Alert about Heritage Assets and Cathedral Green

Keith Lewis, as Chair of Exeter Civic Society, sent two letters of concern relating to our historical heritage, one about the state of our city's most prominent heritage assets to ECC's Chief Executive and the other about the impact of the Christmas Market and similar events on the grassed areas of Cathedral Green to the Dean of Exeter Cathedral.

In his letter to Bindu Arjoon Keith Lewis appealed to the council to improve its level of investment to maintain and repair the city’s important heritage assets. In the name of our Committee he asked to see the council’s plans for expenditure to repair and maintain the assets over the next few years to ensure they are put back into first class condition. We are aware that Council budgets are under severe pressure, but Exeter has an exceptional range of historic buildings with great potential for tourism, and the level of essential repairs buildings like the Guildhall, the Roman City Wall and the Medieval Exe Bridge need demands action and a plan for maintenance now.

The Guildhall is a Grade 1 Listed Building, and believed to be the oldest such building in the country in continuous use since it was built. We do not know if there are problems in the interior, but what is very obvious is that there is damp on the façade. We first brought this to the attention of Council officers in 2022, but nothing has been done to address the problem. The photos show very significant damp problems in the area between the colonnade and the first floor windows, which without timely intervention, will result in the stonework deteriorating, and repairs will become more expensive.

The City Wall is one of the best preserved city walls in the country, on a par with those in Canterbury and York and running for around 2 miles, of which some 70% is at least partially preserved, and is one of Exeter’s treasures. The Northernhay and Southernhay stretches are exceptionally well preserved. But again, the wall appears in Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register in 2023, referring to “minor localised problems” and plant growth. We believe this really underplays the problems. Significant sections of the wall including by the Catacombs, the City Gate Hotel, Castle gatehouse and especially in the Northernhay Gardens and Athelstan’s Tower areas are fenced off and have been for some time (years), with signs warning the public to keep out. The arched walk through from Rougemont Gardens to Northernhay Gardens has been fenced off and blocked up for at least 2 years. This unfortunately makes a mockery of the City Wall Trail, one of the Council’s most high-profile tourist attractions.

Although the remains of the Medieval Exe Bridge are in a better state than the Walls, there are some places where remedial work is needed. We hope that a regular scheme of remediation is in place to address the current problems, and to keep the wall in good repair in the future. Does the council have a budget to maintain this structure?





In his letter to the Dean of Exeter Cathedral Keith Lewis refers back our response to planners regarding the Cathedral’s planning application for future Christmas markets, expressing concerns about the impact upon the grass, and noise during the market from generators. ECS recognises that the Cathedral intends to lay turf after future Christmas markets and we hope this will see the green quickly returned to its best in January. We also hope the contractors will take account of the concerns submitted by Devon Gardens Trust to the planning application in reinstating the Green. But we also noticed the poor condition of the grass after an event in the spring. We asked the Cathedral to consider installing permanent electricity supplies to support the Christmas market and any other events throughout the year rather than use generators which are noisy and not environmentally friendly. We are sure that such an investment will lead to long term benefits.