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Duryard – a Royal Hunting Forest

Page updated 21st October 2017

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This area is associated with the University in the north of the city. It was once the hunting land of Anglo-Saxon kings and was the manor of Duryard. The name comes from the Anglo-Saxon dear (deer) and geard (fold). It stretched from the river on the west to Stoke Hill on the east, and Stoke Woods in the north to the Hoopern Valley just north of the city. The University occupies the southern section of the old forest. The historian, Professor W G Hoskins thought that King Athelstan may have granted the land to the city around 930. A reference to the name Derard is found in the Cartulary of St Nicholas Priory.

The annual accounts for the manor suggest that in 1585 Duryard was administered as a rural manor. It had 58 tenants holding plots between garden size to 140 acres. There were sixty-five freeholders, who paid rent to the manor. Tenants had to use Duryard Mill, just below Cowley Bridge, to grind their corn. The total woodland at this time was 100 acres.

Duryard supplied most of the timber for municipal use in the city. This extract from Jenkin's asserts:

1657 ... "The Church-yard of St. Peter (which had hitherto been the common Cemetery for the city at large) was levelled and railed in at the sole expense of the Chamber; and for this purpose one hundred trees were felled and brought from Duryard Wood"

The cost of work extending the canal at the end of the 17th Century left the city in need of funds. Five hundred trees from Duryard wood were felled and sold, while some larger holdings on the estate were sold.

Great Duryard House–now Thomas Hall–was built by the wealthy dyer Sir Thomas Jefford who died in 1703. He was Mayor in 1688 and knighted by James II for his loyalty to the king. In January 1721, Andrew Brice's Post-master ran a notice for an auction for some property at Duryard that was part of the estate of Jefford.

The next adjoining estate is Middle Duryard. It consisted of a small neat brick house, with an estate, on well wooded land. It was the property of George Cross, Esq.

Reed Hall

Duryard Lodge was the home of 'Iron' Sam Kingdon, the foundry owner; the house was sold in 1865 after the death of his widow, to Richard Thornton West and was rebuilt and renamed Streatham Hall. Thornton West's estates included Thornton Hill and West Avenue. His son inherited the house and in 1900 it was sold. During the First War it was used as a military hospital. It went on the market in 1919 when Sir James Owen in a consortium, and owner of the Express and Echo, tried to buy the house for use by a future university without success. In 1921, Owen with Alderman W H Reed agreed to buy Streatham House–as it was known–for the new university. After assurances that the university would be sited on Duryard, Reed purchased the house and gifted it, along with 11 acres to the University College of the South West. It became the heart of Streatham Campus. In thanks to Reed, it was renamed Reed Hall.

Duryard Halls, the residence of J K Rowling, Will Young and other University students when undergraduates, closed in 2007 and has been demolished.

In 1897 Duryard was comparatively sparsely populated. The professions of the people who lived there give a good idea of the area.

Dairy man - Cowley Road Lower Duryard
Haulier - Cowley Road
Market gardeners - three in Cowley Road
Private residences - three in private addresses.

The 1919 Kelly's Directory shows a more than doubling in private residences.

Private residences - seven in private addresses
Market gardeners - three
Fruit grower

Duryard Valley Park is one of Exeter's green spaces - much is privately owned but the Belvedire Meadows Local Nature Reserve is open to the public, and the private roads are open for walkers. There is a picnic area off Pennsylvania Road giving fine views across the valley park towards mid Devon.

Sources: The History of Exeter by Alexander Jenkins, Kelly's directory. Archeological Assessment of Thomas Hall by Exeter Archeology.

Looking towards Duryard from the river

Looking towards Duryard from the river. The illustration is post 1844 as the railway runs along the river bank.

The apex of the area known as Duryard

The apex of the area known as Duryard.

Looking from Duryard towards the river

Looking from Duryard towards the river. The bridge across the river at Exwick is in the centre. The house to the right is Exwick House.

Looking from the other side of Duryard over Exeter, towards Exmouth

Looking from the other side of Duryard over Exeter, towards Exmouth. St Sidwell's Church is left of centre.

Reed Hall is now a conference centre

Reed Hall is now a conference centre on the University campus. It was originally named Streatham Hall.

Hope Hall was also a former home on Duryard

Hope Hall was also a former home known as Homefield, on Duryard.


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