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Description:The period 1068-1300 is one in which there is little specific knowledge of activity on the city wall. The principal source for detailed knowledge of work on the wall, the Receivers’ Accounts do not begin until the early 14th century (cf. Blaylock 1995, 10-16), and thus are entirely lacking for this period. A series of murage grants is recorded in the Patent Rolls between 1224 and 1369, indicating that work was intended on the defences towards the end of this period (Burrow 1977, 15). Despite the lack of sources, something can be said of possible work of this period, on the basis of distinctive building materials, but in the absence of surviving documentary sources, there is little possibility of certainty. Demonstrably early work on the castle, plus other early buildings such as St Nicholas’ Priory, show that 11th and 12th century masonry at Exeter employed the local volcanic trap, probably from the immediate environs of the castle, in combination with white (or sometimes pink) Triassic sandstone. The source of this stone is not located, although since it appears in church building on both sides of the Exe estuary, and east as far as the river Otter, a source somewhere between Exeter and Exmouth/Budleigh Salterton, possibly on the coast, has been suggested (Blaylock 1995, 31). As far as is known, there is no documentary reference to this stone, and the implication is that it had passed out of use prior to the earliest survival of systematic building accounts and other documentary sources (i.e. by the 1270s, the date of the earliest Cathedral accounts; the series of city accounts begins in the 1330s). This is consistent with the evidence of the semicircular towers or bastions, which are provisionally dated to some time in the 13th century (cf. above for references). There is thus a good case to be made that sections of wall containing Triassic sandstone (in primary contexts) must date to the mid-late 13th century or earlier. There are, of course, problems with such a procedure for dating: it is not always possible to be certain that stone has not been re-used; sections rebuilt wholly with re-used materials will stand little chance of being recognised; and building materials could easily be transferred from one place to another, to cope with immediate needs. By and large, however, the incidence of Triassic sandstone in quantity in a given section of wall seems to provide a reliable indicator of an origin in period MD3. The stone was used by the Romans, although not apparently in the city wall, it appears in the legionary bath house (Monument No. 10025; Bidwell 1979, 55). It also appears in the few demonstrably pre-conquest structures in the city, most notably in the parapet added to the city wall on the north-west side of the castle in Northernhay Gardens (Monument No. 11000). Since the stone was clearly available in the pre-conquest period, it is certainly possible that any of the specific instances named hereafter could also be of earlier date; general probability suggests that this is less rather than more likely, and that a date bracket of c.12th-13th centuries is probable in most cases. Having made this point, the following areas seem to contain large quantities of Triassic sandstone, and for this or other reasons represent the best contenders for work of this period: (i) A section of coursed masonry in sandstone blocks at the eastern corner of the city and, in fact, cut by the construction of the probably 13th-century eastern corner tower (Monument No. 11069l; Blaylock 1995, 101-2, section Ext.28.4). (ii) A number of builds at the western corner of the city, to either side of Snayle Tower, where Triassic sandstone is the predominant building material (Blaylock 1995, 69-71, sections Ext. 15.3, 16.4, 16.5; cf. . idem 1994, 6-7 and Fig. 2, for a detailed record of these sections). (iii) A section of wall in Quay Lane adjacent to one of the best preserved sections of Roman work (Blaylock 1995, 81, section Ext. 21.8) which appears to consist solely of re-used Roman facework and core materials with the admixture of new Triassic sandstone blocks (ibid., section Ext.21.7). The appearance of this work suggests that it represents the rebuilding of a section of collapsed Roman wall using such materials as could be salvaged from the collapse, with new material in the shape of the sandstone blocks. This implies that the sandstone is unlikely itself to be re-used in this context (in contrast, say, to its appearance in other builds further down Quay Lane, where it occurs in facework of much more mixed character, where it could have been easily introduced at second or third hand).

Extant: Yes
Grid reference:SX915924
Map reference: [ EPSG:27700] 291578, 92466
Periods:1068 - 1300
Subjects:TOWN WALL
Identifiers:[ ADS] Depositor ID - 11078.03

People Involved:

  • [ Publisher] Exeter City Council

Bibliographic References:

  • Simpson, S.J. (1993) Exeter City Walls: Westgate to Southgate, Survey and Excavation in the West Quarter in EMAFU Report No. 93.73. Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit.
  • Nenk, B.S., Margeson, S., & Hurley, M. (1993) 'Devon, Exeter. 31. Lower Coombe Street/Quay Lane', pp. 252-54 in 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1992' in Medieval Archaeol. 37, pg(s)240-313. Society for Medieval Archaeology.
  • Bedford, J.B., & Hall, M.E.P. (1994) Exeter City Defences: Fabric Recording between Southgate and Watergate 1992 in EMAFU Report No. 94.65. Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit.
  • Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit (1993) Report to Exeter Archaeological Advisory Committee, 25.6.93, pp. 9-11. Exeter City Council.
  • Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit (1992) Report to Exeter Archaeological Advisory Committee, 9.10.92, pp. 17-18. Exeter City Council.
  • Fox, A. (1952) Roman Exeter (Isca Dumnoniorum): Excavations in the war damaged areas, pp. 57-9 in History of Exeter Research Group, Monograph 7. Manchester University Press.