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Widecombe History Group Talk on The Latest Findings of The Princesshay Project


A Talk about The Latest Findings of The Princesshay Project was given by Peter Stead of Exeter Archaeology.

During the last few years the centre of Exeter has been re-developed. Much of the area of Princesshay was damaged by enemy aircraft bombing and the subsequent fires in World War II.

The developers and contractors McAlpine have shown an amazing amount of good will, in permitting the Exeter Archaeology to work along side them during this protracted operation.

At first they came across a tremendous amount of rubble which was classed as overfill from that devastating part of the history of Exeter during the 1940s.

Gradually as this was removed the real past of the city was revealed. This went back to the times of The Roman occupation.

Parts of the old Roman Walls can still seen in the city dating from 200 A.D. This wall crossed the area being excavated. The site of the old Bedford House and the previous Priory dating from 1320 showed many features. Old postholes filled with debris going back many centuries revealed early china and a few very interesting artefacts. There were the remains of cellars over 5 metres deep, the construction of these had destroyed some early archaeological evidence.

The demolition during 1960s had left debris 2-3 metres deep, below this there are 2 metres of archaeology to explore. Medieval pits were found and one interesting ‘Bell Casting Pit’.

10th-12th century pits and several remains of 10th century wheelturned vessels including some French Pottery. The locally made pottery is known as "The Bedford Garage Pottery" due to it being in the vicinity of the old Bedford Garage.

An Exeter Minted silver penny was found during the dig. The underground passages of Exeter that carried the city’s water supply in Medieval times have been saved and the public can now gain access to them from the top end of the Princesshay Site. These had been protected by protective overbridges during the 1960s redevelopment and ventilation shafts were found with large slate covers thought to have been used to monitor the tunnels. These were dated to 14th and 15th centuries.

Excavation of the various pit brought to light items of Roman ash. In some pits clay was found suitable for the production of Roman Tiles. On the site of the old church 6 burials were uncovered and one beautiful gold and enamel ring with the inscription ‘My Whole Heart’ was found.

Typical Roman ditches of the characteristic ‘V’ shape creating a boundary of the period 55-75 A.D. and evidence of agricultural activity showed that within the city boundary cultivation had taken place. Part of the Roman Wall dated to about 200 A.D. and much tile debris. Over 30 different potters marks were found on the remnants of the pots and the volcanic stone from the Rougemont area of the city had been used to make what was believed to have been roads leading the boundary wall which would have been the routes for the transporting the material when it was being built.

The infill material in a Civil War ditch had preserved over 2000 leather items, and two skeletons of horses.

70 graves were eventually found within the church’s precincts and 3000 fragments of medieval jugs retrieved of which 3 or 4 have already been completely reconstructed.

Near the end of the excavations a well was uncovered and within it 3 brilliant jugs were found and with the rest of the artefacts retrieved they are now being cleaned and conserved with the hope that within the next few years there will be a full scale exhibition held in Exeter to show the results of "The Archaeological excavations of The Pricesshay Development area."

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