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Sidwell Street photographs

Page added 23 October 2009

Sidwell Street, the ancestral home of the Grecians, has had a rich history. Never quite part of old Exeter, the street has been knocked about by histor, form the Prayer Book Rebellion of 1549 to the Civil War, when it was more or less raised to the ground during the seige of Exeter. Then, in the 20th Century, perhaps a half was destroyed by enemy action in 1942. These photos attempt to show how the street has changed over the last hundred years. if you have a photo, with or without an interesting story of Sidwell Street, contact me here.

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Also A history of Sidwell Street

White Lion HotelThe White Lion Hotel - 7 Sidwell Street
The White Lion Hotel was one of Exeter's leading hotels at the end of the 19th Century. Roughly situated where the new Sainsbury's is located, the building was lost in the 1942 blitz. A sale notice from 1939 had the following on the reverse in pencil – valuation for mortgage  £14,250, bar takings in 1938 – £3,236, food – £1,541, apartments – £690. Photo courtesy Nick Baker.

White Lion and Standfield and White5 to 8 Sidwell Street
This complete block was lost in the blitz. They were in 1902 –
5 Henry Avent, china dealer
6 Clark Plimsoll & Co, grocers
7 White Lion Hotel, James Lawless
8 Standfield & White, coach builders. The photograph was taken after 1905 because the trams are present.


Rag Day19 Sidwell Street
My notes state this is a Rag Week Parade in 1967, although why there should be a military band is a mystery. No 19 is Freeman Hardy and Willis, the shoe shop. Ten years earlier there was a branch of Boots at no 20, and no 22 was Lipton's the grocer. Photo courtesy Alan H Mazonowicz.

The Era HotelFreeth's Toffee14 Sidwell Street
The Era Hotel was a prominent hotel in the city from the 1880's until 1918, when it closed, to be replaced by Freeth's Tofferies, who undoubtedly benefited from a growing tourist trade for their Devon fudge. Freeth's had occupied 13A Sidwell Street before 1918.

The former Era Hotel areaFrom 14 Sidwell Street looking east
This photograph shows the Era Hotel and Freeth's Tofferies building during the 1950s. Every building from the corner of Sidwell and Longbrook Street, up to John Farmer (no 14 - the first building in the photo) was lost in the May 1942 blitz. All the shops in this photo were demolished and replaced by Debenhams, and the shops that ran up as far as Tesco, next to St Sidwells Church. Surprisingly, in 1956, Freeth's Tofferies still occupied the same building. Photo courtesy of the Express & Echo.

St Sidwell Church from Sidwell StreetSt Sidwells Church
St Sidwells Church was rebuilt in 1812-13, with the octagonal spired tower repaired in 1823. It contained a clock and a peal of 10 bells. The earlier church had seen some lively times, with Sir Walter Raleigh father imprisoned in it during the prayer book rebellion of 1549. The church was very badly damaged during the May 1942 bombing, and sappers were called in to pull down the unsafe tower. The modern St Sidwells has found a role as a hall for the community.

Heavy traffic in the 1960sLooking back down Sidwell Street in the mid 1960s
Time rolls forward to the early 1960s, when the shops between the church and the corner of York Road had been rebuilt. The shops as far as the church had not yet been demolished, and Debenhams was still in the planning stage. Panters, the ladies clothing and household store at No 32., can be seen in the photo, at the same store in which they are found today. Charles Panter was trading at the same site, although it was No 36., in 1897, making the store even older than Thomas Moore. Photo courtesy of the City Parks Department.

The Partly built street in the 1950sHalf constructed Sidwell Street
The new shops, which would contain a branch of Woolworths,  in the photo to the left are still to be constructed in this photo from the 1950s. Development tended to be short blocks, as and when finances and materials became available. The St Sidwell Methodist Church and the roof of the Odeon behind that are clearly visible. Even though most of Sidwell Street now consists of post war development, only about half the buildings where lost in the blitz.


A crowd waits for a tramA crowd waits for a tram
Standing in the centre of the junction of York Road and Summerland Street, the photographer has captured a crowd of children waiting for a tram. Notice the poles for the tram wires are in the centre of the road, and arrangement that was used on only three short sections of the system. The Sidwell Street Methodist Church is left, and of course, it is still at least thirty years before the Odeon was built.

Stoneman and BowkerChallice60 Sidwell Street
The well known furniture store, Stoneman and Bowker occupies a building that in 1956 was Tapper &co, house furnishers. But if you go back to 1916, the building was the home of George Challice and Co, sanitary engineers and electricians.

Looking back down Sidwell Street from Blackboy RoadLooking back down Sidwell Street from Blackboy Road
The old Sidwell Street split to become Blackboy Road and Old Tiverton Road. The Odeon Cinema would now rear up, behind the tram, and the little girl would be standing in the middle of the roundabout.

Townsend CourtTownsends Court next to Kirk Radio
Before 1942, Sidwell Street consisted of shops and offices on each side of the road, with small alleys into a maize of courts lined with small, rat infested, tenements, cheek by jowl with workshops. This entrance for Townsend Court  still exists next to Kirk Radio, right.


Motor Macs carparkMotor Macs and the bomb site
Another photograph taken from the early 1950s, this shows the corner of Cheeke Street and Sidwell Street. The bomb site up as far as Motor Macs is a car park – the site was developed soon after to become the new home of the Express and Echo and the Greyhound Hotel. Now, of course, these two are now Somerfield and the Amber Rooms. Photo courtesy of the Express and Echo.


The junction of Sidwell Street and SouthernhayThe Bude Hotel between Paris Street and Southernhay
Before the war, the street to the right was the outlet of the top of Southernhay, and the street to the left of the Bude Hotel was Paris Street. Paris Street was realigned along the old top of Southernhay, and the QS Fashion Store occupies this corner site.

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