Mount Pleasant To City Centre

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East Gate

In the 18th century many pubs were clustered ouside the East Gate, the Old London Inn and the New London Inn, the Antelope, the Bristol and the White Lion, the Old Coach & Horses and the New Coach & Horses. The Kings Arms was situated close to where Poundland now sits was established in 1697. In 1772 it had stables for 100 horses. These pubs served the travellers coming to Exeter for Market Day. The Kings Arms was in fact re-built in 1886 and re-named the Era Hotel. The end this Era was in 1918.

Bobby and the blind sheriff

You can't help but notice the beautiful building housing Debenhams opened in March 1964. The store was orinially called Bobby and Company but became Debenhams in the early 1980's when branding became more commercially important. Bobby & Co had been a subsidiary of Debenhams since 1937. They took over the premises of Greens (the drapers) in 1922 who had occupied the premises of one of Exeter oldest Inns, the New Inn (Catherine Street).

This store in Catherine street was blitzed and the company moved to smaller premises in Fore Street. Before the move, Bobbys was Exeter's largest store. Building of this new 140 ft store started in 1962. When it was opened, the City Sheriff congratulated the architects on giving Exeter a new skyline, one she thought 'enchanting'. Unfortunately Bobby's didn't have an Opthalmic department or she would have been their best customer.

A survey in The Times in 1987 put Debenhams well and truly in the top 10 worst buildings in Britain. As luck would have it, the building will be demolished when the City Centre is re-generated very soon.


I have purpsefully left the next few paragraphs unchanged until the City Centre gets back to normality.

Also of interest is Princesshay close to the exit fron the passages is a fountain erected in 1992 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the blitz. Princesshay and much of the High Street were re-built in the 1950's.

Princesshay is at the centre of a new City centre development and will be re-built. Original plans proposed a glass roof but then demolition came into the equation. This was appropriately opposed by the citizens of Exeter and the scheme was re-designed.

Arcade and Bluecoat

Before the war, there was a covered arcade at the top end of Princesshay (Eastgate Arcade), built in 1882. At the end of the Arcade was an iron gate leading to St John's Hospital School, a bluecoat school founded in 1631.

A statue from this school can be found at the top end of Princesshay. Princesshay by all accounts represents the best 1960's architecture of its type. 1960's architecture may well occasionally look awful, however Princesshay cannot be put in this bracket.

New plans by Land Securites (unveiled in March 2002) are much better, but still involve the demolition of Pricesshay although the pedestrian precinct concept will be kept, a kink will be put into the main throughfare. Initial peparatory work started in 2003. Land Securities have bought up many of the buildings it plans to re-develop, so re-development will take place. You cannot stop a company that owns half the City Centre!

David Cornforth's excellent website, Exeter Memories contains an up to date photo-essay of the demolition work and the re-building process. You should take a look. A link is available through this site's Local Links page (main site index).

Bedford Street, Paris Street and parts of Sidwell Street require some major spade-work. Debenhams could do with the same treatment that Exeter College tower received a few years ago, however there are plans for demolition. A bit of glass and steel can go a long way but will not be allowed to!


The Next store seen at top of High Street was completed by the end of 1961 along with the rest of Eastgate corner. The Co-op originally occupied this store, closing in 1985 having first opened in Exeter in 1938. This corner is to be re-developed shortly along with the upper part of Paris Street.

Where Boots now stands used to be the Subscription rooms, becoming the Hippodrome in 1908, later converting to the Plaza. The building was completely gutted during the blitz. The current building was completed in 1956 and was part of a larger re-development incorporating the whole block down to Castle Street.


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