Thursday, 7 April 2011

Nos. 192, 193 & 194, High Street

Almost directly opposite St Petrock's church stand three of the High Street's few remaining 18th century buildings. All three have been given Grade II listed status, but their interest really lies in the fact that they've survived at all when so much else in the High Street has been lost.

Nos. 192, 193 and 194 left are typical of how much of the High Street appeared prior to the air-raid of 04 May 1942 which destroyed 50% of Exeter's most important thoroughfare. The remaining 50% was then badly-mauled by post-war redevelopment with the demolitions of the remaining pre-war section continuing into the 1970s (two of the worst examples being the demolition of the Tudor merchant house at No. 37 High Street in the 1950s and the total removal of the fine Victorian terrace on the corner of Queen Street and the High Street in 1971).

According to the listing description, all three properties were put up at the same time as one build, either in the early 18th century or before. Each one is built around a timber-frame with a stucco facade, altered over time to give the impression of three distinct and separate structures. It was a common practice throughout the 18th century to replace earlier facades with something more fashionable so it's possible that the core of the buildings actually date to the mid-to-late 1600s.

The facade of No. 192 right dates to the mid-19th century and is probably the result of a major fire on the premises in 1847. Recording work carried out by Exeter Archaeology in 2001 suggested that the site was possibly the location of two merchant houses which were united into a single property and much-altered c1800, although nothing of the the earlier structure is now visible inside.

The building is split over four floors with a rusticated stucco facade and dentil cornice running above the third floor windows. Each storey is separated by a string course with a gradual diminution in the size of the windows, typical of much neo-Classical architecture. It's unfortunate that the appearance of No. 192 has been so spoilt by the addition of a large modern shop front. I am unaware of any internal features of interest.

No. 193 is fairly nondescript. It too is built on a timber-frame carcass but the rendered facade is very plain with only the two arched windows on the second floor providing any visual interest. Again, the hideous modern shop front does it no favours whatsoever.

No. 194 below is probably the most attractive of the group of three but the facade at least is in poor condition left with flaking paint and rotting architrave surrounds to the windows. Once again a timber frame supplies the main support for a stucco facade that dates to the early 19th century. Visually, the facade is framed by two pilasters that extend from the first floor almost up to the dentil cornice. The flat pediments of the first floor windows are supported on ornate moulded brackets, a string course dividing the first and second floors, and the retention of the original glazing bars in the windows adds a great deal to the facade's overall appearance. Parliament Street, reputedly one of the narrowest streets in the world, runs to the right of the building into Waterbeer Street. No-one would claim that these are Exeter's finest buildings but they add a sense of variety and interest to a street that is generally lacking in either.


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