Exeter is a cathedral city and the county town of Devon, South West England with a population of around 130,000. It is situated on the River Exe, approximately 36 mi (58 km) northeast of Plymouth and 65 mi (105 km) southwest of Bristol.
In Roman Britain, Exeter was established as the base of Legio II Augusta under the personal command of Vespasian – and evidence of their occupation is present in the city today.
Exeter became a religious centre in the Middle Ages. Exeter Cathedral, founded in the mid 11th century, became Anglican in the 16th-century English Reformation. Exeter became an affluent centre for the wool trade, although by the First World War the city was in decline.
After the Second World War, much of the city centre was rebuilt and is now a centre for education, business and tourism in Devon and Cornwall. It is home to two of the constituent campuses of the University of Exeter: Streatham and St Luke’s.
The Met Office, the main weather forecasting organisation for the United Kingdom and one of the most significant in the world, relocated from Bracknell in Berkshire to Exeter in early 2004. It is one of the largest employers in the area (together with the University of Exeter, Devon County Council and the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust).
The M5 motorway to Bristol and Exeter starts at Birmingham, and connects at Bristol with the M4 to London and South Wales. The older A30 road provides a more direct route to London via the A303 and M3. The M5 is the modern lowest bridging point of the River Exe. Going westwards, the A38 connects Exeter to Plymouth and south east Cornwall, whilst the A30 continues via Okehampton to Cornwall and ends at Penzance. The cities of Bristol, Plymouth, Bath, Salisbury and Truro can all be reached within two hours.
Exeter is the main rail hub in the South West and is linked to most branch lines in Devon, including to Paignton, Exmouth, Barnstaple and Okehampton. This makes it possible to reach most stations in Devon directly from Exeter St Davids – one of three main stations in Exeter – the others being Exeter Central (which is more convenient for the city centre but served only by local services and the main line route to London Waterloo) and Exeter St Thomas (in the In the south-west of the city) that serves the western side of the city. There are also six suburban stations, Topsham, St James Park, Polsloe Bridge, Pinhoe, Digby & Sowton and Newcourt, served only by local services.
There are two main line railway routes from Exeter to London, the faster route via Taunton and Reading to London Paddington and the slower West of England Main Line via Salisbury and Basingstoke to London Waterloo. Another main line, the Cross Country Route, links Exeter with Bristol, Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Great Western Railway and CrossCountry services continue westwards along the Exeter to Plymouth Line, variously serving Torquay, Plymouth and Cornwall. Local branch lines run to Paignton (the Riviera Line), Exmouth (the Avocet Line), Barnstaple (the Tarka Line) and Okehampton (see Dartmoor Line).
The city’s professional rugby union team is the Exeter Chiefs. Founded in 1871, as Exeter Rugby Club, the team have played their home games at Sandy Park stadium, located adjacent to junction 30 of the M5, since 2006 after relocating from their previous stadium at the County Ground which had been used continually from 1905. They have been continuous members of the highest division of English rugby, the Premiership, since 2010. They have been English champions twice, in 2017, and 2020. Anglo-Welsh Cup winners twice, in 2014 and 2018. In 2020, the club became European Champions for the first time in their history, defeating Parisian based club Racing 92 in the final at Bristol’s Ashton Gate Stadium 31–27.
The city also has two other clubs: Wessex Rugby Club, which is located in Exwick, and Exeter Saracens Rugby Club, which is located in Whipton.
Exeter City is Exeter’s only Professional Association football club. Currently members of League One, they have played their home games at St James Park since their formation in 1904.
Exeter Cricket Club administers three teams that play in the Devon Cricket League. The first of which plays in the Premier Division at first XI level and the next plays at second XI level. The club play their home games at County Ground where they have remained for over 180 years.
Exeter Rowing Club competes both locally and nationally, and has a recorded history originating in the early 19th century. The City of Exeter Rowing Regatta is run annually in July, and is the oldest and largest regatta in the South West, with racing first recorded on the river in the 1860s.
Exeter has several theatres. The Northcott Theatre is situated in the Streatham campus of the University of Exeter and is one of relatively few provincial English theatres to maintain its own repertory company. This theatre is the successor to the former Theatre Royal, Exeter which was permanently closed in 1962.
The Barnfield Theatre was originally constructed as Barnfield Hall by Exeter Literary Society towards the end of the 19th century and converted to a theatre in 1972. The Cygnet Theatre in Friars Walk is the home of the Cygnet Training Theatre and is a member of the Conference of Drama Schools. As well as performances given by students in training, this theatre also stages performances from visiting repertory companies.
Additionally, more innovative and contemporary performances, theatrical productions and dance pieces are programmed by Exeter Phoenix in Exeter City Centre and The Exeter Corn Exchange in Market Street.