History

Exeter's past can be read in its buildings. The Romans marched in around AD 55; their 17-hectare fortress included a 2-mile defensive wall, crumbling sections of which remain, especially in Rougemont and Northernhay Gardens. Saxon and Norman times saw growth: a castle went up in 1068, the cathedral 40 years later. The Tudor wool boom brought Exeter an export trade, riches and half-timbered houses; prosperity continued into the Georgian era, when hundreds of merchants built genteel homes. The Blitz of WWII brought devastation; in just one night in 1942, 156 people died and 12 hectares of the city were flattened. In the 21st century, the £220-million Princesshay Shopping Centre added shimmering glass and steel lines to the architectural mix. But 2016 brought a devastating fire at the Royal Clarence Hotel – a much-loved 18th-century building in the heart of Cathedral Yard. At time of writing, plans were being discussed to rebuild the hotel and restore its iconic facade.