St Nicholas Priory lies opposite St Nicholas
Catholic Church (see links), on the east side of the passage between
Bartholomew Street East and The Mint Church (below). Much of this
formed part of the priory's grounds when it was founded in 1087,
following a successful siege of Exeter in 1068 by William of Normandy.
He gave St Olave's Church (below) to Battle Abbey in Sussex, and
they founded the priory on land behind it. The Dissolution saw about
half the buildings destroyed.
Forming perhaps a quarter of the former priory
site's entire size, the surviving guest wing and refectory range
was converted into a substantial town house in the Elizabethan
period and later into tenements. Features still include a medieval
arch-braced roof, traces of the Norman priory, and fifteenth century
panelling. More recently the entire refectory has been restored to
provide dwellings and a meeting room, with a courtyard garden
planted to represent the Tudor period.
The Mint Methodist Church Centre is accessed
via a short driveway that has the former St Olave's Church at its
eastern corner (see below), on the northern side of Fore Street
(this photo dates to 1983). The first occupants here formed the
Arian (Unitarian) Meeting House. Registers for it start in 1719,
although the meeting house itself was only finished in 1720.
Reorganisation saw the meeting merged with that of George's Meeting
in 1810, leaving the site to its successors.
The newly-formed Mint Meeting
(Presbyterian/Unitarian) took over, opening a new, apparently
rather grand Wesleyan chapel on the site in March 1813. It was
enlarged in 1867 and then remained unchanged for a century. In 1965
its roof was declared unsafe due to subsidence and the entire chapel
was demolished so that the present building could replace it by 1970.
The entranceway was rebuilt in 2010 without the tower (compare the
St Olave's Church stands on the northern
side of Fore Street, no more that fifteen metres from the junction
with the southbound Market Street, and at the entrance to the
courtyard for The Mint Methodist Church Centre (see above). The
eleventh century church may originally have been a house-chapel
built for Gytha, mother of Harold II and defender of Exeter in 1068.
Perhaps only then was it dedicated to St Olaf, saint and slain first
Christian king of Norway in 1016-1030.
Only the tower may survive from the early chapel.
The rest was largely rebuilt at the end of the 1300s, with an aisle
added on the north side (out of sight of the street). A smaller
outer north aisle was added in the 1400s. Closed during the
Commonwealth, the church was given to a Huguenot congregation in
1620-1720. A conformist congregation was formed 1686 which also had
use of the church. This congregation ceased in 1758, when its
members joined the Anglican church.
'Ten Cells' Almshouses Meeting Room
existed in one of Grendon's Almshouses, a double row of five-a-side
cottages (forming ten 'cells') which were located 'near the top of
Preston Street'. The almshouses were demolished in 1878 or 1879 and
the present buildings erected in their place, presumably on the same
footprint. Wesleyan Methodists came here in 1769 following the loss
of their North Gate chapel. From here they moved swiftly to Musgrave's
Alley Chapel in 1779.
Sacred Heart Catholic Church stands at the
south-east corner of South Street and Bear Street, with Exeter
Cathedral School and the cathedral grounds behind it. Built in
1883-84 on the rather cramped site of the Bear Inn which formerly
housed the abbots of Tavistock, it absorbed the congregation of St
Nicholas Catholic Church when that proved too small. The tower at
42.6 metres in height was not completed until 1926, but without the
pointed spire of the original plans.
South Street Baptist Church is set back a
little from the eastern side of South Street, two doors south of the
Sacred Heart Catholic Church (above). The original chapel was
rebuilt in 1823, possibly around the time that the members of the
Gandy Street Meeting joined its congregation. Then it was enlarged
in 1876, providing for a meeting of 700 which would certainly have
allowed for the Gandy Street members. A side exit is through the
Palace Gates Centre at Palace Gate.
St James Old Church stood at the
north-east corner of South Street and Palace Gate. It existed by
about 1190, but its life was relatively brief. It seemingly
possessed a small and impoverished parish and was demolished by
1386-87. In 1878 Kennaway's wine merchants, located behind the site,
extended their cellars and found eighteen skeletons and a bundle of
artefacts. Today the site is occupied by Jonathan Hawkes, while St
James Sidwell inherited the dedication.
Eight photos on this page by P L Kessler, one
from the History Files collection, and one kindly contributed by
Ray Harrington. Additional information from Discovering Exeter
7: Lost Churches, Exeter Civic Society, 1995, and from
Nonconformity in Exeter, 1650-1875, Allan Brockett.