Visiting the Guildhall, Exeter, Devon, England: an ornate presence for centuries
An enduring civic hub; and memories of feet
It is known that a municipal building has stood on the site of the current Guildhall in the High Street, Exeter, since Medieval times. The current frontage of this building dates from between 1593 and 1596.
This building continues to be used for civic functions, as it has done for centuries. At the nearby Guildhall Centre, a well-appointed shopping mall, I saw the Mayor of Exeter, complete with Mayoral regalia and, in turn, he seemed to see me and waved at me. I felt very 'important'!
'Another' important visitor to Exeter was Sir Nikolaus Pevsner. Readers may recall that I have quoted him before in these hubs. In his estimation, he relegated the architectural style of the Guildhall to the category of 'barbarous'. Exonians can doubtless also think of things to say about Sir Nikolaus. Oh well (1).
Mainly executed in Beer stone, the frontage of the building is noted for its four, granite columns and 16 upper storey pillars.
In the area where a walkway exists under the Guildhall's pillars, prisoners were formerly kept with their feet in stocks. Juries were also formerly empanelled in the building. (I am not sure whether there is, in some obscure way, some unintentional, subliminal link here, between these two, former activities at the Guidhall; and certainly, judges do like jury members to come if possible to a unanimous conclusion in their deliberations, and one wonders if the introduction of the use of stocks for jury members would have the generally persuasive effect of expediting the judicial process.)
September 13, 2013
(1) I am, of course, writing tongue-in-cheek. Sir Nikolaus Pevsner (1902-1983) was actually a very distinguished art and architecture critic, Reith Lecturer, author of 46-volume The Buildings of England, earning Slade Professorships at Oxford and Cambridge, in addition to many other honours. He was known also for his sometimes acerbic and eccentric comments; to the iconic Sir Christopher Wren, famous architect of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, England, he attributed bad taste; a Jewish exile from Nazi Germany, he was yet on record as having expressed aesthetic empathy with Dr Joseph Goebbels. (In my ignorance I still do not understand what he meant when he said that the Exeter Guildhall looked 'barbarous'.)
Also worth seeing
In Exeter itself, other visitor attractions include the city's Medieval Cathedral; among English Cathedral cities Exeter is one of the relatively few which are small enough for green fields to be visible on surrounding hills. The city is also a good base for excursions to Dartmoor, which traditionally attracts very large numbers of visitors.
How to get there: Flybe flies from Manchester Airport (England) , with worldwide connections, to Exeter Airport, where car rental is available. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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