Earlier in the summer we received an email from Jerry Jermyn at Exeter Cathedral School. Jerry had come across an unusual sign in the basement of the building on Palace Gate. It’s a shield mainly made of metal, bearing the Escot family crest, it may have been something to do with the business run by members of the Kennaway family.
Kennaway Wine & Spirit Merchants & Export Bottlers was set up by William Kennaway in 1743, the date on the sign. Jerry says the premises was at number 3 Palace Gate, and he has no idea how the sign ended up at number 9.
It is possible that the metal shield is an original from the 1700s, but it seems there were many additions made along the way. The yellow elements of the sign are Perspex, which certainly wasn’t available in 1743! Neither were the fluorescent lights that were incorporated.
The business continued trading up until 1975; the South West Heritage Trust: Devon Archive Catalogue holds: Business records of Kennaway and Son [Kennaway and Company] of Commercial Road and Palace Gate, Exeter, wine and spirit merchants, and also of Snow and Company of Exeter, J. Hollingworth and Company, of Leicester, Hebblethwaites of Leeds, and Dean and Son, of Canterbury, Kent.
The RAMM in Exeter keeps an invoice from Kennaway Wine & Spirit Merchants dated 1905 for two casks of Old Highland Whisky, for the princely sum of £12, 15 shillings and 4 pence! And a quick Google search reveals that Kennaway & Co earthenware flagons come up for sale at auction from time to time.
The original wine merchant, William Kennaway, had five sons. Two of these, Richard and John, perhaps realising that they were unlikely to do well out of the business with so many siblings, set off for India in 1742. They returned to England in 1794 to buy what then became Escot Estate. And so the trail leads to the present day.
Thanks to Jerry, the sign has a new home on the Estate. It’s been given a clean and the fluorescent lights have been replaced with LED lights. After all, it is a part of the Kennaway family’s heritage!