Historic Exeter gatehouse reopens as cafe and community hub
Published: 15 July 2022
Exeter's historic Pinces Gardens gatehouse has reopened as a cafe and community hub with space to hire.
St Thomas resident Abbe Martin has taken over the running of the gatehouse to create The Birdhouse park café.
The new outlet opened on Friday morning, selling hot and cold drinks and also offering community space to hire.
Exeter City Council’s Deputy Leader Cllr Laura Wright visited the café on its opening day and welcomed the new facility.
She said: “It is such great news that we been able to repair the gatehouse and to see it open today as a fantastic park café and community space.
“It's a real hub of community activity here with a lot of uses for the park and surrounding area, but the thing that was missing was not ever been able to get a cup of coffee.
“So I am so glad that Abbe has opened this café – it is a great spot to sit, chat and watch the world go by, knowing that you are supporting a local St Thomas business run by someone who lives just lives around the corner. It's wonderful, and I'm really, really happy to see it.”
Abbe, a musician who is one half of Exeter’s Sound of the Sirens, said: “I thought today would be a quiet opening day but from 8am, we had people sat on fold up deckchairs waiting. So there's clearly a need for coffee here in the park.
“We've had a steady stream of people ever since, which has been lovely, lots of people from our local community.
“It's just lovely to see people in our community using the space, chatting to each other, lying on the grass with their children and enjoying some of the things that we're selling.”
The iconic Pinces Gardens gatehouse – dating back to around 1912 – was recently re-roofed and repaired by the City Council. The works were carried out to preserve the history of the park and bring the building back to life.
The gatehouse is a well-known landmark and is the entrance to the much-loved Pinces Gardens.
The site was purchased by the City Council in 1912 and was formerly a nursery owned by William Lucombe.
Over recent years the gatehouse become a target for vandals and the roof was in a state of disrepair.
Contractors working for the Council stripped back the roof and laid new clay plain tiles similar to those previously on the building. A number of external repairs were also carried out to the building.
The Birdhouse park café will initially be open on Fridays from 8am to 5pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to 2pm.