Public Art on Fore Street Unveiled Marking a Milestone Anniversary


On 3rd August 1620 a sizeable crowd gathered in Fore Street, Exeter in front of Tuckers Hall to greet Thomas Shapcot who had journeyed from London on horseback bearing the Royal Charter granted by King James 1 to allow the Weavers Fullers and Shearmen of the City to become an Incorporation. This seal of approval allowed the Incorporation to become a self-governing body in order to protect the trades and mysteries of cloth-making from outside influences, who had interfered and reduced the quality of Exeter Cloth, affecting reputation, reducing demand and the price to an unsustainable level.

Tuckers Hall is a unique medieval hall built, owned, and occupied by the ancient guilds of cloth workers since 1471, controlling the manufacture of woollen cloth making and trading in Exeter. The King’s seal of approval helped Exeter to excel, leading to an era of 150 years of prosperity with an increase to over 1,000 pieces of cloth produced a day with 400 master craftsmen belonging to the Incorporation, representing 25% of the nation’s production of woollen cloth.

On Monday 3rd August 2020, five members of the Incorporation gathered in ceremonial robes outside Tuckers Hall. The current Master Ian Gardner gave a short speech honouring the anniversary of the granting of the Charter which allowed the newly incorporated guilds to become freemen. Jeremy James Taylor MBE, a former director of National Youth Theatre (NYMT), read the first line of the Charter suitably dressed in 1620 style costume to represent Thomas Shapcot.

The ceremony was proceeded by a formal unveiling of commemorative railings at the front of Tuckers Hall by Head Warden Nicky Baker, to mark the milestone anniversary. It will act as a signpost to the location of Tuckers Hall with a piece of public art, clearly informing passers-by of the purpose of the building and its importance to the cloth trade. The result is truly unique and will be a notable addition to Fore Street enhancing it as a principal pedestrian entrance to the City-centre and mark the Hall as a ‘must visit’ location.

Nicky Baker Head Warden, Incorporation of Weavers, Fullers & Shearmen unveils newly commissioned railings

Ian Gardner – Master of the Incorporation of Weavers, Fullers and Shearmen said: “The original Charter is kept at the South West Heritage Trust who kindly agreed to allow us to have it on loan for the day, and we also had historical artefacts leant by the RAMM. A short film of the unveiling ceremony and reading of the Charter was commissioned so all members who would have attended before Covid-19 restrictions, will have the opportunity to see it in virtual reality, and also be utilised for the archive.”

Thomas Shapcot (played by Jeremy James Taylor MBE) reads the Royal Charter

Peter Lacey – member of the Incorporation explains: “Fortunately, before lockdown we commissioned a commemorative replacement set of railings and gate depicting the history of Exeter’s cloth trade from sheep to export. These, rather like Tuckers Hall, are unique; beautifully hand-made by blacksmith artist, David Tucker. The selection of the artist resulted from shortlisting of some of the finest metal-work craftsmen in the UK and the result is truly exceptional, showing by its form and imagery the purpose of the building and skills and crafts it supported.” He adds: “The visual presence of the new installation, substantially funded by the Coastal Recycling Community Fund, is a key element in the ‘Welcome’ package for visitors to the Hall.”

New commemorative railings by Blacksmith Artist David Tucker depicting the cloth trade and acting as a signpost to Tuckers Hall

The community fund enables Exeter-based Coastal Recycling to work in partnership with GrantScape, an enrolled Environmental Body under the Landfill Communities Fund (LCF). This grant programme supports projects in Devon.

Dominic Treacher, Group Operations Director – Coastal Recycling said: “We are committed to supporting social development as part of our corporate social responsibility activities.”

Content: Glen King of gkpr (part of the Bigwave family)

Photographs: Copyright Moments to Media


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