Mount Pleasant To City Centre

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Little and Large

Turn right into Castle Square. St Michael House was originally built for Marks and Spencer but now houses several shops including the shoe shop. The design of the building dates from 1950. Head up Castle Street for the Hole In The Wall in Little Castle Street. The White semi-circular building in Castle Square is a new addition to this area. The buildings behind at one time just ended with a brick wall until it was developed in the early nineties. In 1876, these buildings formed part of the Castle Hotel. It was demolished in 1937 to make way for the creation of Bailey Street. Many Exeter people may well remember the wooden braces that stood here for years holding the walls of the other buildings. The original Castle Street was the medieval lane known as Little Castle Street. The Castle Street seen today only dates from 1772. Little Castle Street may even be Roman.

Hole in The Wall History


In 1068, William The Conqueror marched on Exeter with 500 horsemen and entered the city through the east gate after 18 days of resistance. He instructed that a castle be built on the natural volcanic peak known as Rougemont. Remains of the original Norman Entrance Survive and this can be seen just a little further up castle street from the Hole In The Wall. It is the oldest Norman gatehouse in Britain. The triangular-headed windows suggest construction by Saxon Masons. The georgian courthouse seen at the end of Castle Street was constructed in the inner bailey of the castle in 1774. A left turn here will take you into Rougemont Gardens which were laid out in the 18th century in the outer bailey of the castle. The house you'll see is Rougemont House, a regency building currently being used as a Discovery Centre.

Rougemont Castle Norman Gatehouse Part of the inner castle ditch survives today as a feature of Rougemont Gardens. Athelstan's Tower which you'll see if you explore the gardens was actually constructed in the late 12th century and not by King Athelstan. The turret was added in the C15th. Through the gateway just below the tower is the entrance to Northernhay Gardens. These gardens were originally laid out in 1612 and it has been claimed that they represent the oldest public park in England. Anyway back at the hole in the wall you can now enjoy your pint. This place has several bars and the food is very good during the day and in the evening.

To defend the City, Exeter kept a large stock of armour in Rougemont Castle, this stock was last used during the Civil War. It lay in store until around 1800 when Colonel John Simcoe took it to Somerset. The armour was brought back to the museum in the 1870's.

Athelstons Tower

The Hole In The Wall In the Dock

Finish off this pub crawl just around the corner in the Timepiece or maybe Old Timers. Old Timers which is now a Wine Bar and Restaurant used to house Timepiece back in the eighties. The Timepiece later moved up the street but still kept the old building open as a bar until it became Old Timers in 2004.

The courthouses mentioned earlier are not far from here. The City has always been an administative centre since the time of the Romans. The County Court and Crown Courts are both housed within The Castle, re- built by Brian de Molis for William I to control the citizens of Exeter. Each succeeding King had a Sheriff in charge of Rougemont. From 1232, the Sheriff held it on behalf of the Earl of Cornwall and later the Dutchy of Cornwall. Prior to 1231, the castle belonged to the de Redvers and Courtenay families.

In 1537, Exeter was made a County in it's own right, but the Castle remained out of the County's juristiction. The Dutchy allowed the castle to be used as an admin centre for the County and to use the jail and pound. Devon County Council used the castle until 1963 when they moved out to their current premises in Topsham Road. 1819 saw the castle become the property of the County of Devon but the county for some reason still had to pay the Dutchy.

The Courts of Justice , the Assizes, the Quarter Sessions and Provost Court were at one time held in the Guildhall, apart from 2 occasions when because of the plague, they were held in Tiverton. A Sessions House was built in 1607 and the original courthouse was replaced a few years later. The forecourt of the courthouse was the original site of the Devon County Show now held at Westpoint. The present Crown Court building dates from 1774 when the City Wall was breached and rebuilt with brickwork.

The place was also used for polling and for hustings. An election in 1835 saw a young Charles Dickens sent to Exeter by the London Morning Chronicle. The scenes are described in his 'Pickwick Papers' as the election in Eatanswill.

With the redevelopment of Exeter's City Centre, the Courts re-located behind Southernhay in 2004. The City has an option to buy the castle for around 900.00 GBP. Some form of tourist attraction / museum is planned for the site.

Back to the Timepiece. Several bars in different buildings plus the nightclub. Lively place with a good atmosphere. There is also a restaurant / pub, Old Timers located where a previous version of the Timepiece stood. There was always more booze on the floor than in your glass.

Stuart Callon Copyright ©2002

Timepiece and Old Timers History

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