History Files


Churches of the British Isles

Gallery: Churches of Devon

by Peter Kessler, 22 December 2019

Exeter Part 6: Churches of Central Exeter

St Bartholomew's Cemetery, Exeter, Devon

(Entry continued) The new burial ground was located between Bartholomew Street West and the Roman and medieval city walls. It later became known as Friernhay Burial Ground. In the late 1700s properties on Bartholomew Street were rebuilt to reflect the area's new-found affluence. A new church, Allhallows-on-the-Walls, was soon built within the burial ground. At the same time Friernhay was already full for burials, outlined by a serious cholera outbreak in 1832.

St Bartholomew's Cemetery, Exeter, Devon

The new cemetery was created on a steeply-sloping site immediately north of Friernhay Burial Ground, outside the city walls. It was laid out to the design of Thomas Whitaker, surveyor to the Exeter Improvement Commissioners. It was in use until 1874 when it too was closed for new burials. Since then it has remained a public area, with much of the space within the catacombs still unused. Many of the monuments have been removed and the site has been landscaped.

St Edmund's Chapel, Exeter, Devon

St Edmund's Chapel stands alongside the medieval bridge across the River Exe. Today the remains of both are isolated in open ground between Western Way and Edmund Street on Exe Island. Thanks to this location the church was also known as St Edmund's on the Bridge and even the Chantry on the Bridge. The image was hand-drawn in 1830 by the author of an 1835 article in The Gentleman's Magazine, when the church had been considered for demolition.

St Edmund's Chapel, Exeter, Devon

Draining the mud bank formed Exe Island in the 1100s. A temporary chapel may have been erected as the 'chapel of the bridge', mentioned for 1196. A stone chapel was built at a point between 1233-1265, gaining a tower in 1448-1449. The medieval chantry Chapel of St Mary on the Bridge stood almost opposite until demolished in 1833, when St Edmund's was heavily rebuilt. Damaged by fire in 1969, it was demolished in 1973 during clearance work for the new bypass.

Exe Island Mission Hall, Exeter, Devon

The former Exe Island Mission Hall stands on the eastern side of Tudor Street, immediately north of the buildings lining New Bridge Street. The doorway on New Bridge Street (see below) leads directly to the hall via the staircase at the back. The two-storey hall was built on the site of the Boys' Industrial School in 1876 by the Ewing's Lane School and Mission Society. The Exeter Bible and Domestic Mission made use of it in their work. Today it serves for offices and retail space.

New Bridge Street Pentecostal Chapel, Exeter, Devon

New Bridge Street Pentecostal Chapel could be accessed from the western side of New Bridge Street, opposite the stone balustrade in a gap between shops. The door opens to a short corridor and staircase which connects to the Exe Island Mission Hall (see above). In 2009 the hall served as the Assemblies of God Church, while also retaining its mission hall signage. That signage was gone by September 2009. Today the doorway bears no stated identity at all.

Fore Street Free Church, Exeter, Devon

Fore Street Free Church was on Fore Street (shown), but a precise location seems to be unavailable. At the end of September 1844, following local unrest and even riots, the Commercial Hall opened a 'Free Church' with James Shore as the preacher. So says the official history. An 1844 directory search finds nothing, unsurprisingly as it contained 1843's information, but it has to be wondered whether this hall was in fact Tucker's Hall. St James Free Church replaced it.

Church of St Mary Steps, Exeter, Devon

The Church of St Mary Steps stands on the northern side of West Street, with Stepcote Hill (the 'Steps' of the epithet which also provide the main access point) on its eastern flank. The postcard shown here is an Oilette, published by Tuck in the Exeter, with art by Henry B Wimbush. The location is close to the former west gate, and the church was erected around 1150. Some round-arched Norman windows survive from this period, while the rest was rebuilt in the 1400s.

Church of St Mary Steps, Exeter, Devon

It consists of a nave and chancel, with tower added later, all in red Exeter sandstone. It suffered somewhat during religious purges of the 1500s and 1600s. In September 1559 the tabernacle and thirteen pictures were removed and burned in St Peter's Yard. In 1658 the church was sold off for private demolition, only to be saved by its parishioners and returned to its proper task. Restorations were carried out in 1870-1872 (from donations) and 1966.

St Mary Magdalene's Chapel, Rack Street, Exeter, Devon

St Mary Magdalene's Chapel, Rack Street stood on the east side of Rack Street, about twenty metres south of the alignment of King Street and set back some metres from the road. The chapel is marked on OS maps of the 1888-1914 period with a public baths behind it (to its east). Today the former Preston Street infants school shown here backed onto Rack Street, with the church standing on the green edge of the post-war Western Way for which Rack Street was demolished.

Seven photos on this page by P L Kessler, one from the History Files collection, and one via Devon Live. Additional information from Discovering Exeter 7: Lost Churches, Exeter Civic Society, 1995, from Blind Devotion of the People, Robert Whiting, from Ecclesiastical Antiquities in Devon, George Oliver, and from Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 1862.



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