Today was one of my rare days off, and as I’m heading out to Australia in a couple of weeks, it called for some Mummy-Daughter fun times. As we are a family of nerds, we decided to go on a free (yay!) tour of the city of Exeter offered by Red Coat Tours.
Red Coat Tours offer a selection of different tours around Exeter throughout the day, and we went on a churches, cemeteries and catacombs one, which is a little macabre but hey, whatever floats your boat. I didn’t think that it would be entirely up my street, but to be honest I actually found it pretty interesting – it’s quite cool to discover so much more about the history of a city that you’ve grown up in; it makes you see it in a completely different light.
The tours meet outside the Clarence Hotel in Cathedral yard, and that’s where you’ll find a timetable of their different tours. Ours started at 11am and obviously the first stop was Exeter Cathedral. Little did I know that the cathedral green where my friends and I spent much of our teenage years laying in the sun is actually an old graveyard. Archaeologists estimate that there are still thousands of bodies under that green grass, hence the slight hills… mmm. I’ve always been drawn to Exeter cathedral, and it was interesting to hear about its past, including the fact that the statues covering the west entrance used to be totally coloured.
From there we walked through Exeter stopping at a lot of the old parish churches that are snuggled away, hidden in plain sight. This included St Petrocks, the church of the saint of the poor and homeless. This church still does a lot of work with the homeless community in Exeter and has a kitchen providing meals in the back.
Towards the end of the tour we finally reached the catacombs that I didn’t even know existed! During the cholera outbreak of the 19th century, the land to the west of the city had to be consecrated and made a graveyard as there were too many bodies to bury. At the same time doctors and surgeons were desperately trying to find cadavers to carry out research, so grave diggers were making an absolute mint. The city decided to build the catacombs attached to the city wall: bodies were lowered down into them and bricked in. However, only 17 bodies were actually put in there as it cost a whopping 20 guineas for a space. Now it houses a community of horseshoe bats.
I totally recommend these tours, it was awesome. It ran for 90 minutes, and after that you can go and have lunch at any of the cafes dotted around the cathedral green or down one of the old skinny alleyways. Exeter offers some decent shopping and three cinemas. The River Exe runs below the hill that Exeter sits on, and it’s quite a nice walk along there.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, be sure to check out Gandy Street, that was the inspiration for Diagon Alley for J.K. Rowling. Another place to check out is the Firehouse, that was also her inspiration for The Leaky Cauldron.
Exeter holds a special place in my heart as a city that I grew up in, but it also hold so much history and secret places, it’s definitely worth a visit!
Which is your favourite city? Have you ever been to Exeter or another city that holds a rich history? Let me know!