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Churches of the British Isles

Gallery: Churches of Devon

by Peter Kessler, 22 December 2019

Exeter Part 3: Churches of Central Exeter

The Medieval College of the Vicars Choral at Kalendarhay, Cathedral Yard, Exeter, Devon

The remains of the Medieval College of the Vicars Choral at Kalendarhay, Cathedral Yard can be seen on the eastern side of South Street (directly opposite the former site of St George's Church, now a KFC - see below), and formerly extending through to the western flank of the cathedral). The college probably predated the present cathedral. The Kalendar Brethren were a guild of cathedral clergy and Exeter's lay people, established about 1140 (possibly 1030).

The Medieval College of the Vicars Choral at Kalendarhay, Cathedral Yard, Exeter, Devon

The Kalendar Brethren were a voluntary organisation, performing charitable work and holding religious services. Initially they used both St Peter Minor and St Paul for services before switching to St Mary Major (see links). They built their guildhall and almshouses next to this church, forming a medieval college in what became 'Kalendarhay'. Decline set in after the English Civil War, although the entire complex survived intact until 1850 when the city began piecemeal demolition.

St George's Church, Exeter, Devon

The Church of St George the Martyr stood on the western side of South Street, directly opposite the Vicars Choral dining hall (see above). The doorway shown here itself stands in the Vicars Choral grounds, but originally came from the west wall of St George's. An early Saxon church of about the 800s, it backed onto St George's Street to the west (the former alleyway on its southern flank was also St George's). The tower was at that end and the chancel fronted South Street.

St George's Church, Exeter, Devon

The course rubble masonry chancel and single aisle nave were rebuilt in the 1300s, but this red-stone church was demolished in 1843. Ostensibly this was for road-widening, Exeter's standard excuse to remove inconvenient buildings. Parts of the north and west walls were incorporated into new buildings. These in turn were exposed by bombing in 1942. The doorway was moved to its present site on the opposite side of the road in 1954. A KFC now occupies the old site.

St Mary Arches Church, Exeter, Devon

St Mary Arches Church stands at the north-eastern corner of Mary Arches Street and a small L-shaped back lane, around forty metres north of the Fore Street junction. More formally dedicated as St Mary the Virgin Church, this red sandstone medieval building is thought to be the only church in Devon to retain its Norman arches, and was only one of four to be kept open during the authoritarian years of the Commonwealth when strict worship was enforced.

St Mary Arches Church, Exeter, Devon

It was built in the twelfth century, the 'arches' epithet perhaps deriving from a medieval arched thoroughfare here. It has undergone various renovations over the centuries without them harming its general appearance. Damaged by fire in 1942's bombing, it was repaired and remained in use as the diocesan education office. In 2012 the church was rebranded as the Unlimited Church which attempts to make modern worship accessible and relevant for young people.

Exeter Synagogue, Exeter, Devon

Exeter Synagogue lies behind Elm House on the eastern side of Mary Arches Street. One Jacob Monis from Padua was apparently the first Jew since the banishment of 1290 to return to Exeter (by 1724). Further groups followed and in 1757 they leased land to form the Jewish Burial Ground (see links). In 1763 a small plot of land was leased behind St Mary Arches (above) in what is now Synagogue Place. The present synagogue was opened on 10 August 1764.

St Cuthbert's Church, Exeter, Devon

St Cuthbert's Church is presumed to have stood at the south-western corner of North Street and Bartholomew Street East, close to the city's North Gate at the southern end of Iron Bridge. A medieval parochial church within a larger parish, its date of construction seems unknown. It may have been built into the North Gate itself, and came down when that was demolished in 1769. Today the eastern end of Mary Arches Street multi-storey car park occupies the site.

St Kerrian's Church, Exeter, Devon

St Kerrian's Church stood on the east side of North Street (where the ramp now stands), and perhaps some metres north of the Waterbeer Street junction (see below) rather than immediately alongside it. It is first mentioned in 1194 as 'Capella Sancti Kerani', although the subject of that dedication is open to question, there being several saints whose names could be corrupted into 'Kerrian'. Despite being rebuilt in 1818, St Kerrian was demolished in 1878.

Little Meeting, Waterbeer Street, Exeter, Devon

Little Meeting (Plymouth Brethren) was located along Waterbeer Street, now the east-west walkway through Guildhall Shopping Precinct. Following the Declaration of Indulgence in 1687 and the Toleration Act of 1689, amongst the earliest nonconformist meetings in Exeter were James' Meeting, Bow Meeting, and Little Meeting - the 'Three United Congregations of Presbyterian Protestant Dissenters'. Little Meeting closed shortly after 1750 following reorganisation.

All photos on this page by P L Kessler. Additional information from Discovering Exeter 7: Lost Churches, Exeter Civic Society, 1995, from Two Thousand Years in Exeter, W G Hoskins, from Exeter Churches, Edith Cresswell, from The Route Book of Devon, Anonymous, Henry Besley of Exeter (Second Edition), circa 1846, and from Nonconformity in Exeter, 1650-1875, Allan Brockett.



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