Our five streets stand on what was formerly the Streatham Estate, which belonged to the Thornton West Family... millionaires, retired from East India Trading. The Cricket field, Thornton Hill and West Avenue were laid out on part of the Streatham Estate by their agent, John Bowden. The family gave the cricket field to the Devon County Cricket Club in 1902, to revert to the heirs if ever cricket should no longer be played there. The County Club ran it for 60 years. Dr. W G Grace played here in a two-day event in 1902. For many years, cricket shared the field with a bowling-green, two croquet courts and tennis. The croquet hoops had to be taken up before cricket matches. Once a year a big croquet tournament took over the whole field. Spectators sat on narrow benches round the edge, backed by superb panoramic views. In 1964, Exeter Cricket Club, the main users of the field, were invited to take it over at a peppercorn rent. In 1978 the field nearly reverted to the trustees and might have been developed for housing but was saved by a corner being sold to a private squash club and bar. In 1982 the Isca Hockey Club began to share the use of the field.
John Bowden designed many of the houses erected here between 1907 and 1914 (including one for himself at the top of West Avenue) in Old English style like those by C F A Vosey. Look out for Bowden’s logo, a diamond shape in brick, on the gables or front walls of many houses.
We go down Thornton Hill, which follows the line of a path which ran along a line of Elms bordering two fields, down to the Taddiford Brook and up to Lower Hoppern Farm, which was fitted up for a dairy and tea house around 1820, serving teas, junket and Devonshire cream. Thornton Hill’s only public building was Harvey’s Physical Training School and Gymnasium (against the wall of the Barracks), where the Major provided Swedish Drill for several local schools.
Our thanks to local historian, Hazel Harvey, a long term resident of Thornton Hill, who allowed us to take the above words from one of her books – Discovering Exeter
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