Monday, 27 September 2010

No. 241, High Street

What a sad loss this was. No. 241, left © Brufords, was situated on the High Street in the centre of the city and, according to Peter Thomas in his book 'Aspects of Exeter', was the townhouse of the Earls of Morley. The Earls' family seat was at Saltram House near Plymouth, a superb survival of a George II country house but when they visited Exeter they apparently lodged at No. 241. The problem with the Morley connection is that it only takes us so far with the history of the house. The title of the Earls of Morley wasn't created until 1815 and their townhouse in Exeter was considerably older.

At first glance it appears to be typical of the double-gabled early-17th century merchant houses that were once common in Exeter but I think it dated to the mid-17th century, possibly the 1660s. It was similar in style to Nos. 211 & 212 further down the High Street but built on a large scale. At the beginning of the 20th century the building was purchased by Brufords, a well-known firm of Exeter jewellers, the finely panelled rooms, original staircase and fireplaces being a perfect foil for their stock of antique silver, jewellery and furniture.

The most notable feature of the building's exterior was undoubtedly the extraordinary clock, right © Brufords, that projected from the facade over the pavement of the High Street below. It was carved by a prodigiously talented local ecclesiastical sculptor called Harry Hems and depicted an enormous crouched figure of Old Father Time, an hourglass clutched in his right hand and a scythe in his left, literally supporting time on his back.

The entire structure, including the clock and all of the interiors, was completely destroyed by fire during the bombing of Exeter in the early hours of 04 May 1942.


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