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The Old Workhouse and Old City Hospital

At the Triangle

Researched and written by David Cornforth

Page updated 22nd October 2017

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Founded as a workhouse, this establishment briefly became a rival of the Devon and Exeter Hospital in Southernhay. A Canon of Exeter Cathedral, the Reverend John Bury died on the 5th July 1667, leaving in his will of the 15th June 1667, a bequest of £40 per annum to endow a workhouse for St Sidwell's parish.

"...wherein all the poor people of that parish, that shall be able to work, shall be maintained therein, and kept to work, then, and as long as the employment shall be continued." (Jenkins)

A committee was formed in 1671 to acquire a suitable building at the lower end of Paris Street in what is now the Triangle. A master was employed to run the institution. A further sum of £100 was left to the workhouse in the will of William Bruin, in 1675 "... to set the poor therein to work." Progress was slow, and by 1676 it was experiencing financial problems. The project limped on until, but as a result of an Act of Parliament in 1698, the Corporation purchased the lease at an annual rent of £30. They opted to build a new workhouse, on the London Road, when they leased at an annual rent of 20s, from the feoffees of St Sidwells, a piece of land.

The old workhouse became a tapestry works under the protection of the Prince of Wales, but it did not prove to be viable and it closed. It was then used as a tenement for the poor before, first partial demolition in the 19th Century, and full demolition later.

The workhouse is shown as an L shaped building with other structures around, in the section of Roque's map shown above. Another map indicates it as a three sided building with a courtyard.

Sources: Alexander Jenkins–The History of the City of Exeter. Rev., George Oliver–The History of the City of Exeter.


Detail from the 1744 Roque's map of the Old City Hospital. It is the building in the centre.

The workhouse was in the carpark of the present Triangle

The workhouse, marked with a red box, was in the car park of the present Triangle.


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