Exeter Cathedral


(Image Credit: Chloe Price-Lonsdale)

Exeter Cathedral

Exeter Cathedral as seen in Turner’s image was built in 1114 by William Warelwast, a nephew of William the Conqueror, replacing the previous Saxon church, in existence on this site since the 7th century. In particular, the Norman towers built at the time of Warelwast, which remain some of the most recognisable features of the cathedral, are visible in the engraving.

At the time of Turner’s visits to Exeter, in the early 19th century, Exeter was less built up, meaning that the cathedral was much more visible from a distance. As the only cathedral in Devon, it was significant for people throughout the county. Furthermore, Truro Cathedral, in neighbouring Cornwall, was not built until much later, being completed in 1880, thus Exeter Cathedral was a recognised landmark for many in the south west. Therefore, by including the cathedral in his image, Turner’s landscape is seen as being distinctly set in Exeter.

This period also saw the cathedral undergo restoration, particularly of the figures of the west front in 1805 and the Lady Chapel in 1812. There was also significant development in other parts of the city at this time, for example, Colleton Crescent, a prominent feature in Turner’s engraving, was also newly built.  Thus, the engraving reflects a time of change in Exeter.

For more information about the cathedral: http://www.exeter-cathedral.org.uk/


Sources: ‘The History of Exeter’ (George Oliver); ‘Exeter Architecture’ (Hugh Meller); ‘The History of Exeter Cathedral’ (David Nash Ford); Exeter and Truro cathedrals