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Gallery: Churches of Devon

by Peter Kessler, 22 December 2019

Exeter Part 4: Churches of Central Exeter

Church of St Petrock, Exeter, Devon

The Church of St Petrock is wedged into the southern side of the High Street, about thirty metres east of the South Street junction. Whilst it is unlikely to have been founded by St Petrock, the sixth century Welsh abbot, it may still be one of Exeter's oldest. Conservative sources agree a date in the 1000s, and it was taxed by William the Conqueror after 1066. In 1191 the simple chancel, nave, and perhaps a bell tower were formally named St Petrock's by Bishop Marshall.

Church of St Petrock, Exeter, Devon

In 1286 the church became a superior postern entrance into Cathedral Yard (one of the yard's seven gates) and had to be shut at night. In 1413 the nave was extended. The church was further enlarged in the early 1500s, 1587, and 1828. The bell tower was rebuilt and the church re-consecrated in 1513. The octagonal turret was added in 1737. A new chancel was added in 1881. By this time it was hemmed on all sides by other buildings until road-widening revealed it again.

Chapel of SS George & John the Baptist, Exeter, Devon

The Chapel of SS George & John the Baptist formerly occupied what is now the mayor's parlour of the Guildhall, on the first floor here, in the porch which extends over the pavement. Parts of the Guildhall can be dated to 1160, although Exeter had a guild by AD 1000. The site may have been used as a hall from around this time, and the chapel seemingly existed until the major rebuild of 1592-1593 which provided the present external structure.

Church of Allhallows Goldsmith Street, Exeter, Devon

The Church of Allhallows Goldsmith Street stood at the north-east corner of the High Street and Goldsmith Street, with the site now occupied by Ernest Jones. This was one of Exeter's oldest churches, possibly Celtic in origin. It existed by 1222 but gradually fell into disuse after 1683. The above painting (John White Abbott, 1797) shows the High Street. The property on the far right with the green ground floor frontage was built on the back of and over the church.

Church of Allhallows Goldsmith Street, Exeter, Devon

That frontage building was itself demolished in 1879 for road widening, revealing the church once more. The chancel arch had been rebuilt in 1380 and, unusually, the narrow church itself lay on a north-south alignment so that it ran parallel with Goldsmith Street (and partially blocked it). There was no churchyard so many burials were under the church, often stacked. In the end a fatality in the narrow lane enforced a compulsory purchase and it was demolished in 1906.

Church of St Pancras, Exeter, Devon

The Church of St Pancras sits about twenty metres north of Waterbeer Street, preserved as the east-west footpath through the Guildhall Shopping Precinct. This location would have placed it on the eastern side of the now-lost Pancras Street. Considering the fact that St Pancras was martyred in Rome in AD 304, the church may have Late Roman connections. The present building, just fourteen metres long and built in coarse local Heavitree stone, was first recorded in 1191.

Church of St Pancras, Exeter, Devon

The church's proportions, though, hint strongly at a Saxon origin for this specific version of the building. When the chancel was rebuilt in the 1800s what was apparently a Saxon doorway was found in the south wall. Despite that, its main structure is medieval, mostly thirteenth century. The church has no tower, but there is a small bell-turret at the west end. The existing bell is medieval, made by the Exeter bell-founder Robert Newton in the middle of the 1400s.

Market Hall Plymouth Brethren Meeting Room, Exeter, Devon

Market Hall Meeting Room (Plymouth Brethren) was sited in 'the Market Hall', presumably meaning Higher Market, completed 1858 and lying between Queen Street and Guildhall Shopping Precinct on an east-west alignment (shown here from the precinct side). This was a sister of Little Meeting (see links). Both began in the late 1600s, with this perhaps being on the old Higher Market Street until moving in 1858. Its closure date is unknown, but Bible Christians latterly used it.

St Paul's Old Church, Exeter, Devon

St Paul's Old Church lay on the southern side of Paul Street, in line with the eastern side of Goldsmith Street which formerly intersected here with Paul Street. On the medieval map here the original St Paul's can be seen centre top-left with its name written to the left of it. The dedication is thought to be for St Paul Aurelian of Leon in Brittany. The church existed by the early 1200s, when the Kalender Brethren (see links) exchanged worship here with St Mary Major.

St Paul's Old Church, Exeter, Devon

The first building here probably pre-dated the Norman conquest, with a Norman version replacing it. That was rebuilt in the 1400s. By the 1670s it was described as being 'dark, mean, and in a ruinous state'. It was demolished and a new, Italianate church was built in 1680-1693. Slum clearances in the 1800s robbed it of its congregation and even this was demolished in 1936. Today the site - marked approximately by the tall yellow post - is under the shopping precinct.

Eight photos on this page by P L Kessler. Additional information from Discovering Exeter 7: Lost Churches, Exeter Civic Society, 1995, from The City of Exeter in the County of Devon map, Historic Cities Research Project, from Morris' Directory of Devonshire for 1870, and from White's Gazetteer for 1878-79.

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