Barnfield Crescent, a Georgian crescent garden, is a charming oasis of peace and calm in the very heart of Exeter’s central business district. Despite the damage to the city centre in 1942 the Crescent survived in tack and today provides a charming setting with its mature trees overlooked by lovely red-brick Georgian housing which exudes an atmosphere of easy contentment that is unrivalled anywhere else in the city or anywhere else in Devon or Cornwall. In the summer, the red-brick townhouses, with their white window frames and fanlights look stunning when seen against a deep blue sky, framed by towering evergreen English oaks. Walking along the Crescent on a quiet Sunday afternoon really is like stepping back into another world.
Barnfield Crescent was, like Southernhay West and Dix’s Field, a development by Matthew Nosworthy. It was planned in 1792 but in 1805 only five houses, Nos 2-6, were built. It’s said that the original plan was for a ‘circus’ but sadly neither that nor indeed was the Crescent itself ever fully completed.
Southernhay Lodge and No 1 were added in a similar style in c.1840 by Dr Thomas Shapter, but it is of three storeys, not four like the rest of the crescent.
Much later the early twentieth century a rather splendid ‘Arts & Crafts’ house Morwenstow was built (apparently by Rev, Sabine Baring-Gould the Anglican priest, hagiographer, antiquarian, novelist and eclectic scholar best known for penning the Hymn ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’). The large house looks rather incongruous and attracted the condemnation of one John Betjeman who rather unkindly dubbed it a ‘Monstrous Villa’.