The Exeter Woollen Trail
Explore many of the key sites of Exeter's most important industry of the past, the woollen cloth trade.
By the early 1700s Exeter had become a very wealthy city, thanks to the woollen trade. Exeter's prominence in the cloth industry was due to its proximity to spinners and weavers throughout Devon, and the fact that the cloth was finished on Exe Island. The cloth was loaded onto ships at Exeter Quay for exporting to France, Spain, Holland and Portugal. Business thrived until the effects of the Napoleonic Wars and the dominance of the mechanised mills of the North of England which led to the decline of the woollen cloth trade in Exeter.
On this trail guide yourself to 8 different information panels. At each site discover Exeter's 'Age of the Golden Fleece'. For children there are quizzes and puzzles to solve along the way so bring a paper and pencil with you.
The links below the following paragraph will open the relevant information panel.
The trail starts at the Guildhall, it was from here that Exeter's affairs have been regulated for over 800 years. It was in this area that many of the wealthy cloth merchants set up their homes, shops and offices. From here the trail leads you to St. Nicholas Priory, which at one time was the home to two of the city's most prominent wool merchants. The Trail then continues to Tucker's Hall from where members of the Cloth Workers Guild would discuss such things as quality standards and apprenticeships. The Old Exe Bridge was the principal entry point for much of the woollen cloth that was brought to the City to be finished and then exported from the quayside. The heart of the Devon cloth industry was on Exe Island, this area was packed with mills, fulling stocks, drying sheds and racks. It was here where the cloth was finished before export from Exeter's Quayside. The whole area around the Quay thrived at the height of the cloth industry and other industries soon developed in this area as in the case of the warehouses and cellars that sprang up along the quay. The increase in trade to and from Exeter led to the development of Exeter's Canal and Canal Basin. The canal, which is the oldest surviving ship canal in Britain thrived until the arrival of the railway in Exeter in 1844.
This trail is approximately 2 miles long please allow one hour to complete it.
Download a Exeter Woollen Trail Leaflet [415kb] to guide you around the 8 information panels.