The word “hermitage” comes to us from old French and literally means the dwelling of a hermit – where a hermit traditionally is a Christian recluse, one who, driven by religious fervour has opted to withdraw from social life and lead a solitary existence. There is also an old French wine, called Hermitage, which comes from Valence and has been produced for over 300 years from vineyards on a nearby hill which supposedly once had a hermit’s cell on its summit.
The notion held by Keith Watson, Chairman of the Mannamead Conservation Society, is that exactly the same reasoning could apply to Hermitage Road. The theory here being at the top of what we now know as Hermitage Road was an ancient watchtower, also dating back over three hundred years and most likely used, or constructed, during the Civil War. Left empty over the subsequent centuries it too would have been extremely isolated prior to the intense development of Mutley and Mannamead in the mid-late nineteenth century, and would have made the perfect retreat for such a local hermit.