There has been a guildhall on the site in Exeter High Street since the 12th century, but nothing of the original remains. The latest parts of the building to survive date from the late 15th century. It is now made up of: an Elizabethan block, projecting into the High Street; the medieval main hall; and a rear courtyard.
The main hall was rebuilt in a major programme of work in the 1460s. Most of the material is Permian breccia ashlar, that is well-dressed blocks of ‘Heavitree’ Stone. It is thought the stone was from the Peamore quarry rather than Heavitree, possibly because the western quarries were more active at that date. Breccia is the ‘workhorse’ stone, and Beer stone was used for the finer work in the windows. Incidentally, the design of the timber roof is closely related to the roofs at Bowhill House.
The Elizabethan block on the High Street was built in 1592-94. The wall cores and hidden masonry were in breccia and volcanic trap, and fine Beer stone used in the facades.
The only section of Heavitree Stone in the Guildhall that is actually visible is in the frontage on Waterbeer Street. The present building – cells below and committee or jury room above – was built in the 1830s. The breccia is largely uncoursed rubble, probably reused. The window and door surrounds, and isolated blocks, are of trap and other stone.
Two doors down, at No.19 Waterbeer Street, there is another fragment of Heavitree Stone: masonry blocks and an arched doorway. There is some simple carving of the stones in the arch, which has weathered.
- Exeter City Historic Environment Record, Guildhall 1300-1540 – http://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=1816755&resourceID=1054
- Exeter City Historic Environment Record, No.19 Waterbeer Street – http://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=1816887&resourceID=1054
- Historic England Listed Building, No.17 Waterbeer Street – https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1224260
- Historic England Listed Building, No.19 Waterbeer Street – https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1224261
- Historic England Pastscape, Guildhall – https://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=448322
- Historic England Pastscape, Waterbeer Street – https://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=513918
- Exeter Memories, Guildhall – http://www.exetermemories.co.uk/em/guildhall.php
- Exeter Memories, Waterbeer Street – http://www.exetermemories.co.uk/em/_streets/waterbeerstreet.php
- Demolition Exeter blog, Waterbeer Street – http://demolition-exeter.blogspot.com/2012/03/brief-history-of-waterbeer-street.html