Where I lived for five years while studying and working at the starts of the 2000s, it was an odd experience returning to Exeter for the first time in at least fifteen years. I remembered far less than I expected, some things had changed (particularly the university) but for the rest it was probably more my memory to blame.

I started down at the Quay, a pleasant waterfront spot on the River Exe with an old pub and trading buildings (including the Custom House).

It was a short but steep walk up to Exeter Cathedral, over 600 years old and home to the longest uninterrupted medieval stone vaulted ceiling in the world.

In multiple surveys Exeter High Street has been rated the worst clone town in the country, i.e. having the highest proportion of national chain shops rather than independent shops. There certainly seemed a greater variety of places to eat than when I lived there, but it was still fairly uninspiring.

The clear highlight was visiting the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM), which had an impressively large and varied collection for a city of ~120,000 people. It apparently holds over a million objects, which seems incredible when the British Museum holds eight million.

A well presented and object rich exhibition covered the history of the city, which dates back to before the Romans. I particularly liked this scale model, which shows much much the cathedral would have dominated the city when it was built.

There were plenty of stuffed animals, including a polar bear, bison, giraffe and elephant!

The ancient world collection included an Egyptian mummy, viewable in a far more relaxing environment than the madness of the British Museum.

It seemed like every part of the world was represented, including Japan, SE Asia, Africa, and South America.

There were some wonderful objects from Oceania, a favourite of mine, particularly masks and shields from Papua New Guinea and this incredible suit of armour and sword made of shark teeth from Kiribati. The only place I’ve ever seen these suits and swords was in Auckland Museum, literally half a world away.

Author: jontycrane

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