16 July 2019: Exeter
My wife and I are staying in Exeter for a few days. When we booked into the hotel last night the receptionist suggested we didn’t have breakfast until around 9 o’clock as they were busy because it is graduation week in Exeter and a lot of guests come down early. We actually arrived in the restaurant at about 8:45, by which time it was fairly empty. A lot of people came down at 9 o’clock, so we reckoned everyone had been told to take breakfast then.
We decided to spend the day looking round Exeter. We started by walking to what is shown on my map as Birk Banks Arboretum. When we got there we discovered that the arboretum has disappeared and the area is now occupied by student accommodation for the University of Exeter, so we walked round the extensive university grounds instead.
We found ourselves passing the university’s Great Hall just as the new graduates were posing on the steps for a group photograph. I took a photo myself. (See above.)
Then we wandered into the centre of Exeter and made our way to Exeter Cathedral. We spent two hours looking round it. Among other things we admired the roof bosses. It wasn’t until we came across a full-sized replica at ground level that I realised how large they are.
The guide we were given describes the minstrels’ gallery as unique, which I am prepared to believe. It is carved with fourteen angels, twelve of them playing instruments.
The guide also mentions the misericords in the back rows of the quire. It’s difficult to spot that they are misericords but if you look at the bottom of the seats you can spot the small shelves on which the medieval priests would have rested. A further misericord is on display at the north exit to the quire.
On leaving the cathedral we had a snack in the café, sitting at one of the tables in the garden. The bells were being rung. My wife thought they were being rung to celebrate the graduation but I noticed that they were being rung half-muffled, which is usually a sign of mourning.
We then made our way down to the quay and walked back along the river to Millers Bridge. We decided the ornamental structure by the bridge mechanism was supposed to represent a millstone.
We walked slowly through the centre of Exeter back to the Cathedral in time for Evensong at 5:30. However, it turned out that it was not Evensong but a Memorial Mass commemorating the 650th anniversary of the bishop responsible for re-ordering the Cathedral seven centuries ago. The general design we see today is largely thanks to him and he is also Exeter’s longest-serving bishop to date. The service was conducted by the current bishop and was sung by the university choir and a choir from the United States. It turned out that the bells were rung all afternoon not to celerbate the graduations but to celebrate the anniversary of the bishop’s death, which is why they were rung half-muffled.
After the service, which lasted 1½ hours, we went to the White Hart, which we had spotted before, and enjoyed a couple of excellent dinners. The pub is quieter than the ones nearer the city centre.