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The Mercure Southgate Hotel - Southernhay

Page updated 5 July 2009

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Plans for this hotel, on the old Trinity Green were submitted in 1987. This new hotel was constructed in 1989 in a neo-Georgian style. The building occupies a 2.6 acre plot that formerly was the home of a coach works and a carp ark.

The site was surveyed by an archaeological field unit that found evidence of a defensive ditch dating to the Danish attack of 1001, and jars and phials that were probably those of a 17th century doctor on the site. The main find related to the Civil War, was a 60ft wide defensive ditch that was 8/9ft deep. There was also evidence of a battle involving 2,000 Royalists and 400 Parliamentarians, that stretched from Trinity Green to Wynards.

The area also played host to Exeter's annual 3 day Lammas Fair. Trinity Green, where the modern car park located, was also a burial yard last used in 1832 to bury the dead from the cholera outbreak. 

The Hotel

Originally named the Forté Crest Hotel, the hotel had 110 rooms, two restaurants, a fitness centre and swimming pool. The roof girders for the swimming pool roof are 90 ft long and are believed to be the longest beams to be transported into Exeter by road. They were constructed at Chard in Somerset. The hotel was renamed the Southgate Hotel in 1996.

In June 2009 the owners, the Moorfield Group announced that the now Mercure Southgate had undergone a £4 million refurbishment in the 20th year since it was built. An extension with an 44 extra bedrooms has been added and the main banqueting and conference suite improved. The new facilities were opened by the new Lord Mayor John Winterbottom, who cut a ceremonial ribbon, assisted by Alderman Diana Bess, who performed the opening 20 years before. The Moorfield Group, bought the Southgate and 23 other former Macdonald hotels in 2007. The work was done by the Exeter-based building firm Rok, including the refurbishment of the hotel’s corridors and staircases.

The hotel is right next to the city wall, and yards from the position of the 'Great Gate' or Southgate, which was removed in 1819. A short walk beside the wall will take the visitor along the line of the old 'croldiche' or Southernhay and through to Cathedral Close. In the opposite direction, cross over South Street, and you follow the wall down to Quay Street and Exeter Quay. Just opposite the hotel, in Southernhay, is Dean Clarke House, the former Georgian Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.

The Southgate Hotel, South Street/Southernhay
The Southgate Hotel.

The site of the Southgate Hotel
It is difficult to believe that the Southgate Hotel occupies this site photographed about 1970 by Alan H Mazonowicz.

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