Place:Exeter, Devon, England

Alt namesEscancestresource: Blue Guide: England (1980) p 160
Essecestrasource: Domesday Book (1985) p 80
Execestresource: Domesday Book (1985) p 80
Exoniasource: Domesday Book (1985) p 80
Isca Dumnoniorumsource: Blue Guide: England (1980) p 160; Romano-British Placenames [online] (1999) accessed 16 August 2004
Exeter All Hallows on the Wallssource: ecclesiastical parish merged in 19th century
Exeter Allhallows Goldsmith Streetsource: another name for above
Exeter Holy Trinitysource: ecclesiastical parish merged in 19th century
Exeter St. Davidsource: ecclesiastical parish merged in 19th century
Exeter St. Edmundsource: ecclesiastical parish merged in 19th century
Exeter St. George the Martyrsource: ecclesiastical parish merged in 19th century
Exeter St. Johnsource: ecclesiastical parish merged in 19th century
Exeter St. Kerriansource: ecclesiastical parish merged in 19th century
Exeter St. Lawrencesource: ecclesiastical parish merged in 19th century
Exeter St. Martinsource: ecclesiastical parish merged in 19th century
Exeter St. Mary Archessource: ecclesiastical parish merged in 19th century
Exeter St. Mary Majorsource: ecclesiastical parish merged in 19th century
Exeter St. Mary Stepssource: ecclesiastical parish merged in 19th century
Exeter St. Olavesource: ecclesiastical parish merged in 19th century
Exeter St. Pancrassource: ecclesiastical parish merged in 19th century
Exeter St. Paulsource: ecclesiastical parish merged in 19th century
Exeter St. Petrocksource: ecclesiastical parish merged in 19th century
Exeter St. Sidwellsource: ecclesiastical parish merged in 19th century
Exeter St. Stephensource: ecclesiastical parish merged in 19th century
Polsloesource: hamlet in parish
TypeAncient parish, Borough (county), County town
Coordinates50.72°N 3.53°W
Located inDevon, England     ( - 1974)
See alsoWonford Hundred, Devon, Englandhundred in which the city was located
Exeter District, Devon, Englanddistrict municipality of which it is the principal part since 1974
Contained Places
St Petrock Churchyard

the text in this section is based on an article in Wikipedia

Exeter is a cathedral city in Devon, England, with a population of 129,800 (mid-2016 EST). The city is located on the River Exe approximately 36 miles (58 km) northeast of Plymouth and 65 miles (105 km) southwest of Bristol. It is the county town of Devon, and the base of Devon County Council.

Exeter was the most southwesterly Roman fortified settlement in Britain. It became a religious centre during the Middle Ages and continued as such into Tudor times: Exeter Cathedral, founded in the mid 11th century and dedicated to St. Peter, became Anglican during the 16th-century English Reformation. During the late 19th century, Exeter became an affluent centre for the wool trade, although by the First World War industry in the city was in decline. The centre was badly bombed in the Second World War, but much was rebuilt by 1960 and is now considered to be a centre for modern business and tourism in Devon and Cornwall.

Since 1974 the administrative area of Exeter has the status of a non-metropolitan district under the administration of the County Council; a plan to grant the city unitary authority status and put it on the same basis as Plymouth was scrapped after 2010.


Wikipedia provides articles on history from the Roman era through to the end of the 18th century. From Tudor times onward Exeter was most important as a market town for agricultural goods brought in from the farms in rural areas. It was a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War (circa 1640-1660).

Georgian and Victorian eras

Early in the Industrial Revolution, Exeter's industry developed on the basis of locally available agricultural products and, since the city's location on a fast-flowing river gave it ready access to water power, an early industrial site developed on drained marshland to the west of the city, at Exe Island. However, when steam power replaced water in the 19th century, Exeter was too far from sources of coal (or iron) to develop further. As a result, the city declined in relative importance and was spared the rapid 19th-century development that changed many historic European cities. Extensive canal redevelopments during this period further expanded Exeter's economy, with "vessels of 15 to 16 tons burthen [bringing] up goods and merchandise from Topsham to the City Quay". In 1778 a new bridge across the Exe was opened to replace the old medieval bridge. Built at a cost of £30,000, it had three arches and was built of stone.

In 1832, cholera, which had been erupting all across Europe, reached Exeter. The only known local documentation of this event was written by Dr Thomas Shapter, one of the medical doctors present during the epidemic.

Image:St. Thomas RD complete small.png

The first railway to arrive in Exeter was the Bristol and Exeter Railway that opened a station at St Davids on the western edge in 1844. The South Devon Railway Company extended the line westwards to Plymouth, opening their own smaller station at St Thomas, above Cowick Street. A more central railway station, that at Queen Street, was opened by the London and South Western Railway in 1860 when it opened its alternative route to London. The local butchery firm of Lloyd Maunder moved to their present base in 1915, to gain better access to the Great Western Railway for transportation of meat products to London.

Electricity was introduced to Exeter by a private company at the end of the 1880s, and was municipalised in 1896. Horse-drawn trams were introduced in 1882 with 3 lines radiating from the city's East Gate.

