Horrible history of Ringswell

As you head out of Exeter on Honiton Road, you pass Ringswell Avenue on the left and Ringswell Park on the right. The name is one indicator of what happened here between the 16th and 18th centuries. The bus shelter round the corner on Sidmouth Road used to show the name of the stop, which was clearer still: Gallows Corner. It is marked as Heavitree Gallows on the 1932 Ordnance Survey map, but no longer on the latest Landranger or Explorer maps. Nevertheless, as Gallows Cross or Heavitree Drop is how the road junction is still known to locals.

This is where Devon County held executions. Before the 16th century, they were held with the Exeter city executions at Livery Dole at the top of Heavitree Fore Street. From 1794 they took place in the newly-built Exeter Gaol. It appears that the Bideford witches were executed at Livery Dole in 1682, even though they were not from Exeter, and Gallows Cross was in use at that time.

Find out more:

OS 1932 revision - Heavitree Gallows

Horrible history of Clyst Heath

What lies beneath Bishop’s Court and the A379 spur off Junction 30 of the M5? The answer is the site of the two battles of Clyst Heath in 1455 during the Wars of the Roses and 1549 during the Prayer Book Rebellion. The OS Explorer Map has a little crossed-swords symbol to mark the both of them. Copying shamelessly from the Wikipedia article on Clyst Heath

Battle of Clyst Heath (1455)

The Courtenay family of Tiverton Castle and Colcombe Castle, who had been earls of Devon since 1335, were challenged in the 15th century by the rise of the Bonville family of Shute. The Bonville–Courtenay feud during the Wars of the Roses resulted in several acts of violence, culminating on 15 December 1455 when Thomas Courtenay, Earl of Devon and William Bonville met decisively at the Battle of Clyst Heath, where Bonville was defeated and after which the Earl sacked and pillaged Shute.

Battle of Clyst Heath (1549)

In the evening of 5 August 1549, during the Prayer Book Rebellion, John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford and Lord William Grey and their troops had pitched camp on Clyst Heath. Russell and Grey were concerned about the burden of the large number of rebel prisoners that had been captured from previous encounters at Fenny Bridges, Woodbury Common and Clyst St Mary. An order was issued that the prisoners should be killed, which was done. According to John Hayward, more than nine hundred prisoners were slain.

The following day the rebels attacked the camp of the Royal army and the subsequent battle lasted the entire day, with heavy losses on both sides. Lord Russell’s troops were finally victorious, but John Hooker later reported: “Great was the slaughter and cruel was the fight and such was the valour and stoutness of these men [the rebels] that the Lord Grey reported himself that he never in all the wars he had been did know the like.”

What this 1549 report from Hooker doesn’t quite mention, though, is the brutal massacre by Russell of 900 prisoners. Horrible history indeed.

Battle of Clyst Heath 1455

Horrible history of Exe Vale Tesco

Did you know? St Loyes has quite the horrible history, what with hangings, massacres, battles and burials, and a mental asylum.

For example, the Exe Vale Tesco store and car park are built on the burial ground of a 16th century battle. According to the Historic Environment Record, a farmer unearthed dozens of bones in the 1960s in a field below Pynes Hill. The source for this information “refers to the site being that of the 1549 Prayer Book Rebellion battle of Clyst Heath and that the Tesco superstore now stands on the site.”

I found this information via Devon County Council’s Environment Viewer. There’s all sorts here. It also shows a Bronze Age semi-circular ditch under Tesco. Check out all the other historical sites in St Loyes!

On 18 May 2018, Exeter City Futures launched their Exeter 2025 Minecraft Challenge. It was an early outing for the St Loyes Minecraft world, and one lad got hold of it. Here’s what happened…