Past Remains

A view of yesterday from today

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. The ancient street between the bridge and the hitherto site of West Gate was dug up 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 used to be, 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 pedestrians, whereas a ford was used for carts and herding livestock across.

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.

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.

A few remains of the Victorian church can be seen around the base of the tower.

The remains of a well in the church grounds, above, and below is the chapel tower.

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

More photos can be viewed in the Photo Gallery album along with these.

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