For more information, see the EN Wikipedia article Exeter. See also Wikipedia's article on the Exeter Blitz

The Wikipedia article describes the bombing raids on Exeter during World War II and the devastation caused, but it does not mention that the City Library was burnt out and about a million books and historic documents went up in smoke. Genealogists should be aware that while equivalent records--particularly wills--are quite easy to come by for other English counties, some records for Devon and surrounding counties do not exist. (FS20 - Wills - Devon County Council)

Parish Organization

From Saxon times, Exeter was in the hundred of Wonford. The city had a number of churches, each covering a parish with agreed boundaries. Until the start of civil registration in 1837, the individual parish churches (of the Church of England) were responsible for recording the baptisms, marriages and burials which occurred in its area. The only legal marriages were those which took place within the Church of England. Except for the three mentioned immediately below, they have all been redirected to Exeter.

St. Thomas the Apostle, Heavitree and St. Leonard were the only ecclesiastical parishes to become civil parishes during the 19th century. They had all been absorbed into the city government by 1935. These are the only parishes to have pages here in WeRelate.

GENUKI has descriptions of all the parishes and a map to indicate their locations within the city. It also gives alternate names for some of the parishes which may explain how they received their official names which are given above.

Parish Births Marriages Burials
St. Thomas the Apostle 1813-1840 1754-1837 1813-1837
St. Leonard 1813-1839 1754-1837 1780-1837
Heavitree 1813-1839 1754-1837 1813-1837
Allhallows Goldsmith Street 1813-1839 1561-1837 1813-1904
All Hallows on the Walls 1824-1839 1805-1811 and 1836 1824-1837
Bedford Precinct 1833-1839 1833-1839
Exeter Castle Yard n/a n/a n/a
St. Peter (Exeter Cathedral) 1813-1839 1755-1837 1813-1837
Holy Trinity 1813-1839 1754-1837 1813-1837
St. David 1813-1840 1754-1837 1813-1837
St. Edmund 1813-1839 1754-1837 1813-1837
St. George the Martyr 1813-1839 1754-1837 1813-1837
St. John 1813-1839 1754-1837 1813-1837
St. Kerrian 1813-1839 1810-1837 1813-1838
St. Lawrence 1813-1837 1754-1837 1813-1837
St. Martin 1813-1840 1754-1836 1813-1837
St. Mary Arches 1813-1840 1754-1837 1813-1837
St. Mary Major 1813-1839 1754-1837 1813-1837
St. Mary Steps 1813-1840 1754-1837 1813-1837
St. Olave 1813-1839 1816-1837 1813-1837
St. Pancras 1813-1840 1754-1837 1800-1837
St. Paul 1813-1839 1562-1837 1813-1837
St. Petrock 1813-1842 1754-1836 1770-1837
St. Sidwell (somewhat outside the city) 1813-1839 1754-1837 1813-1837
St. Stephen 1813-1839 1754-1837 1813-1837
Exeter Non-conformist chapels Burials
Bow Meeting House 1748-1824
Castle Street Independent Chapel 1800-1836
George Meeting House Presbyterian 1818-1822 and 1837
Mint Meeting House Presbyterian 1709 and 1773-1810
Mint Methodist Chapel 1818-1829
South Street Baptist Church 1783-1837

Registration Districts

Research Tips

(revised Jul 2021)

  • Ordnance Survey Map of Devonshire North and Devonshire South are large-scale maps covering the whole of Devon between them. They show the parish boundaries when Rural Districts were still in existence and before the mergers of parishes that took place in 1935 and 1974. When expanded the maps can show many of the small villages and hamlets inside the parishes. These maps are now downloadable for personal use but they can take up a lot of computer memory.
  • GENUKI has a selection of maps showing the boundaries of parishes in the 19th century. The contribution from "Know Your Place" on Devon is a huge website yet to be discovered in detail by this contributor.
  • Devon has three repositories for hands-on investigation of county records. Each has a website which holds their catalog of registers and other documents.
  • There is, however, a proviso regarding early records for Devon. Exeter was badly hit in a "blitz" during World War II and the City Library, which then held the county archives, was burnt out. About a million books and historic documents went up in smoke. While equivalent records--particularly wills--are quite easy to come by for other English counties, some records for Devon and surrounding counties do not exist.
  • Devon Family History Society Mailing address: PO Box 9, Exeter, EX2 6YP, United Kingdom. The society has branches in various parts of the county. It is the largest Family History Society in the United Kingdom. The website has a handy guide to each of the parishes in the county and publishes the registers for each of the Devon dioceses on CDs.
  • This is the home page to the GENUKI Devon website. It has been updated since 2015 and includes a lot of useful information on each parish.
  • Devon has a Online Parish Clerk (OPC) Project which can be reached through GENUKI. Only about half of the parishes have a volunteer contributing local data. For more information, consult the website, especially the list at the bottom of the homepage.
  • Magna Britannia, Volume 6 by Daniel Lysons and Samuel Lysons. A general and parochial history of the county. Originally published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1822, and placed online by British History Online. This is a volume of more than 500 pages of the history of Devon, parish by parish. It is 100 years older than the Victoria County Histories available for some other counties, but equally thorough in its coverage. Contains information that may have been swept under the carpet in more modern works.
  • There is a cornucopia of county resources at Devon Heritage. Topics are: Architecture, Census, Devon County, the Devonshire Regiment, Directory Listings, Education, Genealogy, History, Industry, Parish Records, People, Places, Transportation, War Memorials. There are fascinating resources you would never guess that existed from those topic titles. (NOTE: There may be problems reaching this site. One popular browser provider has put a block on it. This may be temporary, or it may be its similarity in name to the Devon Heritage Centre at Exeter.)
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Exeter. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with WeRelate, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.