In the summer of 2014 we asked for suggestions to support a worthwhile project which met with our objectives. We only received two nominations, one of them being for the restoration of the General Gordon Lamppost in Heavitree. The lamp stands just where the road divides to go either side of the Chapel of St Clare and thousands of people must pass every day without being aware of the name and the reason for it being there.
In December 2014 The Chairman and I met with officers from The City Council and Devon County Council. This turned out not to be as straight forward a project as we had first anticipated because of the location of the lamppost on a busy road junction. It involved temporary three way traffic lights and work could only be carried out at weekends for health and safety reasons. However, the work was done in conjunction Devon County Council improving the traffic lights and a better crossing for pedestrians at this junction. As a result the estimated cost escalated and we were aware that we could not fund the whole project. I was able to secure additional funding from the Heavitree County Councillor Olwen Foggin’s localities budget, a generous donation from the person who nominated the refurbishment and from The Exeter Historic Buildings Trust.
The work was finally finished in December 2015, with the post painted black with gold embellishments and a new working lantern installed. The granite base was cleaned and the lettering restored. The base of the lamp bears the name Charles George Gordon and the date 26th January 1885 – the date when General Gordon was murdered in Khartoum by supporters of the Mahdi.
So, what is the link between Heavitree and General Gordon? Gordon’s grandparents lived at Lower Bowhill House, and have a memorial in St Thomas Church. According to the parish history leaflet General Gordon received his recall to London before his fatal expedition whilst he was in the porch of St Thomas Church. But the reason for the lamp is that Gordon was a great friend of the then vicar of Heavitree, Prebendary Reginald Barnes. Gordon visited Heavitree and exchanged many letters with the vicar who was so affected by the news of Gordon’s death that he subsequently paid for the lamp to be erected as a lasting memorial to the General.
By Susie Hewitt
On the 13th May 2016 Exeter Civic Society welcomed the Lord Mayor Cllr Olwen Foggin to unveil the information panel for the newly renovated General Gordon Lamp at Livery Dole, which is a prominent feature of the street scene. We are grateful to the present Rector of Heavitree Father Robin Eastoe for allowing us to use the Chapel, and would also like to thank those citizens who contributed towards the costs.