Exeter: a hub of dusted-off antiquity, well-nurtured religion and the home to quickly developing eateries. With seven National Trust sites and a handful of action-packed festivals (which range from food to gardens and anything in between), this underrated city in the south-west of Britain has a wealth of tourist attractions pulling people from all over the world. There isn’t a time when I travel to Devon where I don’t visit this amazing city. Alike my time spent in Sidmouth, Exeter is another place full of a decade’s worth of memories. Quay cycling trips, tea-sipping in small independent cafes and forced clothes shopping trips by my sister all treasured memories.
However, walking the same streets over and over again can become tiresome- especially when the only noticeable change on the high-street is the amount of ‘closing down’ signs plastered on the windows of House of Fraser. Although it includes famous chapel ruins, a selection of modern shops and beautiful views, it often hides its smaller, lesser known tourist appeals. After visiting it year after year, this time, I craved something new; something strange to find- and I’ve found three attractions that should do the trick for any discerning traveller.
Exeter hides deep below the city streets a series of bizarre, medieval underground walk-ways that have been in use since the 14th century (once for the transportation of fresh drinking water, and now for historical tours).
The guides are friendly and informative: after years of research, it’s been found that lead pipes used to line the compact, cave-like passages, in order to carry clean water through the city to Exeter Cathedral. However, since the original construction, some passageways have been blocked off. Pipes were melted for bullets during the Civil War, and the passages were only re-opened after the war had ended. Since then, rumours of ghosts and crafted air shelters have been heard of throughout the construction of the passages. Unfortunately, none of this has been deemed fact as of today. Over time, the passages became neglected and damaged, but after a rise of interest during the 1930s, some of them had been re-opened and refurbished into what you can see today.
With LED lights hung on the eroded walls, you can get a sense for what the passages were like back in the day. Small puddles flood parts of the dusty cave flooring. At times you have to dodge out the way of jagged rock and overhead pipes. You can hear loud bangs and thumps from the main city roads not so far above. Towards the end of the tour, the option of crawling through one of the smaller passages can be taken. Tour members emerge a few minutes later, caked in dust, mud and with an adventurous grin.
One of the narrowest streets in the world lies between a Patisserie Valerie café and a Greggs. As underwhelming as it sounds, Parliament Street is very well hidden. I walked past it the first time without even
This unbelievable building has a name that frequently gets mistaken due to its striking design. Formerly known as The Merchants House, it’s painted a stale, time forgotten white, framed with black
Although, the name is actually more literal than what it seems… The entire house was moved from one street to another! Originally, this house was supposed to be demolished due to renovations on Frog Street, which was its original home. Yet after several campaigns against the demolition from historians, the house became a listed building for the British Heritage. So the government and the historians reached a compromise: move the entire house 220 feet away, onto a
Tah-dah! Three rarely discovered and unusual Exeter secrets. If you want a new way to view history and avoid shopping sprees, I definitely recommend you visit these attractions. The Underground Passages are an outstanding way to travel back in time. Parliament Street and The Merchant’s House stand as small monuments from a time once forgotten. With deteriorating walls, rustic
Disclaimer: This article was inspired by Atlas Obscura. During the adventures that led to this article, this was the second time I had been through the Underground Passages. My family and I had visited them years ago, as well as the Merchants House. I have walked past Parliament Street hundreds of times without knowing it was there. In general, I didn’t know that these places were so rarely seen. Reading the Atlas Obscura website was a
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