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