Magdalen Road at night

Magdalen Road at night
December 2010

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Look at the Breccia in St Leonard’s

What’s breccia?  It’s the geologist’s name for Heavitree stone, and there’s a lot of it about.  It’s used for buildings and for walls all over the city, because it is conveniently to hand.  (If you were building a house, and all the materials came in a horse-drawn cart, you would use local materials!)  And, because it was cheap, and found in quantity nearby, many walls around St Leonard’s have foundations of breccia, and – more expensive and posher – bricks to finish the upper layers.  However, it is a coarse sandstone, and is prone to weathering, so that some examples around the neighbourhood are crumbling to dust.  (Cars and large vehicles throw up water from puddles more vigorously than humans and horses.) 

Our friends in Heavitree are celebrating their local stone, with a website called Heavitree quarry trails.  It has three suggested routes for looking at constructions made with the stone, and a photo gallery (including the city council’s reserve stock of the material which is on Belle Isle).  

There’s also a challenge with an A to Z of sites in Exeter where there is Heavitree stone in use.  The suggestion is that you should spell out your name by visiting each letter in turn.  So here is the list for Leonard:

L is St Loye’s Chapel in Rifford Road
E is St Edmund’s Church on the old Exe bridge
O is Old Deanery wall near Exeter Cathedral
N is Benedictine Priory of St Nicholas
A is St Anne’s Orthodox Church
R is Rougemont Castle
D is Devon and Exeter Institution

Look out for this site and plan your own walk looking at breccia in the city!

Published in July-August 2019 issue of Neighbourhood News

Wellfest St Leonard's July 7th 2019

Magdalen Road was closed for the Wellfest and neighbourhood sit-down meal; the Neighbourhood Association has posted a short report here

I also took some pictures of some of the sights:

Friday, 3 May 2019

Results of local election for Exeter City Council, May 2nd 2019

Results for the election of one councillor
Jemima Moore, Independent, was elected with 1359 votes. (49%)
Carol Whitton, Labour, was second with 1092 votes (39%)
Jago Brockway, Conservative), was third with 342 votes (12%)
Jemima Moore has a majority of 267 votes

Councillor Jemima Moore

Monday, 29 April 2019

Leela's shop window in April 2019

The Leela store with imaginative messages on the window

The message in the window of Leela reflected feelings about Brexit:

This week's indicative vote results
1) There will be a soft hard border between Heavitree and St Leonard's
2) Passports will be required between Exeter and Crediton & Tiverton
3) Magdalen Road will remain in the Customs Union
4) Stockpiling of chocolate is recommended

Seriously, we really love you in Heavitree and Crediton and Tiverton

Monday, 18 June 2018

Looking at the variety of stringcourses in the neighbourhood

The beautiful Georgian terraces in Southernhay are enhanced by the lines of plasterwork that run along their front walls, making lines indicating the levels of the floors behind.  They also provide a discreet way of advertising the businesses and offices which occupy buildings which were intended as residential property.  

But you don’t need to go into the city to enjoy a rich variety of stringcourses.  The word describes any kind of horizontal feature on the wall of a house or commercial building.  Stringcourses, sometimes written as two words, and referred to by various other names as well (including, for some reason, the name “Belly band”) have been a feature of architecture since at least Roman times.  They are often used, as in Southernhay, to mark where the building’s floors occur.  But architects are not content with a rule which limits their creativity.  Stringcourses can run between the lintels of windows, or mark a centre line running through window frames, or … you name it, there is a stringcourse there!  In some cases, the design of the stringcourse has a practical purpose, to direct some rain away from the wall, making a sort of drip strip.  

As for their construction, architectural imagination runs riot.  They can be made of brick, plaster or stone.  They can be plain or decorated.  Some of the most highly decorated examples are really a frieze on the exterior.  They can be discreet so that you would hardly be aware of them.  Otherwise, they can be really “in your face”.  

This month I am not going to tell you where to look for local designs and styles of stringcourse.  Instead, here’s a challenge; can you find these sixteen designs of stringcourse in St Leonard’s?

  • A stringcourse in the same colour as the rendering on the house.
  • A stringcourse in a different colour from the rendering on the house.
  • A brick stringcourse that is flush with the house wall.
  • A brick stringcourse that is proud of the house wall.
  • A brick stringcourse that uses a different colour brick from the house wall.
  • A brick stringcourse that uses a different brick bond from that on the house wall.
  • A moulded brick stringcourse.
  • A moulded stone stringcourse.
  • A stringcourse which marks the junction of brickwork and render.
  • A stringcourse which is not at the level of a floor.
  • A frieze.
  • A building with two or more stringcourses.
  • A building with a painted black stringcourse.
  • A building with a painted white stringcourse.
  • A stringcourse on terraced houses which is stepped following the slope of the road.
  • A stringcourse on a fa├žade, but not on the side of the building.

 Have fun! (Published in the May-June 2018 Neighbourhood News)

Friday, 16 March 2018

Looking for old advertisements in Exeter

This month, the challenge is to look up for faded advertisements, across the city.  

From the start of the 19th century, businesses used the walls of houses and shops as a space to display publicity.  Paint could be used more easily, and more durably, than paper posters.  Sign-writers extended their skills from lettering on shop fronts to decorating larger areas.  The practice continued until the middle of the last century.  Changes of ownership, and the trades concerned led to some of these large advertisements being overpainted.  Since then, the signs have faded, and in many cases, have been erased from their walls.  

Interest in what remains has led to numerous books about “ghost signs” in the UK and other countries.  Spotters of such relics have recorded many ghost signs in urban New York and smaller US cities, and there are books about the ghost signs of Bath and London, plus websites for other localities.  

So what about Exeter?  There was a painted sign in the village, many decades ago for the dairy – now the fishmonger.  But it has been lost, like many others.  But some survive beyond the neighbourhood.  Perhaps the best in Exeter is on a wall by Cowley Bridge Road.  It advertises Redline petrol, a brand which existed in the 1930s and 1940s, including a picture of the top of an old petrol pump.  This is the only surviving advert for the company in the UK, though, bizarrely, one of the shops in Princesshay has used a fuel can for the Redline brand in its “retro” styling.  

Nearer to us, there is an advert for the Royal Society for the Blind in Palace Gate – like many, it is on a wall that faces away from the main road, so you can see it when walking towards South Street from the cathedral.  A partly illegible sign for a business in Gandy Street can be found in Baker Street, just off Magdalen Road as it approached the Gordon Lamp in Heavitree.  Further east through Heavitree, a ghost sign advertises “Chemist” in Victor Street.  

My (very short) list of Exeter’s ghost signs also records those for the Polsloe Dairy in Jubilee Road, Pearks Baking Powder in Cecil Road, St Thomas, Holwill’s Dairy in St David’s Hill, and the Lamacraft brewery overlooking St Sidwell’s School.  A faint advertisement for a Victorian cigar Importer is on a wall in Fore Street.

These relics of old Exeter businesses are rare survivals – look out for them in our city, and keep your eyes skinned for similar survivors if you are travelling this Easter.  Do let me know of any others in the city.