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Gallery: Churches of Devon

by Peter Kessler, 22 December 2019

Exeter Part 9: Churches of Central Exeter

Presentation of Mary Convent, Palace Gate, Exeter, Devon

The red-brick Presentation of Mary Convent sits towards the back of the gated Palace Gate development in central Exeter. The Palace Gate Convent School was run by nuns from 1896 after they had left France in fear of anarchist upheaval and great social change. The chapel was designed and added in 1928 by Octavius Ralling, also architect for the Oddfellows Hall in Catherine Street. The school closed in 1996 and the buildings were redeveloped as private dwellings.

George's Meeting Room, Exeter, Devon

George's Meeting Room began as George's Unitarian Chapel in 1760. It stands on the eastern side of South Street, midway between the Palace Gate and Magdalen Street junctions. It was opened as a replacement for James Meeting (below), being funded by the sale of that meeting house and of Little Meeting. Tightly hemmed in by surrounding buildings until wartime bomb damage removed them, only its frontage was intended to be displayed. It fell out of use in 1983.

Holy Trinity South Gate, Exeter, Devon

Holy Trinity South Gate was sometimes labelled Old Trinity Church to avoid confusion with 'new' Holy Trinity (see links). It stands on the eastern side of South Street, next to the line of the city wall, about forty metres north of Magdalen Street. This print shows the old South Gate from the exterior side, with the tip of the church tower just visible over the top of it, to the right of the road. It was in existence by 1312 alongside the notorious King's Prison.

Holy Trinity South Gate, Exeter, Devon

The old church was taken down in 1819 along with the gate. The present building was erected as its replacement during a period of frenetic church building, and corners were cut. Nevertheless it held its first service on 24 December 1820. The architect was Robert Cornish who produced a simple, Gothic-style frontage with a castellated top. With post-war congregations tumbling, it was closed to be taken over in 1977 as the White Ensign Club.

James' Meeting, Exeter, Devon

James' Meeting stood on James Street, all of which except these first few metres was lost to the 1960s development of Western Way. The meeting house opened here in 1687, named after King James II. One of three such meetings (the others being Little Meeting and Bow Meeting), its location was further down the truncated street. With the opening of George's Meeting opposite (above), it was converted into private dwellings in 1760 which were demolished in the 1960s.

Victoria Chapel (Primitive Methodists), Exeter, Devon

Victoria Chapel (Primitive Methodists) stands on the eastern side of Coombe Street (originally Rock Lane), now just thirty metres or so north of the Western Way but formerly a vital route between the quay and the city. Details on the chapel's founding seem thin on the ground, but its use as such seems to have ended before 1887 when Coombe Street Tabernacle also closed (below). The building is now used by the Academy of Music & Sound for their Exeter branch.

Chapel of St Roch, Exeter, Devon

The Chapel of St Roch (or St Roche) probably stood on the east side of Coombe Street (originally Rock or Rock Lane), in the tree line next to the underpass to The Quay. A street here was recorded as early as 1256. St Roche died in 1327 and a chapel here soon bore his name - and then so did the street. In 1408/09 a row of almshouses 'replaced' the chapel (or were attached to it). Later in decay, these were demolished after 1708 and the ground remade as a garden.

Combe Street Tabernacle Chapel, Exeter, Devon

Combe Street Tabernacle Chapel was on the eastern side of what is now Lower Coombe Street (originally Rock Lane), overlooking (and viewed from) Quay Hill. It was built from converted houses in 1769 for Calvanistic Methodists (recorded here for 1822), part of Mr Whitfield's connection. Between 1775-1836 the meeting, never well off, was also recorded as being Wesleyan, Countess of Huntingdon's Connection, and/or Independent. It ended about 1887 (continued).

St John's Congregational Church, Exeter, Devon

St John's Congregational Church stood on the same site as the Tabernacle (see above). The Tabernacle's membership had dwindled badly following the opening of Zoar Chapel (see links). By the 1890s the decayed building had been cleared away and the site was assigned to Friernhay Congregational Church's trustees. A new church was built, seating 150. Also known as St John's Coombe Street, it did well in this poor quarter but was lost to rebuilding after 1945 (continued).

Riverside Baptist Chapel, Exeter, Devon

Riverside Baptist Chapel was the third chapel to be built on this site after St John's Congregational Church was demolished (see above). Exeter Civic Society refers to it as Quay Hill Evangelical Church, and a date of building is uncertain - although it was certainly post-war. Riverside left their church around 2017 to become New Hope Baptist Church which started meeting in a community hall in Exwick. The site in 2019 was being redeveloped for private housing.

Eight photos on this page by P L Kessler, one copyright © Derek Harper, and reused under a creative commons licence (External Link: cc-by-sa/2.0). Additional information from Discovering Exeter 7, ECS, 1995, from Monasticon Dioecesis Exoniensis, Being a Collection of Records and Instruments, George Oliver, 1846, from Besley's Street Directory, 1909, and from A History of the Presbyterian & General Baptist Churches... Jerom Murch, London (R Hunter, London, 1835).

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