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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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Letter in The Western Antiquary 1887

From Robert Dymond F.S.A:

"Samuel Dix, fuller, was a member of the Chamber of Exeter, was sheriff in 1758 and mayor in 1761. His son, William Spicer Dix, born 1729, lived in St. Sidwell's and became owner of a field adjoining Southernhay.

Stimulated by the progress of new buildings there, he advertised in the Exeter papers in January 1796, that he was ready to lease or sell sites for houses to be built on his land, in accordance with a plan and design which he had caused to be prepared. Hence the name of "Dix's Field" still applied to the two rows of brick houses, with their intervening pleasure ground.

Whether Mr. Dix sustained loss in this speculation or in other affairs, I do not know, but a little more than two years later, the Exeter papers reported a meeting of the creditors of William Spicer Dix and his son John, brewers, their brewery being in Exe  Lane."

Map showing Dix's Field, Exeter

This street plan dating from the first years of the 20th century shows the convenient and pleasant situation of Nosworthy's houses in Dix's Field close to the heart of the City.
After the bankruptcy proceedings, Matthew Nosworthy, one of Exeter's finest builders, secured possession of the land. He produced a plan for the completion of the development so that it matched the style of adjacent buildings in Southernhay. All the exteriors were to be identical but the internal layout of the house was customised for each owner, Each house had a garden at the rear, and, most unusually for Exeter, a good supply of fresh water. There was to be an enclosed central lawn for the use of residents with an imposing carriage sweep surrounding it, which was to be entered from Southernhay itself. The Napoleonic Wars meant that this plan remained a dream for some 20 years until peace returned but the project was duly completed according to Nosworthy's plan and his houses was realised at last.
Dix's Field in 1920
All went well with these beautiful terraces until Monday 4 May 1942 when bombs rained down on Dix's Field. The official plan drawn up for the rebuilding of Exeter states that 23 of the 24 houses in Dix's Field might have been restored - internally, they were burnt out but they were buildings of the finest quality and the outer walls were still structurally sound. Sadly, in the end, most were demolished. What we see today in Dix's Field is a pastiche - facades evoking something of the style of the original designs, fronting not homes, but offices.

Dix's Field c.1920

Courtesy Peter Thomas and the Isca Collection


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