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Repairs uncover details about city’s cloth market history

Repairs uncover details about city’s cloth market history

29th July 2014

Major repairs to part of the roof of Exeter Cathedral’s Cloister and adjacent buildings are being carried out this summer, to protect it from the weather.

Archeological investigations before the repairs began found that the cloth market which was once built in the cloisters was constructed on top of the medieval cloister walk.

The market was built in 1657, towards the end of the Commonwealth era, for the sale of Devon cloth. The trade in woollen cloth was key to Exeter’s prosperity from the 1600s to the 18th century.

The cloth traders were expelled three years later when the monarchy was restored in 1660, and with it Anglican services and the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral. Part of the market was demolished when Georgian houses (now numbers 1 and 2 The Cloisters) were built. Its other side was turned into a carpenters’ workshop but this later became part of a clergy house. The great arcade posts which once opened into the serge market can still be seen in one wall of the buildings around the Cloister today.

Cathedral archeologist John Allan said that the works had allowed them to understand more fully how the market building had been built and developed.

He said: “For the first time we have seen some features of the building which have previously been hidden by plaster, such as its pine beams imported from the Baltic, and found evidence of the way this very large building was progressively disguised and adapted to other uses over a period of more than 350 years.”

The current repair work to roof of the Cloisters and the adjacent Church House will improve the rainwater disposal, and the brick, stone and lead work.

The work will be finished in the autumn. The Cloister area will be included in the Cathedral’s plans to uncover the Roman Baths, which lie just outside on Cathedral Green. 

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