Page added 18th January 2016
Also see Castle Street Chapel
The popular Timepiece nightclub in Little Castle Street has been entertaining the young (and not so young) people of Exeter for at least four decades. The original Timepiece was located just a few metres from the modern club, in an old Sunday School Building dating from 1833.
The Castle Club, run by Jack Salter was taken over by Dave and Veronica Hughes, and renamed the Timepiece. Morris Wonnacott and Rob Dellow were later proprietors before Austin Mockridge, an accountant, purchased the club in the 1980s. From the early 1970s, it catered for the growing discotheque market for locals and students. In the mid 1970s, the club introduced punk rock and later acid jazz to an enthusiastic clientele. Like many music clubs, it provided a lot of flashing lights, a bar with chicken in a basket, and a part carpeted floor sticky from spilt drink. Through the 1980s and 90s it was a favourite of the post punk goths. When Austin Mockridge took on the club he also ran Coolings wine bar in Gandy Street and other entertainment ventures in Torquay.
In the 1980s, while on duty as a police officer in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, George Sloan, was injured on duty. Forced to retire from the force he moved to Devon to became a doorkeeper at the Timepiece. He was promoted to manager of the club, until Mockridge was bankrupted in 1993. Sloan joined forces with Robert Skinner as his business partner to purchase the business.
The British Legion had occupied an old Congregational Chapel at the end of the street, situated by the city wall, between 1955 and 1997. The Legion closed, and Sloan and Skinner moved the Timepiece to the vacant premise–the old premises reopened as Old Timers.
The new venue was originally the site of the Devon County Prison, or High Gaol. It was close to the Devon Assizes in the Castle, and was quite separate from Exeter’s own Southgate prison. The Congregational Chapel was built on the prison site in 1797. It closed at the outbreak of war in 1939, and was used as a recruiting office until the British Legion moved in during 1955.
Since 1997, the Timepiece has continued to be one of the places to go in Exeter. Both Will Young and Chris Martin went there, and Joss Stone celebrated her 18th birthday in the club. Although primarily a club with its own DJs, it has hosted Snoop Dogg for a two hour gig, and many others have appeared on the stage. When Coldplay played a gig at the Castle, one of their songs was changed to include the words “singing and dancing at the Timepiece”, to a cheer from the audience.
In April 2007, Exeter Archeology were approached by John Hart of the Arthur Palfrey Partnership on behalf of the owners, to excavate the strip of land between the club and the city wall, in preparation for an extension. A burial yard was found with the remains of at least eight burials in four graves were unearthed. It is believed they dated between 1797 and 1854, when the yard was closed.
The club is thriving, along with Sloan and Skinner’s other businesses, Old Timers and the Hole in the Wall. The building was Grade II listed on 18 June 1974.
Source: Express and Echo, Archaeological Excavation at the Timepiece Nightclub Exeter–Archaeology Report No. 11.01. and Ex Magazine, April 2014.
The Timepiece in the old Congregational Chapel. The Chapel was built on the site of the Devon County Gaol.
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