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Gallery: Churches of Devon

by Peter Kessler, 22 December 2019

Exeter Part 10: Churches of Central Exeter

Salvation Army Temple, Exeter, Devon

Salvation Army Temple (or Exeter Temple), fills the block between Friar's Walk and Lucky Lane, with Friar's Gate on its northern flank. The site was initially owned by Quakers who temporarily moved away from their Magdalen Street meeting house (below) in 1832. The building they erected here was far too vast and expensive to maintain so in 1868 they sold it to the Salvation Army as their Temperance Chapel. Extensive refurbishments were carried out in 1977-78.

Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, Exeter, Devon

Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses stands above the north side of Holloway Street, overlooking the Friar's Walk junction. When they took on this site seems not to have been recorded, but it was originally built as Holloway Street School in 1876. This was expanded in 1901, but closed in 1958, after which it became St Nicholas Catholic School. When that moved away in 1977 the school premises served various purposes and were divided up before the Witnesses arrived.

St Leonard's Church, Exeter, Devon

St Leonard's Church sits inside the southern v-shape formed by the junction between Topsham Road and Larkbeare Road. The first church on this site was built either by Richard of Redvers, first earl of Devon, or his son in the early 1100s. It gained a parish in 1222, but a priest there - Master Lucas - was implicated in a murder in Cathedral Close in 1283. The building was entirely replaced in 1566 (shown here in an engraving by C J G Sprake of 1831).

St Leonard's Church, Exeter, Devon

Exeter's English Civil War Royalist defenders fortified the church which survived two hundred years until a third building was erected, in 1833. This was enlarged in 1843 but was found to be structurally unsound. Demolition followed in 1876 and it was replaced by the present, fourth church building. Classical in style it was built to a design by Andrew Patey, thanks to a sizable gift from important local landowner, Sir Thomas Baring, who owned most of the parish.

St Mary Magdalen's Hospital, Exeter, Devon

St Mary Magdalen's Hospital stood here on the south side of Magdalen Street. The hospital was founded well before 1163, when it gained extra privileges. It continued to care for lepers (a maximum of thirteen), and still existed in 1757 when the Jews' Burial Ground (below) was created. Its chapel survived in 1822, but was described as long having been desecrated. The present barriers may mark part or all of the main building if the OS 1892-1914 map is any authority.

Jewish Burial Ground, Exeter, Devon

The Jewish Burial Ground stands on the western flank of the St Mary Magdalen Hospital site (see above). Marked on the OS 25-inch map of 1892-1914 as 'Jews' Burial Ground', it was founded as a modern replacement to an entirely lost medieval burial ground. This had existed until Jews were banished from England in 1290. The early 1700s saw a small Jewish community reform in Exeter, which founded this cemetery in 1757 prior to opening a synagogue in 1763.

Dissenters Graveyard, Exeter, Devon

The Dissenters Graveyard lies at the south-east corner of Magdalen Street and Bull Meadow Road. When dissenting (nonconformist) meetings were allowed from the late 1600s onwards, these congregations also required burial sites. The Quakers had theirs on a site opposite this (below), while this one for the 'three meetings' (see links) was on ground leased in 1748 from Wynard's Almshouses (below). It closed in 1854 when municipal cemeteries replaced burial grounds.

Friends Meeting House (Quakers), Exeter, Devon

Friends Meeting House (Quakers) is at the north-west corner of Pavilion Place (Wynadr's Lane). One of the city's earliest purpose-built nonconformist meeting rooms, it opened in 1691 but, like others, suffered declining attendances in the 1700s. It was sold in 1832 so that The Pavilion (Baptist) meeting was opened here in 1835. In 1875-76 the Quakers returned and built the present house. Magdalen Street Presbyterian Meeting House nearly adjoined it (now gone).

The Chapel of the Holy Trinity & Maison Dieu, Wynards Almshouses, Exeter, Devon

The Chapel of the Holy Trinity & Maison Dieu, Wynards Almshouses is on the north side of Magdalen Street, overlooking the Bull Meadow Road junction and the adjacent Dissenters Graveyard (see above). Wynard's Hospital (almshouse) was founded in 1436 for twelve poor, infirm elderly men and a chaplain. There was some doubt about the survival of the buildings in 1643, but all were refurbished in 1654. More recently closed, by 2019 the buildings were on sale.

Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Chapel, Southernhay, Exeter, Devon

The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Chapel, Southernhay was formerly in the centre of what is now Southernhay Gardens, a few metres back from the junction with Southernhay East. The hospital opened in 1743, and the chapel was built following a donation to that effect by Arthur Kempe in 1866. By 1897 two services a day were being held. In later years hospital services were moved out to new sites at Heavitree and Wonford (the latter of which also has a chapel).

Eight photos on this page by P L Kessler and one from the History Files collection. Additional information from Nonconformity in Exeter, 1650-1875, Allan Brockett, and from Discovering Exeter 2: St Leonard's, Exeter Civic Society, 1982.

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