Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Exe Bridge & Chapel, Exeter, Devon

This Mediaeval bridge and chapel has got to be the coolest traffic island ever!


 During the 1960s and 70s the road system was altered in order to include a ring road around the west side of the city centre (known as the West Quarter). The ancient street between the bridge and the hitherto site of West Gate was excavated and several houses were demolished, during which the remains of the eastern end of the bridge was discovered. Originally consisting of 18 arches, only these 8 remain. The River Exe is a lot less wider than it was then, due to the making of leats in order to reclaim marshy land for building purposes, therefore these remains are no longer across the river but are left stranded in the centre of this busy road system.

The first of five bridges across the River Exe, this one was built by Nicholas Gervaise and his son Walter, and was completed in 1238. It originally supported two chapels;  St Edmund's Chapel at the eastern end, of which only the tower remains, and St Thomas's at the western. There were also houses on the bridge, built as an income for maintaining the structure, but nothing remains of them or St Thomas's Chapel now. It is thought that there may have been an earlier, Roman bridge, but there are no remains or documentation to corroborate it. However, a wooden bridge had been previously constructed for pedestrains, whereas a ford was used for carts and herding livestock across.


The inclusion of St Edmund's on the bridge replaced an earlier chapel, and this too was rebuilt in 1834 after being burnt down in 1832. Most of the original tower remained and the rest of the church was rebuilt using material from the old building.


Mostly built with the red volcanic rock known as 'trap', which was quarried from Northernhay near Rougemont Castle, it is now the oldest surviving mediaeval stone bridge in England.

A few remains of the Victorian church can be seen around the base of the tower, including the capped well below.

And finally, inside the tower with two of the resident pigeons.

Visited in April 2009, my photos aren't exactly the best in the world! The colours are a bit odd, which I think was due to the light that day - one of those Spring days when foliage takes on a lime hue and buildings look somewhat pink - and which is why I edited some of them to black & white. Using a 35mm camera, film picks up the actual colours that we don't always notice with our own eyes, and you can't see what you've got until the films are processed, so it's long overdue for a return visit to take more photos. I think I'll leave it until Autumn next time though, just to make sure. ;)


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