Page updated 19 August 2011
Before Western Way was built in 1961, Frog Street ran from the Exe Island tunnel under New Bridge Street to the top end of Edmund Street. It was so named after the many frogs that frequented the marshy ground which originally lived on the marshy banks of the Exe. Frog Street now runs from the Exe Bridge roundabout, by Bonhay Road, under a new underpass for New Bridge Street up to approximately where the dual carriageway system of Western Way splits as it approaches the Exe Bridges. The map below, shows Frog Street as it was in the late 19th Century.
Frog Street was once lined with old, dilapidated houses, some of which went back to the 15th-century. The map shows the many houses in the street in 1905, and the many covered entrances to courts and places behind Frog Street, which were also crammed with small tenements.
The 1832 cholera outbreak was relatively kind to Frog Street as only 5 deaths were recorded, one of which was off the street. Although the practice of dipping for water from the leats had ceased, in 1879, Frog Street residents still obtained water from wells. The Sanitary Committee ordered one well at Day's Court, Frog Street to be closed after water analysis found it to be contaminated. In the same year, the Streets Commitee recommended a public fountain be provided in Frog Street by the bridge. Typhoid was still a regular visitor to the city, and more effort was being applied to eradicating it. The St Edmund's School was on the south side of Frog Street - it had a tiny playground wedged between the school, St Edmund's Church and other buildings.
The Round Tree Inn was close to the Round Tree Mill, on the opposite side of the Lower Leat, to the south of the map; the mill was formerly Cuckingstool Mill. The inn was mentioned as early as 1727, in an advert in Brice's Weekly, and ceased trading in 1903. The mill was burnt down in 1910.
The most famous building in Frog Street was the Merchants House, which was moved, on iron wheels to the bottom of West Street, a distance of approximately 90 metres. See the House that Moved photo essay which includes a BBC film of the move. White's Devonshire Directory of 1850, lists the following trades in the street.
Beerhouse - Lee
Baker - Barrett Matthew, and Mortimer Wm.
Blacksmith - Underhill Wm.
Builder - Morton Wm.
Coach Builder - Powlesland Robert
Fruiterers and Green Grocers - Penberthy Jas.
Hotels Inns and Taverns - The Round Tree, Mary Morton
Marine Store Dealers - Vigers Joseph
Shopkeeper - Griffin Nicholas Tallow
Chandlers - Wills Wm.
The list gives an indication of the diversity of commerce that the street supported.
Frog Street disappeared in 1963 when all its buildings had been demolished and the new road that passed under an enlarged Exe Island tunnel, was constructed along the edge of the City Wall above Cricklepit Lane. The City Council minutes for July of that year, record the formal change of the name to Western Way.
Source: Various sources including GENUKI (White's)
The empty site of the Merchants House on the left in 1962. The narrowness of Frog Street can be clearly seen. Frog Street with the famous Merchant's House left.
Courts off Frog Street
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