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Exeter, Devon

City of Exeter, Devon

Exeter is an historic Cathedral and University city. Exeter is also the County town of Devon and is a business, legal, retail, tourist and commercial centre for the region. The city of Exeter has a population of around 117,000 people.


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Exeter has a rich and varied heritage of buildings and townscape. It has grown from Roman origins and displays the benefits from long prosperity, particularly during the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries. Despite the destruction of a quarter of the city centre during the Second World War, there remains much which is worthy of preservation and enhancement.

Within the city there are 15 conservation areas of which the Central and Riverside areas are pre-eminent: they include the Cathedral of St. Peter, the City Wall, Rougemont Castle and the Canal Basin and Quay area. There are over 1600 listed buildings and many more which are locally important. Exeter's historic core has been designated as an Area of Archaeological Importance, one of only 5 such areas in England and Wales.

The site of the city of Exeter has been inhabited for over 2000 years and it is possible to see traces of every major period of English history in the architecture of the city. Dominating the skyline is the mediaeval Cathedral, an outstanding example of decorated Gothic style architecture with unique Norman transeptal towers. The Cathedral Close and Yard form an oasis of calm and tranquillity in the centre of the city.

Mol's Coffee House and the Ship Inn, close to the Cathedral, were favourite haunts of Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh. The Royal Clarence Hotel too has had many distinguished guests, including Lord Nelson. Beneath the ground outside the West Front of the Cathedral lie the remains of Exeter's Roman Military Bath House. This is one of the earliest stone buildings erected by the Romans in the British Isles and there are plans to re-excavate the site and develop it as a major tourist attraction.

Exeter's historic Quayside was once a Roman waterway and 16th century port. Now a city centre riverside resort with unique shops, restaurants and outdoor activities, this area is a charming mix of past and present. The Quay House Visitor Centre is a unique survival from the days when Exeter was a major port for the export of woollen cloth and other goods. The Netherlands and low countries were particularly important trading partners in Europe.

England's oldest canal extends from the Quayside to the River Exe estuary, passing the ancient town of Topsham. A fascinating museum and a stroll through intriguing alleys and lanes enables visitors to really appreciate the flavour of this outstanding little town that the Victorians added to with style.

Fascinating displays of the past are provided by Exeter's museums, the most extensive of which is the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery. The Royal Albert, with exhibits of national and international importance, has earned the status of a major regional museum.

The Guildhall, in the High Street, is reputed to be the oldest municipal building still in full civic use in England; the existing building dates from 1330. St Nicholas Priory is the unique guesthouse of a Benedictine Priory founded in 1070 and features a Norman undercroft, 15th century kitchen and a splendid guest hall with 17th century furnishings and plaster painting.

Official City of Exeter, Devon website: www.exeter.gov.uk

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