Category Archives: Exeter Quayside

Exeter Quayside

Exeter Quayside

The Roman and medieval city of Exeter grew up on a hill overlooking the River Exe, which means that the river runs below the city rather than through it.

This also means that it requires an inconvenient 15-minute walk downhill from the city centre (unless you follow the nicer walk alongside the City Wall), or an even more inconvenient bus service to get here. That said, get here you must, because it’s one of the most enjoyable parts of the city.

In my Brief History of Exeter, I mentioned that a Celtic tribe called the Dumnonii were the first people to settle here, and although there doesn’t appear to be any hard evidence, it seems likely that they were trading at the Quayside before the Romans arrived.

You might have expected the Romans to be trading here themselves, and although they probably did, their main port was at Topsham, some 4 miles downstream.

Even so, by the Middle Ages, trade was flourishing on the Quayside – or at least it was until Countess Isabella de Fortibus built a weir across the river above Topsham to run her mills. To bypass the problem a canal was built from the opposite side of the river down to a point just below Topsham.

Exeter’s influence was restored, and by the mid-18th century trade reached its peak when woollen cloth became the chief export. This cloth was stored in warehouses along with imported olive oil, wine and salt cod.

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