Exeter, always a busy merchant city
Roman Isca was built just over 2,000 years ago on a prime estuarial site, great for trade with Gaul and Hibernia. There had already been Celtic settlements in the area but the Romans first opened the potential of Exeter for trade. This meant sturdy Roman Walls were needed to encircle and define the City, some still standing and walkable.
“Exeter Cathedral: still the gothic centre-piece”
The Elizabethan period was Exeter's Renaissance; Tudor merchants' houses dot the City centre and narrow lanes are a reminder of a dirty, dangerous and glittering past.
A middle-class romp through history ends with the relative modernity of Georgian Southernhay; a pleasure garden since 1667, site of the first balloon ascent from Exeter in 1786, performances by Sarah Siddons in 1789 and 90, the childhood of Charles Babbage "the father of computing", freedom of the City granted to Nelson in 1801 and site of the last duel in Devon in 1833, menagerie shows in the 1820s and a vibrant horse fair. In short, a proper social centre. Discover more on this city's glamorous artistic past and present by visiting the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter.