Exeter, Devon Genealogy

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Guide to Exeter (city) history, family history, and genealogy: parish registers, census records, birth records, marriage records, and death records.

Exeter Cathedral.jpg

History[edit | edit source]

Exeter coat of arms
Exeter location in England
Flag of Devon

The original settlement of Exeter was as a settlement on a dry ridge overlooking the river Exe. There was also a fertile valley below for the growing of crops. The city of Exeter was established on the eastern bank of the River Exe on a ridge of land backed by a steep hill. The location provided for a defensible position. It is at this point that the Exe, having just been joined by the River Creedy, opens onto a wide flood plain and estuary.

Historically this was the lowest bridging point of the River Exe which was tidal and navigable up to the city. It was noted that the most likely reasons for the original settling of what would become modern Exeter was the "fertility of the surrounding countryside" and the area's "beautiful and commanding elevation [and] its rapid and navigable river".

Exeter sits predominantly on sandstone and conglomerate geology, although the structure of the surrounding areas is varied. The topography of the ridge which forms the backbone of the city includes a volcanic plug, on which the Rougemont Castle is situated.

Coins have been discovered from the Hellenistic kingdoms, suggesting the existence of a settlement trading with the Mediterranean as early as 250 BC.

Exeter was the furthest west that the Romans penetrated in England. It should be noted that almost all towns in England with the ending -ter (such as Chester, Manchester, etc.) have origins tied to the advent of Roman Britain. The Romans established a 42-acre fort (Latin: castrum) named Isca around AD 55. The fort was the southwest terminus of the Fosse Way (Route 15 of the Antonine Itinerary) and served as the base for the 5 000-man Second Augustan Legion (Legio II Augusta) for the next 20 years before they moved to Caerleon in Wales, which was also known as Isca. The presence of the fort built up an unplanned civilian community (vicus or canabae) formed of natives and the soldiers' families, mostly to the northeast of the fort.

Nothing is certainly known of Exeter from the time of the Roman withdrawal from Britain around the year 410 until around 680 when a document about St Boniface reports that he was educated at an abbey in Exeter.

After a major defeat of the Vikings, Alfred the Great elevated Exeter to one of the four burhs in Devon, rebuilding its walls on the Roman lines.

Two years after the Norman conquest of England, Exeter rebelled against King William. Gytha Thorkelsdóttir, the mother of the slain King Harold, was living in the city at the time and William promptly marched west and initiated a siege. After 18 days, William accepted the city's honorable surrender, swearing an oath not to harm the city or increase its ancient tribute. However, William quickly arranged for the building of Rougemont Castle to strengthen Norman control over the area.

The city's motto, Semper fidelis, is traditionally held to have been suggested by Elizabeth I, in acknowledgement of the city's contribution of ships to help defeat the Spanish Armada in 1588.

Following the English civil war, Exeter was an economically powerful city, with a strong trade of wool. It was the most powerful city in Western England.

Early in the Industrial Revolution, Exeter's industry developed on the basis of locally available agricultural products and, since the city's location on a fast-flowing river gave it ready access to water power, an early industrial site developed. However, when steam power replaced water in the 19th century, Exeter was too far from sources of coal (or iron) to develop further. As a result, the city declined rapidly in relative importance. [1]

Resources[edit | edit source]

Cemeteries (Civil)[edit | edit source]

There are 3 cemeteries in the area of Exeter. The link follows:

Another useful site follows:

Church Records[edit | edit source]

Parishes[edit | edit source]

Exeter is the See of the Anglican cathedral of the city. The Diocese web site follows:

A list of the parishes of Exeter follows:

  • Allhallows Goldsmith St.
  • Allhallows on the Wall
  • Bedford Precinct
  • Cathedral
  • Heavitree
  • Holy Trinity
  • St. David
  • St. Edmund
  • St. George
  • St. John
  • St. Kerrian
  • St. Lawrence
  • St. Leonard
  • St. Martin
  • St. Mary Arches
  • St. Mary Major
  • St. Mary Steps
  • St. Olave
  • St. Pancras
  • St. Paul
  • St. Petrock
  • St. Sidwell
  • St. Stephen
  • St. Thomas the Apostle

Nonconformists[edit | edit source]

There are many con-conformist groups that meet regularly in Exeter. Christian faiths include:

  • Baptists
  • Calvinists
  • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
  • Lutherans
  • Methodists
  • Roman Catholics
  • Jehovah's Witnesses

Non Christian groups include:

  • Buddhist
  • Jewish
  • Muslim
  • Sikhs

Civil Registration[edit | edit source]

Birth, marriages and deaths were kept by the government, from July 1837 to the present day. The following link provides access for Exeter:

Local Histories[edit | edit source]

Maps and Gazetteers[edit | edit source]

Newspapers[edit | edit source]

Occupations[edit | edit source]

In the days of sail, Exeter, and its mother county of Devon, were the primary sources for both sailors and officers for the Royal Navy and the Merchant Marine. This was markedly reduced with the introduction of steam, and is now almost non-existent as a source of employment.

Today Exeter primarily serves as the market town for the surrounding agricultural areas as well as providing some employment for agricultural equipment sales and service, agricultural supplies. There are also a number of companies that act as middlemen for foodstuffs and meat products to National Markets. Exeter is also the base for many vets that service the local area.

The Met Office, the main weather forecasting organization for the United Kingdom and one of the most significant in the world, relocated from Bracknell in Berkshire to Exeter in early 2004. It is one of the largest employers in the area (together with the University of Exeter, Devon County Council and the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust).

Around 35,000 people commute into Exeter on a daily basis, from nearby surrounding towns. Exeter provides services, employment and shopping for local residents within the city limits and also from nearby towns in Teignbridge, Mid Devon and East Devon, together sometimes known as the Exeter & Heart of Devon area (EHOD). Exeter therefore provides for the EHOD area population of 457,400. [2]

Societies[edit | edit source]

1, 7-9 King St
Exeter EX1 1B!, UK
Phone: +44 1392 433212

Archives[edit | edit source]

Devon Archives and Local Studies Service
Great Moor House
Bittern Road
Sowton
EXETER, Devon
EX2 7NL

Websites[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Exeter," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exeter, accessed 24 December 2016.
  2. Wikipedia contributors, "Exeter," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exeter#Economy, accessed 27 December 2016.