Sports activities were popular at the Devon County Mental Hospital from the start. A cricket pitch was added in soon after the opening of the Hospital - originally for the exclusive use of Hospital staff. In the 19th century most mental hospitals had cricket teams who, during their holidays, toured other Hospitals to play each other, and the Exminster team proved to be a very hard one to beat.
Staff remember that when the Hospital was used as a training hospital for doctors in the 1960s and 1970s, many chose to come during the summer because of the cricket. You could see the cricket pitch from Hallett Clinic and rumour has it that doctors would often go missing from the wards to be found watching the cricket from up there.
Initially, patients could only watch the staff engage in sports activities and accompany them to matches. At that time, spectating staff playing cricket was considered a form of patient entertainment. Home matches provided opportunities for the less able patients to join in, as they would be brought out to sit in the sun and anjoy the match.Starting in the 20th century, many patients got actively involved in the matches, helping with the scoring and, after World War II, as players as well. Patients would initially play each other, but in later years staff-patient matches were organised and even mixed staff-patient teams existed. The first Patients Sport's Days date back to the 1920s, allowing patients and staff to compete against each other in various disciplines.
In addition to cricket, patients could also play football and tennis in the Hospital grounds and in later years join sports clubs in the City of Exeter.In 1970 a putting green for patients was installed outside the Belvedere Clinic. Indoor activities such as Billiards, Snooker, and Table Tennis were also available, with various wards playing each other in small competitions.
In 1962, the playing fields in the Hospital grounds were opened for use by the local community and great effort was made after the closure of the Hospital to keep the fields.