A replica of Exeter’s historic Wyvern weathervane – a lesser known historic landmark of the city – has been been erected at the Iron Bridge near the City Gate Hotel.
The 200-year-old original was taken down and removed to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum a few years ago after its fixing came adrift and it was decided it was too fragile to be put back up. People will be able to see it once again next year when the museum reopens to the public.
The original Exeter Wyvern was set on top of the city’s North Gate until this was demolished in 1769, after which it was moved to the Quay. It was brought back to the site of the North Gate in 1897 as part of the celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, as commemorated on a stone plaque at the base of the pole.
The age of the Wyvern is not known, although the use of copper rather than iron suggests it is at least 200 years old. It had a chequered history, with some of its dents thought to be due to musket fire during the Civil War, although this attractive idea is impossible to prove.
Cleaning has revealed that it was painted only in the last 100 years of its life, first in yellow – probably when it was re-erected for Victoria’s Jubilee, and then in a brass effect when it was last restored by the Civic Society in 1976. Neither the careful cleaning, nor an x-ray courtesy of Exeter International Airport, has revealed any earlier decoration, apart from some hint of gilding around its tongue.
The replica Wyvern, faithfully reproduced in copper by Neil Bollen, is now swinging on top of the pole opposite the City Gate, where hopefully it will stay for another 200 years.
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