History Files


Churches of the British Isles

Gallery: Churches of Devon

by Peter Kessler, 22 December 2019. Updated 5 June 2020

Exeter Part 5: Churches of Central Exeter

The Hospital of St Alexius, Exeter, Devon

The Hospital of St Alexius was on Gandy Street (formerly 'lane' and renamed St Lucie's Lane after the hospital). Its location is uncertain so this photo is of the present building at the north-west corner. Bishop Bronescombe's register notes the hospital's foundation in 1170 but locates it 'behind St Nicholas' Priory'. Jenkins corrects this to Gandy Street through the name 'Lucie' (a common abridgement of 'Alexius'). Around 1240 it was combined with St John's Hospital.

Gandy Street Baptist Meeting, Exeter, Devon

Gandy Street Baptist Meeting was founded by 1785, with its congregation using a building along Gandy Street (formerly 'lane') which seems not to have been recorded at the time, or has since been lost. The photo used here is of a suitable stand-in building (of which there are many here), although there is no suggestion that this was the actual location of the meeting. Registers exist for 1786-1837 (under the name Zion Chapel) and 1785-1837 (simply under the title 'Baptist').

Providence Chapel, Exeter, Devon

Providence Chapel is on the southern side of the narrow Northernhay Street, about twenty-five metres west of Queen Street. It was founded by Plymouth Brethren in 1839 when they still had a strong presence in Exeter (they also had the Market Hall Meeting very close by). Their split between Exclusive and Open may have damaged strength and funds. This neo-Classical chapel had to be sold to Bible Christians, with them taking possession on 9 March 1851.

Providence Chapel, Exeter, Devon

Built by Sir Alexander Campbell (a known Plymouth Brethren founder member), the original interior was described as plain. In 1894 the chapel's footprint was extended west in the form of the brown-brick (former) school shown here. In 1928 Elim evangelists began meeting in Exeter, and later in the chapel itself which soon became Elim Providence Chapel. Post-war this was renamed by the same owners as The River Church and, in 2016, Rediscover Church.

North Gate Chapel, Exeter, Devon

North Gate Chapel is on the south side of Northernhay Gate, with the city wall immediately behind it and overlooking Exeter Central station. The chapel's name as used here is speculative, but it is shown as a United Free Methodist chapel on the OS 25-inch map of 1890. A Presbyterian meeting probably started in 1656 - formally established in 1687. It met at or near North Gate (possibly in the old gatehouse). For a time it was as 'United Dissenters', later as Presbyterians.

St David's Church, Exeter, Devon

St David's Church sits at the south-west corner of Queen's Terrace and Hele Road. The first church on this site seems to have existed by the tenth century. It is mentioned in an 1194 deed of Bishop Marshall as St David's Church, while the ground on which it stood seems long to have been known as St David's Dune. Probably rebuilt and expanded over time, it was described in 1805 as 'small and irregular'. It was taken down in 1813 and its replacement is shown here.

St David's Church, Exeter, Devon

The replacement, second church was erected in 1816 in a style that was clearly influenced by Wren's work in London (see links). It was consecrated on 24 September 1817 by the bishop of Exeter. It was considerably enlarged in 1839, but was demolished in 1897 in favour of a fresh, third, church building. This version was commissioned by the vicar, Rev C J Valpy French, and designed by W D Caroe. It is built in limestone, with the same footprint as the second church.

St Michael & All Angels Church, Mount Dinham, Exeter, Devon

St Michael & All Angels Church, Mount Dinham stands on the north-western side of the heights that form Mount Dinham, at the junction with Dinham Crescent. The church, a considerable building anyway, is highly visible from much of Exeter thanks to its location on the northern side of the Longbrook Valley. The land for it was donated by John Dinham, philanthropist and builder of almshouses for the poor. The church was built in his memory following his death in 1864.

St Michael & All Angels Church, Mount Dinham, Exeter, Devon

The neo-Gothic Anglo-Catholic building is much grander than the chapel planned by Dinham himself. Construction was handled in 1865-1868 with blue Wesleigh stone with hamstone dressings. It seats seven hundred. The spire is seventy metres high and contains a single bell. The building was consecrated by Rev John Medley, bishop of Fredericton in Canada, on 29 September 1868. To begin with men and women were segregated, although this ended after much criticism.

St Bartholomew's Cemetery, Exeter, Devon

St Bartholomew's Cemetery has a main entrance a few metres east of the junction between Exe Street and Bartholomew Steps. By the early seventeenth century the city's main burial ground, Cathedral Yard around Exeter Cathedral (see links) had become overcrowded. In August 1637 a new burial ground was consecrated by Bishop Hall. Originally known as Bartholomew Yard, it had been the site of a medieval friary and the chapel of St Mary & St Francis (continued).

Nine photos on this page by P L Kessler. Additional information from Discovering Exeter 7, ECS, 1995, from Historic Collections, Rev G Oliver, Exeter 1841, from Jenkins's Civil And Ecclesiastical History Of The City Of Exeter..., Alexander Jenkins (Sagwan Press, 2018), and from Nonconformity in Exeter, 1650-1875, Allan Brockett.



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