St. Thomas

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Fireman and the Saint

Opposite this pub are some red brick community buildings. St Thomas had its own fire brigade from July 1889 and this was where the brigade was housed until they became redundant 2 years later when St Thomas joined the Exeter Municipal Area and the brigade joined the Exeter Fire Brigade. The buildings have also in the past been used as a library and printing works. Next to the old Fire Station was Beaufort School for Girls and young Gentlemen.

A little further on is the entrance to St Thomas Park. In 1887, the year of Queen Victoria's jubilee it was decided to provide a safe area for children to play. In March 1891, the park was opened. Of the 4 acres, 1 acres was reserved for adults to use on Saturdays, with the other 3 for the kids.

The bridge linking Exeter and St Thomas is an awful lot shorter than the mediaeval version of  700 feet and 18 arches. A church was built on this side of the river on that bridge around 1257, this was the church that was eventually washed away in 1403. Parishioners wanted another church built and asked the Prior of Cowick Monastery to build another church on safer land. This building was consecrated in 1412 by the Bishop of Stafford and was dedicated to St. Thomas a' Becket, the one who defied Henry II and was slain in Canterbury Cathedral.

The Prayer Book Rebellion of 1549 saw the St. Thomas priest Vicar Robert Walsh laying siege to Exeter from St. Thomas in the west and St. Sidwells in the east as a member of the catholic rebels. Welsh persuaded the rebel leaders not to burn the city, because many of its citizens preferred the Latin Mass.

The Marriage of Sarah Messenger to some sad git, 2nd June 1990 and St Thomas Parish Church, 
picture by one of our guests. Tactical Errors

However a tactical error was made when a Kings Army messenger was captured and hanged on Exe Island. The rebels were eventually defeated by Lord Russell at Clyst St Mary and Welsh was hanged in Catholic vestments from the church tower. After this, the church was dedicated to St Thomas the apostle. The original tower fell to the ground when the church was destroyed by fire in 1645, this was possibly connected to the Civil War (though there is no evidence).

General Thomas Fairfax, who was head of Cromwell's New Model Army was holed up in Alphington a year later. This present building was built in its place.
The tower, south aisle and nave date from a 1657 rebuilding. The north aisle and porch was added in 1821, and in 1828-30, the chancel was rebuilt. The churchyard was extended by half an acre in 1830.

Services are well attended and many weddings take place on Saturdays when unfortunate young men are sentenced to a life of none stop shopping and decorating. A tactical error was made on 2nd June 1990. The short but often overlooked phrase, 'I do' does mean 'Life'. The word 'obey' does not appear in the post marriage version of her dictionary along with a few other words that were perfectly acceptable before.

The church hall is called Buller Hall after Major General Rt Hon Sir Redvers Buller, who commanded the British forces in South Africa at the start of the Boer War. He died in 1901 and the hall was built in 1915 in his memory. Two coats of arms can be seen, those of Becket and those of Buller. It underwent severe renovation with the frontal facade being kept in 2002 / 2003, after being sold by the Church for conversion into flats for the elderly.

The vicarage was built in 1800-05, when it replaced an original vicarage which used to stand on the corner of Old Vicarage Road.

The Sawyers, formerly the Sawyers Arms used to be a small cottage selling beer  until the brewers took it over in 1911. It was rebuilt in 1966 on its present site. There is a family room at the front of the building and food is served during the day and I believe early evenings.

Your Health

The Health Centre was opened in October 1969. It was the first of this type of centre opened in Exeter with up to ten G.P.s seeing patients from the St Thomas area. The car park once housed the cottages of Victoria Court. Over the road is the methodist church. This was built in 1934 by the local Wesleyans and United Methodists. Cowick Street School opened in 1862 as St Thomas National School with three staff to teach 300 students. So don't complain about parent/teacher ratios.

The Sawyers

Sawyers History

First and Last History

Just a little further along Cowick Street is the First and Last which used to be known as The Falmouth Inn. It was rebuilt in 1913 and re-named in the early 1980's to reflect the fact that the first and last trams left here for central Exeter (1905-1931). Until 1884 a gate and tollhouse had stood at this point.

You'll have noticed the row of very old cottages on the way. These were described by John Stocker in the 1860's.

"Cowick Street had houses on each side, and any number of courts, and a great many houses were thatched. The kitchens were floored with pebbles.... Nearly all the houses had tiny gardens and nearly every cottager kept pigs; Reed's Court contained 20 houses and about 100 pigs. The last thatched house in Cowick Street was the Falmouth Inn."

Reeds Court

Bowhill House is just about 150 metres up Dunsford Hill, you may wish to take a look. In Stocker's time, Dunsford Hill was open fields and meadow. Bowhill Mental Hopital was once also a feature of this area.

The Cowick Barton Inn Sign The Cowick Barton Inn

Next stop is the Cowick Barton Inn on Cowick Lane. Turn left at the traffic lights you'll come across the Cowick Barton in about ten minutes on your left hand side. This land once housed a farm house used by the monks of Cowick Monastery, which was a small establishment comprising about four monks. The food is good, especially for Sunday lunch. The beers aren't bad either with a good if limited selection of ales served in both bars, the smaller Priory bar and the lounge bar.

Cowick Barton

The original priory buildings were built along the river in Okehampton Street but these Grange or farm buildings are situated some distance away (as you know) on rising ground, this was in the 12th century. The foundations of a nearby chapel (St. Michaels Chapel) were discovered in 1887 when some pipes were being laid. At the dissolution of the monasteries, the Priory lands were acquired by Lord John Russel, later Earl Of Bedford. At Cowick Barton he built a small hunting lodge or house for his bailiff using the stone from the dilapidated Priory.

Cowick Barton History

The plaster plaque over the fireplace shows the arms of the Baron family and the date 1657. The Barons are mentioned in the parish records from 1603 until the 1660's and it is possible that they bought the Cowick Barton from the Russels after being tenants. The Barons were wool merchants and leading members of Exeter's Company of Weavers and Tuckers which met at Tuckers Hall in Fore Street. This hall is open to the public and is and displays an excellent example of a medieval roof and 17th century oak panelling.

The Cowick Barton was aquired by Courage Brewery in 1963 who opened it up as a pub, Husseys had previously sold the building in 1920.

The Seven Stars

The Crawford Hotel

Once you've finished here, head out to the road (Cowick Lane), and turn left. Turn left into Hatherliegh Road and follow the road around until you reach Alphington Road. Turn Left, on your left is The Seven Stars. A pub called the Seven Stars was originally sited by the old Exe Bridge. This pub was built here in 1960 to serve the farmers visiting the Cattle Market that used to occupy the site now housing Stone Lane Retail Park. The Cattle Market moved to Matford in the early 1990's. Until the pub was updated in Feb/March 2003, the pub's sign depicted a cow with seven stars on it's horns. This sign was replaced at this time by the "Ember Inns" obelisk.

Outside turn left and cross over the road to the Crawford Hotel, this is the last stop. The place used to be a country farmhouse until it was bought by the City Brewery in 1938. It was opened as a hotel in October 1939 (originally Lion House Hotel). The old farmers name was Crawford but the 1960's sign shows the arms of the Earl of Crawford. Outside you'll notice that Alphington Road is remarkably straight. The road follows a roman causeway from the railway bridge to this point just outside the Crawford.

Seven Stars History

Crawford Hotel History

Stuart Callon Copyright ©2002, 2003, 2005, 2006

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