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Churches of the British Isles

Gallery: Churches of Devon

by Peter Kessler, 14 February 2020

Exeter Part 16: Churches of St Matthew's & Heavitree

St Luke's Chapel, University of Exeter, Heavitree, Exeter, Devon

St Luke's Chapel, University of Exeter, is at the front of the university grounds on the southern side of Heavitree Road, overlooking the junction with Gladstone Road. St Luke's College began life in 1839, in the form of a teacher training college and with the participation of members of Exeter Cathedral. A purpose-built college was erected in 1853-1854 to free up the Cathedral Close site it had previously used. The chapel was added in 1863 and was enlargened in 1912.

St Clare's Chapel, Livery Dole, Heavitree, Exeter, Devon

St Clare's Chapel, Livery Dole, stands inside the narrow 'v' formed by the Fore Street and Magdalen Road junction (and is shown in this print of 1853 with the old almshouses that were removed in 1850 standing to the left of the chapel). 'Livery Dole' first appears in records from 1279. For many centuries it was the scene of various executions, by hanging and burning at the stake. The last recorded execution took place in 1531, for denying the Pope's supremacy.

St Clare's Chapel, Livery Dole, Heavitree, Exeter, Devon

Sir Thomas Denys, sheriff of Devon, later regretted that execution, leaving instructions in his will for twelve almshouses to be built near the site. Completed in 1594, they were rebuilt in 1851 and extended in the 1970s. The chapel was built in 1592 to serve the almshouse residents, and possibly also for prayers to be said for those previously executed at the crossroads. It consists of combined nave and chancel, built in Heavitree Stone and supported by buttresses.

Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, Heavitree, Exeter, Devon

Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church is set back from the north side of the busy Fore Street, about thirty metres east of the Magdalen Road junction. The early 1800s Heavitree House stands to the immediate west (now a veterinary surgery). It and its grounds were purchased in 1930 so that the church could be built. Wartime damage necessitated the removal of the top part of the tower and its enormous four tonne bell that had so upset the locals upon its installation.

Heavitree United Reformed Church, Heavitree, Exeter, Devon

Heavitree United Reformed Church is at the north-west corner of the Fore Street and Homefield Road junction. A small mission chapel was built here in 1885, and was enlarged to its present size in 1903 as Heavitree Congregational Church. This required the acquisition and demolition of Homefield House which once stood on the corner. During the Second World War the church's basement was used as an air-raid shelter, but the building was badly damaged in 1942.

Heavitree Gospel Hall, Heavitree, Exeter, Devon

Heavitree Gospel Hall stood at the south-east corner of the Alpha Street and Goldsmith Street junction, to the immediate north of Heavitree's main shopping area. It is not shown on all OS maps, but it is marked on the 25-inch map of 1892-1914. It was built by the Plymouth Brethren but, by the post-war period, it had apparently gone. A relatively new-build house occupies the spot today. The Plymouth Brethren apparently moved to the Ebenezer Gospel Chapel (below).

Heavitree Independent Evangelical Church, Heavitree, Exeter, Devon

Heavitree Independent Evangelical Church is set back from the south side of Fore Street, behind a single-storey post-war shop and about twenty metres east of Gordon's Place. The Conservative Rooms once stood here, but when they moved out in 1935 the congregation of Heavitree Gospel Hall (see above) moved in, naming it Ebenezer Gospel Chapel. They were bombed out in 1942 but finally managed to rebuild in 1979. The current name is a fairly recent change.

Mowbray Cottage Meeting, Heavitree, Exeter, Devon

Mowbray Cottage Meeting is on the eastern side of Butts Lane, overlooking the Meyer Court turning opposite. The cottage entered nonconformist use as an independent, possibly Congregational chapel in 1833. By 1851 the premises appear to have been used by Wesleyan Methodists who may previously have been meeting elsewhere from their formation in 1816. It ceased to be used for religious purposes by 1860, and was converted into a private dwelling.

St Michael & All Angels Church  Heavitree, Exeter, Devon

St Michael & All Angels Church Heavitree stands on the western side of Church Street, overlooking both the Church House (see links) and the Kingsway junction opposite. Records exist of priests serving Heavitree from the thirteenth century but a church must have existed during the Saxon period. It was founded near 'Hefa's' or heafod treow (chief tree), later corrupted into Heavitree. The district grew in importance thanks to the main London Road (now Heavitree Road).

St Michael & All Angels Church Heavitree, Exeter, Devon

The earliest record of a church dates from 1152 when it was granted to Exeter Cathedral. It was altered in the fourteenth and rebuilt in the fifteenth century and then the church tower was rebuilt in 1541. In the same year it is said that the heafod treow was felled. The church was extensively rebuilt in 1829, especially the nave, largely creating the building that can be seen today. It has a high ceiling, ornate stone carving, and many fine examples of stained glass.

Eight photos on this page by P L Kessler, and one from The History Files Collection. Additional information from Discovering Exeter 3: Heavitree, Trevor Falla, Exeter Civic Society, 1983, and from Nonconformity in Exeter, 1650-1875, Allan Brockett.



Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original feature for the History Files.