Thursday, 28 July 2011

"Probably the best preserved group of late medieval houses in Exeter"

The quote comes from the city council's own 2002 conservation report for central Exeter and it's difficult to argue with the sentiment, even it does stretch the definition of 'medieval' to breaking point and beyond (the "best preserved group" of genuinely medieval houses is unquestionably in the Cathedral Close). In fact what we have in the High Street are eight properties, all with timber-frame cores, some of which date back to the first half of the 16th century and only two of which have retained their original street elevations (counting the pair at Nos. 41 and 42 as a single entity). The only genuinely medieval fabric is probably the cellar walls of Nos. 41 and 42 which could be the remains of the security wall built around the cathedral precinct in the late-13th century.

The wonderful photograph above © Petehem was taken from the top of the Marks and Spencer building on the corner with the High Street and Queen Street and captures like few others the atmosphere and visual appearance of the pre-war city. It's one of the relatively few areas of the city centre where you can point a camera and capture a wide urban landscape without seeing post-war intrusions.

All the buildings have had individual posts written about them and are from left to right as follows:
  • No. 39 (17th century timber-frame core)
  • No. 40 (17th century timber-frame core with an early brick facade)
  • Nos. 41 & 42 (built as a pair, mid-16th century with medieval cellars)
  • Nos. 43, 44 & 45 (all mid-to-late 16th century with much-altered facades)
  • Nos. 46 & 47 (early-to-mid 16th century)
No. 40, Nos. 41 and 42, and No. 46 all have Grade II* listed status. The rest are Grade II. This tiny group is about as good as 16th and 17th century domestic architecture gets in Exeter. It's unfortunate that until relatively recently much of the city looked like this but now there are only a few paltry fragments left to suggest the importance of the city in the time of the Tudor or the Stuart monarchs.

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