The suburbe that lyith without the est gate of Excester is the biggest of al the suburbes of the towne, and berith the name of S. Sithewelle, where she was buried, and a chirch dedicate ther to her name. John Leyland (c.1542)
A Strong Identity
St Sidwell’s strong sense of its own identity as a distinct area outside the city walls can be traced back to at least the 11th Century when the Exeter bishop Leofric recovered estates which had been lost to the minster, including the land of St Sidwell’s.
For centuries church and city argued about who governed St Sidwell’s, what tolls its parishioners should pay and who should be responsible for law and order. St Sidwell’s rich natural water supply made it a prize worth fighting for.
St Sidwell’s church was rebuilt on a grand scale in 1437 and would have been the centre of life in the parish, visited by pilgrims and travellers and at the heart of the local community.
With its own guildhall, mayor and bailiff, St Sidwell’s had its own civic life outside the thick city walls. It would have been a busy, vibrant parish full of immigrants, travellers and traders coming and going along the major route through St Sidwell’s into the city.