Tuesday, 5 October 2010

A Medieval Fireplace in Smythen Street

In 1963, while the remaining fragments of historical Smythen Street was being demolished, a 15th century fireplace was uncovered embedded in the wall of a warehouse.

The warehouse dates to c1900 but the fireplace is in its original position. In the early 18th century the medieval house containing the fireplace was remodelled, retaining at least the side wall and the fireplace. The warehouse was then constructed against the wall of the remodelled medieval building and it was this structure that was demolished in 1963.

I took a photograph of the evidence left. The right-side of the fireplace is constructed of the red Heavitree breccia that was widely used in the city for centuries. The lintel is made of the local purple volcanic trap with a strengthening arch above. The photo below shows Smythen Street today, used since the 9th century and formerly one of the main roads through Exeter in the High to Late Middle Ages. Only the late Victorian pub to the left provides a few traces of historic interest, but No. 30, visible in the distance in the distance with a corrugated metal wall, is thought to be a unique remnant of the medieval Butchers Row. Unfortunately it is soon to be largely demolished.

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