Did you know that King’s Lodge was the home to YMCA Exeter in the 1940’s, where we used to run loads of different activities such as a billiards hall and an extensive library? But, where was King’s Lodge we hear you ask? Well, on Kings Alley of course! Yet for us involved in the Heritage Project, finding King’s Alley in Exeter was not quite as simple a task as you would think…
What we do know:
- King’s Lodge was on King’s Alley
- King’s Lodge was blitzed to rubble on 4th May 1942
- King’s Alley was on, off, or near Exeter high street – the area affected by the blitz
As you may know, Exeter is an ancient city, meaning that lots of the streets emerged organically rather than in a structured and planned manner. This results in two things…
Firstly, odd little streets like Parliament Street in Exeter that is about 0.64 metres (2 ft 1 in) at its narrowest, approximately 1.22 metres (4 ft 0 in) at its widest and only 50 metres (160ft) in length!
Secondly, some old streets are not recorded on many maps, so whilst King’s Alley was presumably wider than Parliament Street, we just couldn’t find it on any of the maps we had.
Historical research is, if nothing else, essentially detective work. Unfortunately, detective work in real life is rarely as glamorous or exciting as television and movies would have you believe – although thankfully gun fights over historical resources are also less common.
The detective work, in this case, was done by Tom Browne, Senior Fundraiser and research enthusiast at YMCA Exeter.
Tom discovered that before YMCA Exeter lived at King’s Lodge in 1892, it had previously been the site of a day and boarding school ran by headmaster, Mr Quicke. Quicke had established the school in 1797 specifically for young boys in the area. Going through the story, Tom then found that Mr Quicke was living at King’s Lodge in 1851, where the address in the census was given as, “King’s Ally, St Stephen’s, Exeter”.
Part serendipity, part hard work, we found our answer. King’s Lodge was located on the opposite side of the High Street to St Stephen’s Church. The physical location of King’s Lodge might seem a trivial matter but this building was our headquarters for 50 years. The building gave the YMCA a real home in Exeter from which we could engage with the community, provide a place for young men to meet, and help the community through the First World War and a significant portion of the Second – until it was blitzed!