|City of Exeter|
Shown within Devon
|Region:||South West England|
- Total (2004 est.)
2,450 / km²
Exeter City Council
|Leadership:||Leader & Cabinet|
|Executive:||Labour (council NOC)|
The city of Exeter is the county town of Devon, in England, UK. It is located at . In the 2001 census its population was recorded at 111,066. The city's motto, Semper fidelis, was suggested by Elizabeth I.
Until the construction of main road by-passes in the 20th century, Exeter was the lowest bridging point of the River Exe, and therefore developed as an administrative and route centre. From Saxon times until the 19th century, the diocese of Exeter covered the whole of the counties of Devon and Cornwall, and civil administration and services tended to follow the lines of the ecclesiastical. Exeter was also a port: the limit of tides of the River Exe lies below Exeter, and the small town of Topsham on the estuary (nowadays within the city limits) developed as a port for the city, but goods were transported to the city's quays in lighters. Eventually a ship canal was constructed so that ocean-going vessels could reach the city's quays, and this remained in regular use until ships increased in size with the development of steam power. It is still used for leisure boating.
The city provides strong industries and services to a sizable area. The Met Office, the main weather forecasting organisation for the United Kingdom and one of the most significant in the world, relocated from Bracknell in Berkshire to Exeter in early 2004. It is one of the three largest employers in the area (the others being the University of Exeter and Devon County Council), providing a welcome boost to the local economy.
Exeter's independent shops are mostly in the roads such as Gandy Street off the High St, which was reconstructed after bombing in 1942.
Princesshay, which runs parallel to the High Street is undergoing redevelopment in 2005–2006.
The Latin name for Exeter, Isca Dumnoniorum ("Isca of the Dumnones"), suggests that the city was originally a Celtic oppidum, or town, on the banks on the River Exe prior to the foundation of the Roman city in about AD 50. Such early towns, or proto-cities, had been a feature of pre-Roman Gaul as described by Julius Caesar in his Commentarii de Bello Gallico ("Commentaries on the Gallic Wars") and it is not improbable that they existed in neighbouring Great Britain as well. Isca is clearly a Celtic generic noun and the Romans felt the need to label the city Isca Dumnoniorum, or the Isca of the Dumnonii, in order to distinguish it from such settlements as Isca Silurum (modern Caerleon-on-Usk in Monmouthshire).
Isca Dumnoniorum was the most south-westerly Roman fortified settlement in England. Significant parts of the Roman wall remain, though the present visible structure was largely built on the orders of Alfred the Great to protect the far west of his kingdom following the Viking occupation of 876. Most of its route can be traced on foot. There is a substantial Roman baths complex that was excavated in the 1970s, but because of its proximity to the cathedral, it has not been practicable to retain the excavation for public view. Exeter was also the southern starting point for the Fosse Way Roman road.
In 1067 the city rebelled against William the Conqueror who promptly marched West and laid siege. The city submitted only after 18 days. Part of the capitulation agreement was that all the nobles in the city would be confirmed in their positions as long as a castle was built.
In 1537, the city was made a county corporate. The Livery Dole Almshouses and Chapel at Heavitree were founded in March 1591 and finished in 1594. They can still be seen today in the street which bears the name Livery Dole.
Exeter was at first a Parliamentary town in the English Civil War in the largely Royalist South West, but it was captured by the Royalists on 4 September 1643 and it remained in their control until near the end of the war, being one of the final Royalist cities to fall into Parliamentary hands.
Early in the English industrial revolution, Exeter's industry developed on the basis of locally available agricultural products, since the city's location on a fast-flowing river gave it ready access to water power. However when steam power replaced water in the nineteenth century, Exeter was too far from sources of coal (or iron) to develop further. As a result the city declined in relative importance, and was spared the rapid nineteenth century development that changed many historic European cities.
