Page updated 15 September 2008
This small street, linking the western end of Cathedral Yard with the High Street was the main gate into Cathedral Close when it was created in 1286, with the permission of Edward I. The Cathedral's scavenger (cleaner) lived in Broadgate.
During the age of the stage coach, Exeter's inns and hotels would compete for business by ensuring they were the terminus for prestigious services. The Royal Clarence was no exception, as it offered its clientele the Royal Bath and the London Mail services. Indeed, after a particularly frightening accident, in which a Clarence bound stage coach ran amok across the Close, after it clipped the narrow entrance of the Broadgate, the city authorities decided to demolish the old gate and ease the entrance.
While consideration was made for the removal of Broadgate, the Flying Post published two letters, for and against the destruction. The letter against modernisation had a nice turn of phrase:
"...can they (dignitaries of the church) silently look on, when Vandalic violence is threatened to Broadgate, the beautiful accompaniment and outwork of this very Cathedral?.... Exonians should be as proud of this ornament of their city, as Soldiers are of trophies and banners wrested from the enemy." It was signed One of the Old School.
The reply sounds as though the writer would have approved of the redeveloped Princesshay:
"Let me congratulate you, my polished fellow-citizens, on your zeal for improvement. .... To be sure they were well meaning people (forefathers): but ignorance made them prefer old Broadgate to a spruce milliner's shop, and the Painted East Window of St. Peter's Church, to the bow-window of Mr. C.'s tap room." Signed by Modernus. It just seems some modern controversies are really as old as the hills!
Work to remove the gate commenced on 28th December 1824 and the highway was reopened on the 28th February 1825. During the two months of demolition, the Defiance and other coaches that served the Clarence Hotel used the narrow Martins Lane. The building that is now Pizza Express was constructed on the corner. The Exeter Bank was extended to the High Street by demolishing the existing houses and shops adjoining the bank, in 1874.
By tradition, a new Bishop of Exeter is greeted by the Mayor at the Eastgate and escorted to Broadgate to be met by the Dean and Chapter, before they proceed to the Cathedral.
During 2005, Broadgate has been pedestrianised, and the entry of cars into the Close is restricted. The photo shows the post marking the gate and a commemorative plaque. Also see Broadgate in Areas.
Broadgate before demolition in 1825. The post that marks Broadgate.
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