1316-1538: The Courtenays at Topsham

In 1316, the Courtenays built a stone quay and three warehouses at Topsham and installed a wooden loading crane there.

For 200 years, all goods travelling by sea had to be loaded and unloaded at Topsham and Courtenay packhorses transported goods to Exeter.

The Exeter mayor and citizens repeatedly tried to unblock the river but the Courtenays would not give in. Then in 1538 Henry Courtenay, Henry VIII’s cousin and childhood friend, was suspected of being part of a conspiracy to overthrow the king. Henry VIII had him thrown into the Tower of London and beheaded. The lucrative Topsham Quay passed into the hands of local businessmen and an Act of Parliament granted Exeter City Chamber the right to break up the weirs.