Monthly Archives: August 2017

A Brief History of Exeter

The Quayside on the River Exe

A Brief History of Exeter


I tend to think that knowing a bit about the history of a place helps to understand it a bit better, and so for those of you who feel like me, here’s a potted history of Exeter.

A Celtic tribe known as the Dumnonii were the first people to settle near the River Exe (Exe being Celtic for ‘The Water’) but in AD 49 the Romans arrived under Vespasian and created a fortress called Isca Dumnoniorum.

By AD 410 the Romans had left Britain and the Saxons moved into the ‘Ceaster’ (the Saxon name for a Roman town) and called it Exe-Ceaster.

By the 10th century Exeter had become the 6th most prosperous town in England, which didn’t go unnoticed by the Vikings who led several attacks on the town, but it was the arrival of William the Conqueror and the Normans that had the most profound effect.

William built Rougemont Castle to consolidate his position and then in 1114 he started work on the Cathedral.

The city started to prosper again thanks to the woollen trade and became the strategic and economic centre of the West of England, but it still had its moments of strife.

It was besieged twice. Firstly by Perkin Warbeck, pretender to the English throne in 1497, and then again by the Prayer Book Rebels in 1549.

When the Civil War arrived, Exeter was Parliamentarian but capitulated to the Royalists in 1643.

During World War II it became a victim of the ‘Baedeker Blitz’ and lost many of its historical buildings. There are still a few left, but a large part of the city centre has been re-built since.

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