Exe Island was the early industrial area of Exeter, England, and was an area of marshland between the city walls and the River Exe, reclaimed by the construction of a series of leats, or water courses, possibly from as early as the 10th century. Of these, the Higher Leat still exists. It created Exe Island, which was a separate manor belonging to the Courtenays, Earls of Devon.
The leats were used to drive fulling mills and corn mills. Sometime between 1180 and 1190 Robert Courtenay granted to Nicholas Gervaise all his water which Thomas the fuller holds of him outside the west gate of Exeter, which is between his corn mills and Crickenpette, so that the said Nicholas and his heirs may build a mill on the said water towards Crickenpette as shall appear best and most commodious to them.
Evidence for other medieval industries—tanning and the working of horn, bone, and bronze—has come to light in archaeological excavations. Cloth-finishing was the most important industry in the 16th century. In the late 18th century, the cloth industry declined and in the 19th century the area was occupied by iron foundries, corn mills, and breweries.
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