Sunday, 17 May 2009

Around the West Gate

All four of the gates in Exeter's walls went in the early nineteenth century but this is the site of the West Gate. It was successfully defended against attacks by rebels in 1549 and saw William of Orange enter the city with his army in 1688. It was demolished in 1813. The area would look a lot nicer without cars in the way but I suppose if I were in a car I'd be grateful for the parking.

The old city wall survives in many places around the centre and its height can be told by gauging it against such things as this lamppost. I wouldn't have liked to attack the city knowing I'd have to get over that height with people firing arrows or guns at me or dropping things onto me.

Nowadays one of its main attractions is the flowers that grow out of the cracks between the stones.

This is the Parish Church of St Mary Steps.

The church is situated in West Street and is noted for the ancient clock projecting from the tower with three figures popularly known as Matthew the Miller and his two Sons. The dial is embellished with designs representing the four seasons. Above the dial is an alcove containing three automatic figures; seated in the centre is a statue of Henry VIII [r. 1509-1547], and when the clock strikes the hours he inclines his head at each stroke. On each side of the central figure is a soldier with a hammer in one hand and a javelin in the other; beneath their feet are bells on which they strike the quarters with the hammers.

Next to the church is Stepcote Hill - the oldest surviving street in Exeter.

Its name comes from the Old English word for steep, rather than from step.

The hill had been used as the main route into Exeter from the river since Roman times. Strings of pack horses would bring wool and cloth up the hill from Cornwall and Plymouth.

It was also used by William of Orange and his troops in 1688. They were followed by a procession of almost 2,000 people.

If you need a drink when you get to the top of the hill you can call in at the Fat Pig.

I've seen fatter!

All this and a bookshop too!

At one stage this part of Exeter had the worst living conditions in SW England and you can learn more about Stepcote Hill at Exeter Memories. The site includes a photo from around 1900.

No comments: