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Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Devon

by Peter Kessler, 22 December 2019

Exeter Part 13: Churches of Central Exeter

Castle Street Chapel, Exeter, Devon

Castle Street Chapel is reached via Castle Street but is also viewable here from Northernhay Place, high above the city wall. The site was originally the High Gaol, but when this was demolished a group of Congregationalists who wanted to leave the Arian Presbyterian ministry of George's Meeting bought the site. Their chapel opened in 1797. The split had occurred because nonconformist views were still being explored and crystallised in the century since its beginnings.

Castle Street Chapel, Exeter, Devon

The chapel used some of the fabric of the old gaol in its construction, despite this being where many early Exeter Dissenters had been imprisoned. A slim section of land lay around the chapel on several sides, to be used as a burial ground until 1854. A Sunday School building was added to the site in the mid-1830s. Both that and the chapel became increasingly cramped so in 1870 they moved to a new church at Southernhay. Today the old chapel is the 'Timepiece' club.

St Bartholomew's Old Church, Exeter, Devon

St Bartholomew's Old Church stood immediately inside the city wall where Boots now stands, on the northern side of the High Street. The main entrance to this retail block virtually marks the inner side of the East Gate. This parochial church (which operated as a local church for a larger parish) existed by 1243, by which time it had been annexed to St John's Hospital opposite (below). It had to be rebuilt in 1459 when the gate collapsed. Its final closure date is unknown.

St John's Hospital & Chapel, Exeter, Devon

St John's Hospital & Chapel stood on the High Street's southern side, bounded by the city wall and the East Gate (to the left of this steel line engraving). The hospital was founded about 1239 by Gilbert and John Long, merchants. Initially it apparently consisted of brethren and sisters. In 1240 the hospital of St Alexius on Gandy Street was united to it, although it needed some urgent restoration work itself. It also became decayed when Henry VIII deprived it of its revenues.

St John's Hospital & Chapel, Exeter, Devon

In 1623 it passed into private hands and was fully restored becoming, in part, a school. Much of the hospital was demolished in 1880 after the school had moved to a new site. Any remnants were destroyed in 1942. Today the course of the city wall at the East Gate lies along the left-hand side of the Eastgate passage, shown here to the left. Hospital and chapel fronted the High Street where the shops stand to the right, but continued all the way back to Roman Walk.

Four photos on this page by P L Kessler. Additional information from Discovering Exeter 7: Lost Churches, Exeter Civic Society, 1995.

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