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Whilst it is an active city with a lot going on, Exeter is the perfect place to relax and get away from it all. Indulge yourself by relaxing in one of Exeter’s many decadent spas or sit back and enjoy a scrumptious cream tea. Visit Exeter’s underground passages which date back to the 14th century and then head above ground to visit the Exeter Royal Albert Memorial Museum to learn about botany, archaeology, geology and fine art. Whatever time of year you visit, you’ll always find plenty of things to do in Exeter, but if you go in spring time you can experience the culinary delights of the Exeter Festival of South West Food and Drink.
Exeter began as a Roman town. The Romans arrived in the Southwest about 50 CE they built a wooden fort on a hill near the river Exe at the lowest point where it could be easily crossed. (Exe is derived from a Celtic word meaning ‘the water’). However, the local Celtic tribe put up little resistance to Roman rule and about 75 CE the soldiers moved on. A town was then created on the site of the fort. The Romans called it Isca.
Like all Roman towns Exeter or Isca had a rectangular space called the forum. This was the market place. It was also lined with shops and the basilica, a kind of town hall. There were also public baths in Roman Exeter. In Roman times people went to the baths not just to get clean but also to socialize. It was the Roman equivalent of going down the pub.
The Romans made Exeter the administrative center of Southwest England. However Roman civilization was skin deep in this part of the country. Further west it faded away altogether. In Roman Exeter, rich people lived in houses of stone with mosaic floors and even a form of central heating but poor people lived in simple wooden huts. Roman Exeter does not seem to have been a particularly prosperous town.
In the 2nd century the Romans built a sturdy wall around Exeter, which lasted for centuries. However, in the 4th century Roman civilization began to decline. The populations of the towns fell. The last Roman soldiers left Britain in 407 CE and the Roman way of life slowly disappeared. People drifted away from the towns to the countryside and returned to a simpler way of life.
History of Castles
After 1114 the Normans rebuilt Exeter Cathedral but it was demolished in 1260 and rebuilt again. In 1080 a Benedictine priory (a small monastery) was founded in Exeter. In the 13th century, the friars arrived in Exeter. The friars were like monks but instead of withdrawing from the world they went out to preach. There were two denominations of friars in Exeter. The Augustinians were called grey friars because of their grey habits. At first, their friary was on the site of Friernhay Street. Later they moved to a site east of the town walls. There were also Dominican friars, known as black friars because of their black habits.
In Medieval Exeter the main industry was making wool. It was woven then fulled. That means the wool was pounded in a mixture of clay and water to clean and thicken it. Wooden hammers worked by watermills pounded the wool. It could then be dyed.