With a trending hashtag on Twitter and my Facebook timeline full of fellow students sharing multiple news articles, photos and videos, #exeterﬁre has been the talk of the city this past weekend. Beginning at 5.20am on Friday morning, and the ﬁnal ﬂames still ﬂickering on Tuesday as ‘hot spots’, the ﬁre has affected many of us across the city in going about our daily lives. In the frenzy, however, the question does crop up as to whether there is an element of hypocrisy in all this? Why choose to care about our city and its illustrious history now, when a landmark has crumbled, rather than when it was here in all its glory?
Why choose to care about our city and its illustrious history now?
The loss of the Royal Clarence Hotel has seemingly hit a lot of people quite hard, with many commenters claiming Exeter to be ‘changed forever’. Whether it be fond memories of summers sat in Cathedral Green, or a trip for afternoon tea at the hotel itself, for many of us a key area of our pretty city has diminished. But not many seemed to care about the history before. Even as a History student, I’m ashamed to admit that not even I knew that the Royal Clarence was the oldest hotel in England, dating back to 1776.
not many seemed to care about the history before
However, I don’t think that makes my horror at the ﬁre any less genuine. The hard work of over 100 ﬁre ﬁghters from Devon and neighbouring Somerset has equally not gone unnoticed. We look on with a sense of pride for what these brave men and women have tirelessly done for the past few days, with donations of thousands of pounds being given by grateful locals and students alike.
The reason we’re all so concerned with the ﬁre is, quite simply, because it’s so close to home. We know this city like the back of our hands, so to lose a prominent part of it is to lose a part of our home…but that just makes us love it more. Yes, we may complain about its measly number of night clubs, the early closures of such clubs, and the odd idiosyncrasies of Exeter’s locals, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. In some ways, this ﬁ re has helped us get more involved and interested in local history, which I’d view as a victory, not a hypocrisy.
I disagree with the notion that Exeter is ‘changed forever’, at least not in the superﬁcial way that such commenters are stating. The hotel will be rebuilt, maybe not in all its historic glory, but gloriously nonetheless. I would say the way Exeter had changed is simply that the people have now come together as one, in support, and we can hope this union may last. So let them share their news stories and let the country know that we’re proud of our city, damaged or not.