Exeter was bombed by the German Luftwaffe during World War II, in a 1942 raid that formed part of the Baedeker Blitz. Forty acres (160,000 m²) of the city, particularly adjacent to its central High Street and Sidwell Street, were levelled by incendiary bombing. Many historic buildings were destroyed, and others, including Exeter Cathedral, damaged. The city was rebuilt in the 1950s in an attempt to preserve its ancient heritage, though many feel that the post-war reconstruction was weak and failed to conserve partly-damaged structures that could have been saved, as well as making too many concessions to motor traffic. Currently, despite some local opposition, one rebuilt street, Princesshay, is being redeveloped again in a more modern style. Previously regarded as second only to Bath as an architectural site in southern England, Exeter is now a city with some beautiful buildings rather than a beautiful city. As a result, although there is a significant tourist trade, Exeter is not dominated by tourism.
Exeter forms a single parliamentary constituency. It is relatively marginal, and since World War II its Member of Parliament has usually been drawn from the governing party. At the United Kingdom general election, 1997, Ben Bradshaw was elected as MP for Exeter, and he retained the seat at the elections of 2001 and 2005.
Exeter's city council is a district authority, and shares responsibility for local government with the Devon County Council. In recent years, the city council has been dominated by Labour Party and Liberal Democrat members. Since 2003, no party has had a majority on the council.
Among the notable buildings in Exeter are:
Many of these are built in the local dark red sandstone, which gives its name to the castle and the park that now surrounds it (Rougemont means red hill). A plaque near the gatehouse recalls that in 1685 Alice Molland the last person executed for witchcraft in England, was imprisoned in Exeter.
Northernhay Gardens located just outside the castle, is the oldest public open space in the whole of England, being originally laid out in 1612 as a pleasure walk for Exeter residents. Much of Northernhay gardens now represent Victorian design, with a beautiful display of trees, mature shrubs and bushes and plenty of flower beds. There are also many statues here, most importantly the War Memorial by John Angel and the Deerstalker by E.B. Stephens. The Volunteer Memorial from 1895, also in the gardens commemorates the formation of the 1st Rifle Volunteers in 1852. Other statues include John Dinham, Thomas Dyke Acland and Stafford Northcote (a local landowner who was a Victorian Chancellor of the Exchequer).
The Exeter Book, an original manuscript and one of the most important documents in Anglo-Saxon literature, is kept in the vaults of Exeter Cathedral. The Exeter Book dates back to the 10th century and is one of four manuscripts that between them contain virtually all the surviving poetry in Old English. It includes most of the more highly regarded shorter poems, some religious pieces, and a series of riddles, a handful of which are famously lewd. Some of the riddles are inscribed on a highly polished steel obelisk in the high street, placed on March 30, 2005.
The Inquisitio Eliensis, the "Exon Domesday" (so called from the preservation of the volume at Exeter), is a volume of Domesday Book that contains the full details which the original returns supplied.
The Northcott Theatre is located on the campus of the university and is one of relatively few provincial English theatres to maintain its own repertory company. Its annual open air Shakespeare performance in the grounds of Rougemont Castle is well regarded nationally. There are also two amateur theatre buildings with associated companies.
The Barnfield Theatre was converted in 1972 from The Barnfield Hall which was built towards the end of the 19th century by Exeter Literary Society. The theatre is a charity and is used as a venue for amateur and professional theatrical companies.
The largest orchestra based in Exeter is the EMG Symphony Orchestra which presents regular concerts at the University of Exeter and in Exeter Cathedral.
Exeter is twinned with:
The city also seeks to maintain a relationship with HMS Exeter.
There are two main line railway routes from Exeter to London, the faster Great Western Main Line route via Taunton to London Paddington and the slower West of England Main Line via Salisbury to London Waterloo. Another main line, the Cross-Country Route, links Exeter with Bristol, Birmingham, the Midlands, Northern England, and Scotland. Many trains on all three lines continue westwards from Exeter, variously serving Torbay, Plymouth and Cornwall.
Exeter is served by two main railway stations. Exeter St David's is served by all services, whilst Exeter Central is more convenient for the city centre but served only by local services and the main line route to London Waterloo. There are also six suburban stations, Topsham, St. James Park, Exeter St. Thomas, Polsloe Bridge, Pinhoe and Digby & Sowton, served only by local services.
Exeter International Airport lies east of the city and the local airline, previously called Jersey European and British European but now known as Flybe, is a significant local employer. The Airport offers a variety of scheduled and charter flights including a seasonal service to Toronto in Canada. Since 2005 the daily services to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport have provided easy access to an international hub.
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