Somewhere along Exeter high street, in a little gap between Patisserie Valerie and Greggs, you’ll find a literal ‘gap in the wall’. This is Parliament Street in Exeter, thought by many (though wrongly) to be the narrowest street in the world…
Parliament Street in Exeter
50 metres long (160 foot) and just 64 centimetres (25 inches) wide at its narrowest point, you could easily miss this little lane while wandering down Exeter’s bustling high street. (I know I’ve personally missed in on many an occasion when walking past the shops). A few blocks down, you’ll also find the equally interesting House that Moved, a Tudor house that was quite literally picked up and moved!
Parliament Street itself dates back to the 14th-Century and has seen plenty of history over the years. Formerly known as Small Lane (no prizes for guessing why!), no one knows quite why it was eventually renamed after Parliament- though it was probably as a joke.
However, the fun seems to have been missed on pretty much everyone, as no one can remember why or how it gained its present name. One theory suggests that it was renamed during the Civil War, while another believes it was renamed Parliament Street in 1832 after Exter City Council wanted to ridicule parliament for passing the reform act of 1832.
History of Parliament Street and A Visit Today
The sheer narrowness of the street, as well as its relative privacy, meant that for the first few centuries of its existence, residents considered Parliament Street a great place to dump their chamber pots! By the 1740s, the stench was so bad that the Council ordered for permanent doors to be fixed on either end of the street.
This measure, however, barely lasted and by 1836, many local residents of nearby Waterbeer Street agreed that the street was simply too small. A sum of £130 was given to the council, for the purpose of widening the street, but nothing ever came of it. And so it remains dark, damp and tiny to this day…
Although Parliament street in Exeter may not be narrowest in the world (there are many contenders who want to claim the title, but not necessarily for the fame!), Exeter’s little lane remains the narrowest street in the United Kingdom. Other similarly small streets in Europe include the Rope Street in Brasov, Romania and Spreuerhofstraße, a narrow street in Reutlingen, Germany. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the German street which is the narrowest, coming in at just 12 inches at its narrowest point!