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St Martin's Church is crammed into the
north-eastern corner of Cathedral Close with an east-west lane on
its northern flank (to the left here). The St Martin of the
dedication was bishop of Tours in the fourth century. The church
building's origins are classed as 'ancient', although much of the
present building can be dated to the fifteenth century. Its
furnishings have been claimed as reflecting the 'low churchmanship'
of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The site is so restricted that land had to be
borrowed from the cathedral to build the tower using the familiar
red volcanic stone. The church itself could only be extended
eastwards by building at an angle. It was consecrated in 1065, a
year before the Norman conquest of England, one of six chapels and
churches within sight of the cathedral (see links). Some of its
Anglo-Saxon feature survive, while it also escaped Victorian
refurbishment and Second World War bombing.
The small Chapel of St Peter Minor was
located on the north side of Cathedral Yard, roughly twenty metres
east of the chapel of SS Simon & Jude (below). Marked on a
nineteenth century map of the city's parishes and parochial
churches, this was one of the latter, one of two used by the
Kalendar Brethren of the later Medieval College of the Vicars
Choral (see links). It was disused before 1265 and demolished
by 1285. Eagle House now occupies the site.
SS Simon & Jude Chapel lay on the eastern
side of the path between the High Street and Cathedral Yard, roughly
at the corner that is now (2019) occupied by Pizza Express. It is shown
on a nineteenth century map of the city's parishes and parochial
churches, and this building was one of the latter, a parochial chapel
rather than a parish church. It is also mentioned in a mandate of
Bishop Marshall (between the years 1194 and 1206). Demolition was
probably in the 1800s.
The Church of St Mary Major (First Site),
sometimes St Mary the More, was located in what is now the tree
line at the north-west corner of Cathedral Yard. This was immediately
south of the war memorial, aligned with the north-west corner of the
cathedral itself, (and shown lower centre in the medieval map here).
It pre-dated the cathedral in the form of a monastery with church,
founded in the 600s. St Boniface of Mainz was educated here in the
The monastery was refounded about 930 by King
Athelstan, and rebuilt in 1018 by Canute after being destroyed by
Danes in 1003. In 1050 Edward the Confessor converted it into the
first Minster of St Mary & St Peter. The Church of
St Mary Minor may have been located alongside it and probably
became united (combined, in building terms) in 1285. St Mary Steps
(see links) is a less likely candidate (shown is a copper line
engraving of the 1700s by J Walker).
Work on the present cathedral behind it began in
1112. Now reduced in status (and size), the minster became the parish
church of St Mary Major from about 1220. Its most distinctive feature
was its enormous western tower which looked like a castle keep. After
1768 this was much reduced in height to avoid collapse. Increasing
repairs were required in the 1800s and the ill-considered decision
in 1865 was to demolish it in favour of a brand new building (the
The site of the Church of St Mary Major
(Second Site) is today marked by the steeple cross which used
to adorn its tower but which now stands in Cathedral Yard, several
metres in front of the cathedral's main doors and perhaps less than
twenty metres from the site of the original church buildings. This
postcard shows it still standing (bottom left). The decision was
taken in 1865 to destroy the old St Mary's (above) rather than
undertake expensive restoration work.
With that done and very little surviving to
be incorporated into its Victorian replacement, the new site was
located several metres further away from the cathedral's doors.
Built in 1866-1867 it was seemingly regarded as worthy but dull
(this postcard shows it slightly obscuring the view of the
cathedral). With congregations tumbling, the church was demolished
in 1971. Underneath were found the foundations of the original
minster and a Roman bath house.
St Michael's Chapel now lies within the
Deanery on the western side of Cathedral Yard, behind the first site
for St Mary Major (see above). Bishop Marshal's ordinance lists the
chapel. When the residence for the first dean was built in or soon
after 1225 the chapel stood beside it. Some time later the deanery
was enlarged and the chapel was incorporated into the new building,
effectively vanishing from external view and being used by the dean
Five photos on this page by P L Kessler, and
three from the History Files collection. Additional information
from Discovering Exeter 7: Lost Churches, Exeter Civic
Society, 1995, from The History of Exeter, George Oliver
(of St Nicholas' Priory, Exeter), and from The City of Exeter in
the County of Devon map, Historic Cities Research Project.