Somewhat marooned now in the middle of traffic flow, the Old Exe Bridge is one of the best-preserved examples of a major medieval stone bridge in England. It was built in around 1200, and consisted of 17 or 18 arches spanning about 180m. About 87m is still visible: just over eight arches are fully exposed and a ninth is partly visible.
The piers of the bridge were faced with local volcanic trap and sandstone ashlar – finely worked stone. Heavitree Stone was used in later repairs. At the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, one of the arches was repaired with stone from St Nicholas Priory, thus fulfilling a prophecy that “the ryver of Exe should run under St Nicholas Church.”
St Edmund’s Church forms part of the eastern end of the bridge, and hence was probably built at the same time. It was mentioned in a list of Exeter Churches in 1214, as was its companion Church of St Thomas Becket at the western end, which was swept away by a flood early in the 15th century.
St Edmund’s has been rebuilt and extended several times. The foundations were strengthened and a bell tower added in 1448-49. This work was done in Heavitree Stone. In around 1500 a small side aisle was added to the north side, which used a mixture of volcanic trap and Heavitree Stone. Demolition material was dumped in the river channel under the church.
The church was extensively rebuilt in 1833-34, though all the ancient foundations were kept. Much of the rebuild was removed in 1975 when the church was partly demolished. Again, all ancient walling was retained, and the tower survives at its original height.
- Exeter City Historic Environment Record, St Edmund’s Church – http://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=1816700&resourceID=1054
- Exeter City Historic Environment Record, St Edmund’s Church – http://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=1816928&resourceID=1054
- Historic England Listed Building, St Edmund’s Church – https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1306262
- Historic England Listed Building, Exe Bridge and other remains – https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1020671
- Historic England Pastscape, Exe Bridge – https://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=448321
- Oliver & Smirke (1861) “The history of the city of Exeter” – https://archive.org/details/historyofcityofe00olivuoft
- Nicholas Orme (2014) “The Churches of Medieval Exeter”
- Demolition Exeter blog, St Edmund’s Church – http://demolition-exeter.blogspot.com/2013/03/st-edmunds-church-exe-bridge_30.html
- Demolition Exeter blog, Exe Bridge – http://demolition-exeter.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-medieval-exe-bridge.html
- Exeter Memories, St Edmund’s Church – http://www.exetermemories.co.uk/em/_churches/stedmunds.php