Page updated 17 September 2008
The Cathedral authorities gained permission in 1286 to build a wall with seven gates around Cathedral Close. Earlier, the Dominicans, in the 1240's, built a friary and enclosed the building and their church with a wall in the area of the modern Bedford Street. The two walled areas of ecclesiastical land of the friary and Cathedral Close, effectively cut off the city wall from below Eastgate to Southgate from the citizens of Exeter for maintenance. In 1297, Edmund, Earl of Cornwall announced that the Dominicans and Cathedral must share the use of Freren Lane with the city authorities for access to the wall. The lane ran from Catherine Street, alongside St Catherines Almshouses to the city wall at the Crolditch (Southernhay).
The stables of the New Inn, the largest and most important in the city in the 16th and 17th centuries were situated on the opposite corner to St Catherines Almshouses and Chapel, at the entrance to Egypt Lane. The Streets Committee considered improving Martins Lane, Catherine Street and Egypt Lane in the 1870s with a view to making the theatre more easily accessible, alongside an alternative route along Bedford Street.
The name, Egypt Lane was first noted on Rocque's map of 1744 - Hoskin's was puzzled by the name and thought it may be derived from a slang term. A lease of 1814 strangely refers to it as Johnasses Lane. (D&CN&Q)
There were two deaths from the cholera in 1832, who lived in Egypt Lane - both appear to be from St Catherines Almshouses.
The rebuilding of the area during 2005 re-opened a right of way alongside the ruins of St Catherine's Chapel, following the line of the old Egypt Lane. It passes under Norwich Union House, and past Wagamama, a Japanese restaurant. The developers have named it Egypt Lane, a welcome return for an old right of way.
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