The ancient cobbled slope of Stepcote Hill and the buildings in West Street at its base have as much historic interest as any part of Exeter.
Nos. 5 and 7 West Street, including No.15 Stepcote Hill, are a pair of characterful late-medieval houses. No.5 has a Heavitree Stone back wall and basement storey, with two timber-framed storeys above. The framing suggests late-15th or early-16th century. It was originally divided into three tenements: one shop and living accommodation at ground level opening into West Street; and two more shops on the first floor opening on to Stepcote Hill, one with accommodation above. No.7 is also possibly 15th century, and has a ground floor of Heavitree Stone and three timber-framed storeys above.
On the other side of Stepcote Hill is St Mary Steps Church. Both names could equally well come from ‘steep’ or ‘steps’. The church is on the first floor. A small room at ground level was used as a porter’s lodge for the old West Gate. The church plan consists of nave, chancel, and a south aisle incorporating the tower.
The church is mentioned in records in 1199, and there is still some volcanic trap rubble masonry in the west wall from the earlier building. The nave of the building you can see today could be 14th century, with the aisle and tower added in the 15th century. It is “well jointed Permian breccia ashlar throughout”, that is high-quality Heavitree Stone, laid in horizontal courses. The windows are limestone.
The tower clock dates from 1619 and is well worth seeing. It features astronomy, Roman gods, and Matthew the Miller and his sons, after a notably punctual Cricklepit miller.
- Exeter City Historic Environment Record, Stepcote Hill – http://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=1816854&resourceID=1054
- Exeter City Historic Environment Record, No.5 West Street / No.15 Stepcote Hill – http://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=1816853&resourceID=1054
- Historic England Listed Building, Nos. 5 and 7 West Street – https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1266893
- Demolition Exeter blog, Nos. 5 and 7 West Street – http://demolition-exeter.blogspot.com/2010/12/nos-5-7-west-street-west-quarter.html
- Exeter City Historic Environment Record, St Mary Steps, 1300-1540 – http://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=1816852&resourceID=1054
- Exeter City Historic Environment Record, St Mary Steps, 1100-1199 – http://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=1816704&resourceID=1054
- Historic England Listed Building, St Mary Steps – https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1224263
- St Mary Steps is part of Heavitree Parish – http://www.heavitreeparish.co.uk/st-marys-steps/
- Nicholas Orme (2014) “The Churches of Medieval Exeter”
- Demolition Exeter blog, St Mary Steps – http://demolition-exeter.blogspot.com/2010/12/st-mary-steps-church-west-street.html
- Exeter Memories, Stepcote Hill – http://www.exetermemories.co.uk/em/_streets/stepcotehill.php
- Exeter Memories, St Mary Steps – http://www.exetermemories.co.uk/em/_churches/stmarysteps.php