Exeter is a worth-visiting historic city in the South-West of England. It is the administrative centre of the ceremonial county of Devon, situated on the banks of the navigable Exe River, near its mouth and the seacoast, 37 miles from Plymouth and 70 miles from Bristol. More than 118.000 people live in Exeter and its suburbs. The earliest settlement on the area of the present-day city was probably of Celtic origin. It is supposed that the local ancient British tribe of Dumnones, also known as Devonians (from their name derives the name of the region - Devon) appreciated the naturally fortified ridge of land between a steep hill and the navigable river, rich in fish. They founded here one of their most important settlements. Hellenistic coins from the 3th century BC found in the area witness for commercial contacts with the Mediterranean. In the middle of the 1st century AD Romans established here their most south-western fortified settlement in Britain. Its name in Latin was Isca Dumnoniorum with the meaning of "Isca of the Dumnones". Parts of the ancient stone walls built by the Roman can be still seen in Exeter. An archeological complex identified as "Roman baths” was excavated close to the Cathedral but it is not on display. Many ancient Roman coins were discovered in the city, telling us about intense economic life in the 2nd, 3th and mostly in the first half of the 4th century. Isca Dumnoniorum was left by the Romans in the last quarter of this century.
In the next centuries the city was inhabited by Saxons - the new conquerors of Britain. There is archeological evidence that some Britons lived here together with them too. In the 9th century Exeter is known as Escanceaster. King Alfred the Great (871- 899) made Exeter one of the most important and strongly fortified towns in Devon. In spite of this it was plundered several times by the ferocious Danes. King Athelstan (894 - 939) repaired the fortifications of the city. In 1067 Exeter was put under siege and then capatured by the Normans and their King William the Conqueror. After that he built the Rougemont Castle to ensure his possession over the city.
Mol's Coffee House
In the 16th century Exeter became a county corporate (self-governing county). Many local ships took part in the great victorious battle against the Spanish Armada lead by Duke of Medina Sidonia in 1588. That's why Queen Elizabeth I suggested the city's moto "Semper fidelis" (Always faithful).
The main points of tourist interest in Exeter are the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter, the Rougemont Castle or what was left from it, the Guildhall, the Benedictine Monastery of St Nicholas, the medieval Church of St Mary Steps, the 19th-century Clock Tower and Mol's Coffee House.
The Cathedral of Exeter dates back to the mid-11th century, although the present-day building was completed in the late 14th century. It is the seat of the local bishop and a worth-seeing example of the religious medieval architecture in South-West England. The bishop William Warelwast began the building of the church in 1133. It was completed many years after that in Norman style. In the middle of the 13th century the Cathedral was already considered outdated and reconstructed in the fashionable at that time Decorated Gothic architectural style, resembling the cathedral in Salisbury. Fortunately a large part of the previous Norman church had been preserved, including the two impressive transept towers. The cathedral is built of local stone and Purbeck Marble.
The Rougemont Castle was built in the second half of the 11th century by William the Conqueror with the main purpose to ensure his control over the city of Exeter and its region. Some scholars suppose that there was an earlier fortress on the site, dating back to the time of King Athelstan, known for his fortification works against the Danes. The castle is constructed on a volcanic neck – the most elevated part of the city, over the remains of the ancient Roman fortified town here. The castle’s name “Rougemont” derives from the red color of the local stones, which were used by the builders. A little has survived from the early buildings of the stronghold but its original arched gate is still preserved together with the lower parts of several towers. The first occupant of the castle was Baldwin de Moles - sheriff of Devonshire and husband of William the Conqueror's niece Albreda. Today Rougemont Castle worth visiting for its splendid Grade I and Grade II listed buildings, marvelous courtyards and gardens, spectacular views over the city and its surroundings.
The Guildhall in Exeter is considered UK’s oldest municipal building preserved intact until present day. It is located in High St and has been the main headquarters of the local civic government for more than 6 centuries. This is a remarkable medieval building dating back to the late 14th century with a gracious Renaissance façade in ornate Italian style added later in the 16th century. The main part of it is the portage, consisting of 4 massive columns made of granite stone, which support heavily decorated arches made of Beer stone, just as the upper part of the building. The rest of the façade is decorated by skillfully crafted paired pillars, flanking spacious windows.
The Benedictine Monastery of St Nicholas in Exeter dates back to the 11th century. It was built in 1087 by monks from the Battle Abbey, who came here after William I the Conqueror granted to their abbey a church in the city, captured by him in 1068. In the next centuries the monastery received a lot of property gifts, became very rich and built new monastic structures. Unfortunately in 1536, during the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the main monastery church and the cloisters were destroyed. In the Elizabethan era (1558–1603) the survived monastery buildings were converted into a beautiful town house. St Mary Steps is a medieval parish church in the historic centre of Exeter, within the district surrounded by the remains of its ancient Roman walls. The church stands in West St, directly at the foot of Stepcote Hill. The present-day appearance of St Mary Steps is from a major reconstruction made in the 15th century. The church is built of local red stone. Pay attention to its impressive corner clock tower and elaborately constructed nave in Late Gothic architectural style.