In 2017, we held a series of group Community Surveys. These have now concluded, but you can still go it alone! You can either upload your findings directly to our database, or follow these steps. To help, just scroll down for your guide to identification and Five Interesting Heavitree Stone Facts!!!
- Download the survey templates and guidelines (pdf).
- Go enjoy your survey!
- Scan or photograph your results.
- Send it to us using this form or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know where there is Heavitree Stone…
Guide to identification
To whet your surveying appetite and get your eye in, here’s a little more detail about the stone and the quarries…
Heavitree Breccia (pronounced “bretcha”) has a character all of its own. It’s a deep, Devonian red but is particularly characterised by being very course in texture. It always contains angular “clasts”, that is lumps of other rock, within a finer sandstone matrix.
It forms part of the New Red Sandstones of the Permian/Triassic eras. The British Regional Geology publication for South West England says that “the characteristic red soils derived from these rocks lend warmth and charm to the local scenery and on the South Devon coast, form a great part of the colourful and locally grand cliffs between Paignton and Seaton”.
Interesting Fact No. 1 – Heavitree is geologically related to the Dawlish/Teignmouth/Sidmouth Permian coastal cliffs. You could say we’re the bedrock of South Devon!
Heavitree Breccia is not the only ancient red building stone that you can see in Exeter. There’s also Rougemont volcanic trap and red sandstone. Here’s a handy guide to distinguishing them. You’re looking for red stone embedded with irregular chips (bottom), not the more purple volcanic trap with round holes from air bubbles (top left), nor the smooooth red sandstone (top right).
Devon County Council has published an online information sheet about the disused quarry at the eastern end of the grassed playing area, off of Coates Road, at the bottom of Quarry Lane (NGR SX 949 921). In it they say that the area “is the type locality for the Heavitree Breccia”.
Interesting Fact No. 2 – Heavitree is geologically famous. “Heavitree Breccia” is there in all the textbooks and we have the type locality!
Exeter’s Medieval heritage
The other great thing about Heavitree Breccia is just how prolific the quarries were all through the medieval period. So prolific that many fascinating historic buildings remain in our centre making it easy to imagine a medieval city, built mostly of wood and red stone.
Interesting Fact No. 3 – Many of Exeter’s (and Heavitree’s) most interesting and historic buildings are built of Heavitree Stone.
More than this though, in just one initial survey of features built from Heavitree Stone in the city, a myriad of interesting questions and connections were thrown up. For instance if the largest, best cut blocks came out of the quarries first when there was plenty of material to quarry, does this mean that it was cheaper than later when the resource became scarce? There are some beautiful examples of large blocks on the Quay. What does this mean economically? In many cases you can see buildings made of lots of different stone, like St Pancras in the Guildhall. Does that mean St Pancras was built later than the Quay examples or was there some other economic force at work?
You can see a beautiful example of this is in one lengthy expanse of wall along Wonford Road. At the Victoria Park Road end of the wall there are massive blocks of Heavitree Breccia and it’s the only building stone. Head towards Barrack Road, opposite Old Matford and the wall is made up of all sorts of stone, including large blocks of granite. Same wall, but clearly the circumstances had changed.
Interesting Fact No. 4 – The size of blocks, quality of cut, its use along with other building materials are all economic indicators. Heavitree Stone is trying to tell us a story!
And there’s even more potential than that! As much as Heavitree Stone is an obvious contributor to Exeter’s Mediaeval heritage it is also a hidden resource. It is the “work-horse” of building stones; the local, easily sourced option. So, it literally sits at the foundation of many more buildings and structures than you might realise. It underpins all examples of cob walls in Heavitree for example. You can see it in Heavitree beneath the cob wall that separates the park from the back gardens of Roseland Avenue. You’ll see it in the back gardens of all the business premises along the south side of Fore Street. You’ll find it as the bottom course of many structures built of finer stone higher up for public view. It came to be considered too coarse and rustic for our Victorian forebears who chose to re-build St Michael’s parish church from its original red state, in fine grey limestone. They have given Heavitree a church to be proud of, but a quick examination of the churchyard, reveals it to be surrounded by walls of Heavitree Stone on all sides. It’s still there, for all to see!
Interesting Fact No. 5 – There are far more examples of Heavitree Stone in the City than anyone is aware of. It is quite literally the foundation of the City and its hidden secrets are waiting to be told!
Do get in touch – we can’t wait to hear from you!