Y Yaroslavl Bridge

Y Yaroslavl Bridge

Yaroslavl is Exeter’s twin city in Russia, and the Yaroslavl footbridge spans the inner bypass road. So what does it have to with Heavitree Stone? Well, we needed a Y, and the City Walls are part of the bridge’s footings.

The walls date from the Roman, Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods. They are a roughly rectangular circuit about 1.5 miles long and defined early Exeter. Exeter was besieged during the 11th century Norman Conquest, 12th century Cousins’ War, and 17th century Civil War, so the walls needed to be maintained as part of the defence. Given that Exeter managed to end up on the losing side every time, they have survived surprisingly well.

The gateways in the wall were dismantled in the 18th to 19th centuries. The greatest damage to the walls was during the 20th century. They survived the 1942 Blitz, only for a section to be demolished during the post-war rebuilding. Then the section now spanned by Yaroslavl Bridge was torn down in order to build the bypass. So about three-quarters is still visible and standing, up to 2.5m high.

Most of the stone is Rougemont volcanic trap. The walls were built too early to be originally Heavitree Stone. It appears instead in rebuilt sections and as patching. Why not take a walk around the whole circuit and see how much you can find?

For example, some rebuilding work was done in the mid-16th century, using stone from the partial demolition of St Nicholas’ Priory. Later in the 16th century, works near the Quay used high-quality Heavitree Stone ashlar. There is also a long section of high-quality ashlar walling in Northernhay Street. During the Civil War, Heavitree Stone was used in improving the fortifications of Rougemont Castle, and it was used again for rebuilding during the 18th century.

As a final example, there is a section of wall near Yaroslavl Bridge where the upper two-thirds is original 2nd century Roman work, and the lower third is later Heavitree Stone. How is that possible?! It’s because the ground level has eroded, and the newer work was added to underpin the older.