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The Urban Outfitters High Street Mural

Page updated 2nd October 2017

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Topshop

Another mural this time in the middle of the High Street. No 229 appears to be an old building but in fact was built after the original old Jacobean shop was torn down in 1930 by the Saxone Shoe Company and sold to a museum owned by William Randolph Hearst in the United States. The front facade has two Tudor style windows salvaged from a house that was demolished in North Street. The high Street widens at this point, as all the buildings from this point to Eastgate were destroyed in the May 1942 blitz, and replaced by rather bland, brick construction replacements in the 1950s.

No 229 High Street was the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette office, until 1930, when it was demolished and replaced by the new building. Windows that had been removed from 20, North Street, and stored at RAMM, were fitted to the facade, creating a 'fraud' historic building. The first tenants were the Saxone Shoe Company who were replaced by a Lyons Tea Shop. After the war the premises were split into two, with Currys on one side, and a smaller Lyons to its right. Above the two shops was a blank, cement rendered wall for many years until the City Council commissioned in 1991 a local artist to produce a mural to fill the space, on what was the side of the Topshop.

He created this Tudor house and balcony with the figures of Sir Thomas Bodley, Nicholas Hilliard and Princess Henrietta.

Urban Outfitters

By 2011, DTZ Investment Management, the discretionary property fund manager of the John Lewis Pensions Fund, owned the property on behalf of its pension fund. The current occupier, Madhouse were vacating the premises when the lease expired. DTZ, decided to refurbish and improve the property, including the replacement of the mural.

In 2011, the new occupiers, Urban Outfitters moved into the building, after a complete refurbishment. The international artist known as Vhils–the Portuguese born Alexandro Manuel Dias Farto–was commissioned to produce an artwork to replace the now, quite tired, Tudor House mural. Vhils first came to prominence when he added a mural alongside a Banksy design at the Cans Festival in London during 2018.

The replacement mural was produced for the opening of the new store on 12th October 2011. Vhils chiseled away the rendering on the wall to produce the new image, adding a black paint/stain to the parts of wall that were removed–the black infill is not typical of his work, as he mostly allows the brick and plaster of the original building to show through. He chose the face of an unknown young woman.

It is a striking work, although, one can wonder what connection it has with the history and culture of Exeter. His subjects seem to be anonymous, mostly ordinary folk from the cultures where his artworks are produced. The striking image was first painted onto the side of the building and the details accentuated by being chiseled into the wall.

City centre manager, John Harvey, was quoted that the new work is "like Marmite" – people "will either love it or hate it".

Sources: Express and Echo. Website of Alexandro Farto

The Urban Outfitters mural

The Urban Outfitters mural by Alexandro Farto.

The mural that was replaced with the figures of Sir Thomas Bodley, Nicholas Hilliard and Princess Henrietta

The mural that was replaced with the figures of Sir Thomas Bodley, Nicholas Hilliard and Princess Henrietta.

A wet day in the High Street

A wet day in the High Street and the blank wall over Currys and Lyons Tea Shop. Photo Dick Passmore.

Another view of the blank wall

Another view of the blank wall that was created after all the buildings adjacent were destroyed in the blitz.

The historic windows from the 17th Century, 20 North Street

The historic windows from the 17th Century, 20 North Street, were relocated when the building was demolished in 1930, and its historic fabric shipped to the United States.

Lyons Tea Shop, and the rebuilt High Street beyond

Lyons Tea Shop, and the rebuilt High Street beyond.

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