Veer off the High Street and up the gentle slope towards Exeter Castle and you will find yourself in Castle Quarter comprised of Castle and Little Castle Street in Exeter. An especially historic corner of the city with an eclectic collection of shops and services and an identity all of its own. The area is well known as the gateway to the venue for the annual Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink which takes place in the courtyard of Exeter Castle and the pretty neighbouring public park, Northernhay Gardens.
The quarter’s main drag of shops is home to a variety of independent boutiques, jewellery makers, a hair and beauty salon, café, therapy and wellbeing rooms and lately a modern dental practice – coincidentally a dental hospital was situated in Castle Street in the late nineteenth century and by 1895 had treated over 5,000 patients. The row of shops sits in the middle of Castle and Little Castle Street in a neat tear drop shape – perfect to saunter around in a satisfying loop!
Castle Street’s western-most tip is host to Exeter Library. This building was subject to an extensive three year refurbishment project completed in 2014 to bring the facility into the 21st century. It asked the people of Exeter to have a say and give their thoughts on the priorities of the redevelopment and heralded a new era for one of city’s much loved public buildings.
Exeter Castle, also known as Rougemont Castle has a rich history. A structure worthy of the label ‘castle’ is thought to been built on the site by King Athelstan, destroyed by the Danes in 1003 and replaced by William the Conqueror. Many will know it in its recent guise as Exeter’s Crown and County Courts until 2007 and the spot that Temperance Lloyd, Mary Trembles and Susannah Edwards, otherwise known as the Devon Witches, were tried and sentenced to a gruesome death in 1682. Now an impressive venue space and a place for fun and frivolity, nonetheless traces of the Castle’s history are still visible to the modern visitor, not least the holding cells-turned quirky loos!
Did you know?
The row of shops that divides Castle and Little Castle Streets in Exeter was originally headed by the Castle Hotel. Badly damaged in May 1942 during the blitz, the row was supported by two huge wooden buttresses which were later covered in Virginia Creeper. The row is now headed by the curved building we know and love today and occupied by The Exeter Dental Centre.
Exeter Library has had an eventful history. The original Exeter Library was built in 1930 at the cost of £55,000 but was bombed, gutted and badly burnt in the 1942 air raid. A new library was opened in 1965 featuring state of the art facilities and a Scandinavian design. The most recent renovation project started in November 2011 and the library was re-opened in May 2014.
Exeter Castle in Exeter, also known as Rougemont Castle is mentioned in Shakespeare’s play Richard III as the ill-fated monarch visited the city in 1483.