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Exeter History


Exeter Roman Soldier One Of The Oldest Cities In England

After a Celtic foundation the city of Exeter has been left with a wealth of history. This page gives just a brief insight into Exeter's historic past starting with the Romans all the way back in 50AD.





Exeter Timeline

50AD -
Exeter had signs of a Celtic foundation, but it was in 50AD that the city of Exeter was reached by the Roman Army who established a stronghold for its Second Augustan Legion. Towards the end of the 2nd century the Romans started constructing walls around the city to help with its defences. Large sections of the Roman masonry can still be seen today.

Exeter was of early importance, particularly to the Roman Army, due to it being the lowest point at which the River Exe could be crossed. This made Exeter their Gateway to the Southwest tip of England. The Romans knew the area as Isca Dumnoniorum and the local tribe as Dumnonii.

400AD -
After the Romans departed towards the end of the 4th century to help defend Italy from attack, Exeter entered the dark ages and was virtually abandoned between 400-700AD. The city now began to lose some of the influence and culture the Romans had bestowed upon it.


680AD -
In 680AD, Saxon invasions had pushed far enough South for them to be in control of Exeter. Around this same time the Patron Saint, St Boniface, was born in nearby Crediton and it is said that he received his early training at Exeter.

876AD -
In 876, the Danes briefly occupied Exeter, but King Alfred soon sent them fleeing the following year. Almost two decades later the Danes besieged the city again, only to be defeated once more by Alfred the Great.

1066AD -
After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the Norman King William arrived at the walls of Exeter. He was soon after talks in control of the city. The Rougemont castle was built around this period on the highest point of the city's walls. It was up until 2005 that the Exeter Crown Court still upheld law and order from within the gates of the castle and the shadow of Athelstan's tower.


1100AD -
Early in the twelfth century the Normans built the Cathedral of St Peter. Although the cathedral has had some rebuilding over the years, particularly in 1360, the twin Norman towers still remain and can be seen from all over the city.

1300AD -
Over the centuries Exeter had developed and prospered as a trading port, but following an altercation, the Countess of Devon built a weir across the river in the 1280s. Sea craft could no longer reach Exeter, so Topsham performed this function on its behalf with the Countess and her successors benefiting. Exeter however, was again later linked to the estuary by means of a ship canal constructed in the mid 16th century.

1900AD -
Apart from calling on its men to fight for the country, World War One had very little affect on Exeter. It was World War Two when war came to Exeter. German planes blitzed the city and destroyed many of the historical sites. Exeter today has developed into a modern day city, with all major road, rail and air links. It is the capital of the county of Devon, with a university, county hospital, county halls, communications and culture centres.

More Exeter History

Exeter's Historic Quayside
Historic Buildings and Landmarks
Castle, Gardens & Roman Walls
Photographs of Exeter's Historic Buildings


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