Fans of Exmouth’s Rusty Pole are demanding to know why it has been removed by South West Water without any warning or public consultation.

The pole was erected on The Maer in 1909 and became popular with residents and visitors alike. A Rusty Pole Society was formed on Facebook by people who regularly walked past the pole, and the group attracted more than 200 followers.

A spoof article published in the Journal for April Fools Day, written by local historian Mike Menhenitt, sparked further interest. In it he invented various myths and legends about the Rusty Pole, including a claim that it had been used in medieval fertility rites.

The society had been planning to revive this ‘tradition’ by organising a May Day dance around the pole, and was also going to investigate whether the pole could be granted listed status as an item of historical interest. But before any further action could be taken it was removed by South West Water on April 13.

A spokesman for the Rusty Pole Society of Exmouth said: “It is a very sad day for Exmouth with such a landmark being removed. Many people walked past it every day, some laying stones, pebbles or flowers there and their dogs loved it too! We do not understand why such a monument had to be removed. It was quite safe, hurt no-one and provided a much-loved focal point for many people.

“South West Water have provided no such explanation as to why they took such action without consulting the townspeople. We would welcome a response from them. The future of the society is now unknown as the committee and members are still in shock – but 13 April will forever be known as Rusty Pole Day.”

He added that he had tried to contact South West Water and was promised a call back from the Waste Water Department, but was still awaiting this.

He said: “What started as a joke by someone grew into a group of over 200 followers who have great affection for what was an Exmouth landmark for over 114 years.”

A spokesperson for South West Water told the Journal: "South West Water agreed to remove the pole after concerns were raised at a council meeting over the structural integrity of the pole and risk to public safety."