’s Theatre Royal was destroyed by fire and 187 died.   What caused this fire and why did so many people die ?  Could their deaths have been prevented?
  • Last year we lost the Clarence Hotel.  This time no one died – why ?   But could the devastation have been prevented ?


We found out the answers on 17 January, at the Fire Station at Dane’s Castle during a talk on the history of fire (and its prevention), plus a tour of the Station - until the fire fighters were called out for an emergency!   Click "2018.01.17 Exeter's Fires" on left for full details.


Thursday, 9 November 2017

We experienced a wonderful and interesting guided tour of Poltimore House, parts of which date back to Tudor times.  Poltimore's guides are passionate about their subject and they shared with us the history of the Bampfylde family and their Exeter estates.  Tea andhome-made cakes were the start of the deal and we then set off to see the rooms and the enormous efforts that the Friends of  Poltimore are making to restore the building to its former beauty. Click "2017.11.09 Poltimore House" on left for full details.


Visit to St Luke's College and Grounds

16 September 2017


The College dates back to 1839 though the Heavitree Road site was only taken over in 1854.  The site has been beautifully developed with ssome glorious trees and beautiful gardens featuring plants in nooks and crannies.  A fascinting morning.  The site turns out to be far larger on the inside than is clear from the outside looking in.  For full details click on "2017.09.14 St Luke's College" on the banner on the left this page.




The Monmouth Rebellion at the Phoenix Theatre

16 September 2017


A 20-strong cast represents the 3000-strong army of dissenting men and women from Dorset, Devon and Somerset preparing to fight the last ever pitched battle on English soil.  We have reserved 20 seats at £1 off. Tickets going fast so book soon. Phone for full details - 07443 601 678. Cost £8 p.p



Visit to  Exeter University Gardens


Thursday, 13 July 2017


On a beautiful sunny  day we met at the bus stop opposite the entrance to the Northcott Theatre and Malcolm took us on  walk around the gardens.   He showed us spaces that even people who had worked there had never seen - the enchanting Taddyforde Valley, the cactus garden, the grassy spaces beside Streatham Hall.  Full details will be listed on the left bar within the next few days.




Visit to Tiverton Castle

Wednesday,10 May, 2017


Few buildings evoke such a feeling of history as venerable Tiverton Castle. Originally built in 1106 by order of Henry I, and later rebuilt and much enlarged in the 13th and 14th centuries, Tiverton Castle was once home of the powerful medieval Earls of Devon and of a Plantagenet Princess. With later additions and alterations down the centuries all periods of architecture from medieval to modern can be seen, with beautiful walled gardens within the romantic ruins. 


Part Scheduled Ancient Monument and part Grade I Listed, the Castle is the private home of Angus and Alison Gordon, who were happy to share it with our members on 11 May.   We started with coffee in the Gordon’s private dining room and then Alison took us on a trip through the Castle (and through history).


Tiverton had close connections with Exeter, particularly during the days of the wool trade, when it was collected in Tiverton and sailed down the river to be sold in Exeter !


For details of the visit click on Tiverton Castle on left hand banner



Can you identify where this is?


25 March 2017


The history of Exwick goes back almost a thousand years. It is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 when it had a Mill and a Manor.  By the late 18th Century it had three working Mills and a factory making woollen goods, all now closed and gone - bar one still standing empty and forlorn.


The hills to the North and East, once wooded and later clad in green fields, are now smothered in buildings including many housing estates.  But despite all this, enough of the past still exists, tucked away, to give a good idea of the importance of the village of Exwick, just across the river from the city of Exeter.





The Guildhall, Behind the Scenes

Saturday, 12 November 2016


The Guildhall is a building of outstanding architectural interest, an ancient monument and a busy working building.  It has served as the centrepiece of Exeter’s civic life for more than 800 years.   On 12 November we saw parts of the Guildhall not normally open to the public: precious objects acquired through the ages and displayed in rooms full of history. For full details click on left banner.




History of Waste Disposal in Exeter 

16th September 2015

In olden days, recycling consisted of a pig.  In went uneatable food and in due course the pig provided many a good meal – or money if it was sold.


Recycling through the centuries has become somewhat more sophisticated leading to today’s complex systems.  On 15 September we had a talk on the history of recycling (which incidentally provides a fascinating picture of how ordinary people’s living conditions changed through the ages).  The talk ended with a Q&A session and a tour of the recycling plant. More details to follow shortly.  2016.09.15   Click "2016.09.15 History of Recycling" on left panel for full details.





Friday, 20 Janury 2017



Friday morning, 20 January 2017
​, was
 a wonderful opportunity to visit the Orthodox Chapel in Blackboy Road. This charming Tudor building has a rich history dating back to the 15th century and we will be shown around by the pastor, Archdeacon Peter Storer. The adjacent almshouses are all occupied but we will be able to examine their external features.



We first met in the Newtown Community Association hut, which is situated in the middle of Belmont Park, for coffee and a talk – and hopefully a short (weather dependent) walk – exploring the history of  Exeter's parks and particularly Belmont Park.  Michael Parrott will sadly not be free to show us round but he has given us lots of fascinating insights to pass onabout the development of this lovely area.  We then proceeded as a group to the Orthodox Chapel. Cost £3. Booking is essential.


More details if you click the adjacent banner.





All talks are now on the second Thursday 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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