Saturday, 4 December 2010

No. 67, South Street

Along with Nos. 41 & 42 in the High Street, this is the only surviving twin-gabled timber-framed house in the entire city which has retained both its original facade and significant portions of its interior. It is actually later in date than the example in the High Street. Nos. 41 & 42 are from the 1560s, but No. 67 in South Street is probably from c1600 or slightly later.

It sits in South Street as part of a small fragment of pre-1942 buildings which managed to escape both the destruction of war-time bombing and the demolition of post-war redevelopment. Unfortunately the same can't be said of the rest of South Street, once one of Exeter's four main thoroughfares. Today it's mostly insipid flat-roofed, brown-brick post-war shacks, its southern end demolished in the 1960s to build a four-lane bypass.

No. 67 is built on three floors. The rear wall has been completely rebuilt in modern brick and the ground floor gutted for retail space. Despite these alterations, No. 67 is important primarily for the preservation of its remaining interiors. Unlike many twin-gabled timber-framed properties which were once in Exeter, No. 67 was built as a single large house and not as a matching pair. The most impressive feature externally is undoubtedly the magnificent continuous 16-light window which stretches across the whole of the first floor. This would've lit a large first-floor hall. Two oriel windows exist on the second floor supported on brackets. The interior contains a two-flight 17th century staircase, some decorated beamed ceilings, a large fireplace on the ground floor with a massive oak lintel and other fireplaces in the upstairs rooms. There is also a fine and unusual early-17th century plasterwork ceiling decorated with lilies, tulips and pomegranates which still exists in the hall More information about this ceiling can be found here.

Admittedly, perhaps more impressive timber-framed buildings in Exeter were pulled down during the 20th century for slum clearances and road-widening, but No. 67 fully deserves its Grade II* listed status as a structure of special interest. It's one of my favourite buildings in the city and such a rare survival. No. 67 was a gallery and a shop but it has recently closed and is now a letting agency. The problem is that no-one ever goes down as far as No. 67 South Street unless they really have to.

Unfortunately, and this is a criticism which is often levelled at Exeter's surviving historical buildings, it is frequently difficult to appreciate them within a wider historical urban landscape. This is particularly true of No. 67 South Street. To the left is the remaining stump of the street's historical buildings, including the White Hart inn, but to the right is the vast tract of post-war South Street. The photograph below shows one gable end of No. 67 to the far left but almost adjacent is the horrendous Concord House and beyond that the majority of South Street stretches away into post-war blandness. Still, it does show how close the property came to destruction during the bombing raid of 04 May 1942.


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