20th Century St Sidwell’s

Trams, buses and cars

In 1905, electric trams were introduced to Sidwell Street as part of a city-wide network. They ran until August 1931, when the city authorities decided to make buses the only local transport.

The advent of the motor car resulted in a lot of business for Sidwell Street with many garages opening up along its length between the 1920’s and World War II.

Pubs and entertainment

The Odeon Cinema, which opened on Sidwell Street in 1937, is the oldest survivor in Exeter from that golden age of movies. It was also used for concerts and had a restaurant on the first floor. During the 1960s The Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, the Isely brothers and Rod Stewart all performed there.

The Odeon was damaged during the bombing of WWII, but was saved from demolition, despite protests from some town planners – unlike a lot of Sidwell Street, which lost much of its former character after WWII.

By the early 20th century, Sidwell Street had more inns and public houses than other parts of Exeter, with The Bude Hotel one of the most important coaching inns in Exeter. Most have been lost, either to war or redevelopment, and The Duke of York on the junction of York Street is one of the oldest that has survived.

The Foresters Arms was situated at 78 Sidwell Street and it was here, in 1904, that the decision was taken to merge the football teams of Exeter United and St Sidwell’s United to form Exeter City FC.

From 1958 to 1992 the offices and printing works of the Exeter Express & Echo were located in Sidwell House, directly opposite the entrance to the grounds here. The appropriately named pub, The Printers Pie, was situated next door. A popular music venue in the 1980s and 90s, it was here that Thom Yorke of internationally-renowned band Radiohead played some of his earliest gigs while a student at Exeter University.