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Churches of the British Isles

Gallery: Churches of Devon

by Peter Kessler, 10 April 2020

Exeter Part 18: Churches of East Wonford to Topsham

Chapel of St Loyes, East Wonford, Exeter, Devon

The Chapel of St Loyes, East Wonford, sits inside fenced-but-accessible grounds between Hurst Avenue and Rifford Road, about fifty metres south of Lethbridge Road. It was built as a domestic chapel, possibly in 1238 according to one historian (Ethel Lega-Weekes). In that case William Gervais was probably responsible as a prominent landowner in East Wonford and the mayor of Exeter who built Exe Bridge. The nearest parish church is at Heavitree, not that close.

Chapel of St Loyes, East Wonford, Exeter, Devon

The chapel was also recorded in 1387 and 1587. On the latter occasion the estate was divided into four parts, one of which contained St Loyes and lands around it that were known by the same name (as this particular area of Exeter still is). By 1607 half the chapel was being let as a dwelling, and by 1785 it was serving first as a stable and then as a cow shed. Some repairs were undertaken, possibly adding a slate roof, but within a century or so the chapel was a ruin.

St Lawrence Birchy Barton, Hill Barton, Exeter, Devon

St Lawrence Birchy Barton, Hill Barton, sits on the western side of Lower Hill Barton Road, a little way south of the connection with the newer Hill Barton Road and overlooking the slip road between the two on its eastern flank. Built relatively recently, in the late twentieth century for a district of Exeter that is far removed from a parish church, it was given the dedication of the now-lost city centre church of the same name. Unsurprisingly there are no pews here!

Exeter Lunatic Asylum Chapel. Digby, Exeter, Devon

Exeter Lunatic Asylum Chapel is at the south-western corner of Clyst Heath as it leaves Digby Drive and reaches the former lunatic asylum main building. In addition to the city's Devonshire County Asylum, this asylum was opened in Digby in 1886 to cater for the city's paupers. The design was by local architect, Robert Stark Wilkinson, and the chapel stands in front of the main building. Closure was in 1987, followed by conversion into apartments. The chapel is now a nursery.

Church of St Paul Burnthouse Lane, Exeter, Devon

The Church of St Paul Burnthouse Lane, Northbrook, was located where the southernmost apartment block now stands in this complex, with a c-shaped block to its immediate north forming St Paul's Close, at the southern end of Burnthouse Lane. This post-war church inherited its dedication from St Paul Old Church in the city centre. The building was temporary, intended to be replaced by a permanent one, but vandalism and low funds resulted in closure and demolition.

Priory of St James, Exeter, Devon

The core of the Priory of St James lay here, inside the v-shape formed by the southern end of Salmonpool Lane and Veysey Close on the east bank of the River Exe. The priory was founded in 1140 by Baldwin, second earl of Devon, and one 'Stephen of St Leonard granted six acres of land the the Cluniac monks... opposite Salmon Pool'. The St Leonard would have been the church of that name to the north of here. The priory was closed long before the Reformation.

Exeter & Devon Crematorium Chapel, Exeter, Devon

Exeter & Devon Crematorium Chapel is deep within the crematorium grounds which lie between the western side of Topsham Road and the River Exe. The crematorium opened in November 1963 and is set in fourteen acres of well-maintained land which used to be part of the Northbrook Park Estate, owned by John Dawson in the late 1800s. It has two service chapels, the larger and much more impressive of which is shown here. Both chapels are multi-faith.

St Luke Countess Wear, Exeter, Devon

St Luke Countess Wear sits high up on the eastern side of Countess Wear Road, occupying grounds up to the corner with School Lane. Prior to 1838 the nearest church was St Margaret's Church in Topsham. In 1837 this chapel-of-ease was opened on a site that had been donated by two brothers, both priests. The chapel was only available for public worship, not for marriages or funerals, but it quickly became a parish church in its own right - in 1844.

St Luke Countess Wear, Exeter, Devon

At this time there was no churchyard, but in 1847 the northern part of the current churchyard was obtained. There were originally three rows of pews in the chapel, each of which had doors - some of them with locks! The pulpit, surmounted by a sounding board, was an elevated structure with twelve steps leading up to it. The original organ and the choir were housed at the west end of the chapel, but the choristers were not robed until a chancel was added in 1894.

Topsham Cemetery Chapels, Topsham, Exeter, Devon

Topsham Cemetery Chapels lie within grounds on the eastern side of Tophayes, flanked to the north by Sunhill Avenue. The cemetery chapel shown here - the more westerly and ornate of the two - was built for nonconformists, while the Anglican chapel lacks the small spire. Admiral Sir George St Vincent King KCB (1809-1891), former commander-in-chief of the British empire's China station, was buried here in 1891 after passing away at his home, Wear House.

All photos on this page by P L Kessler. Additional information from Discovering Exeter 2: St Leonard's, by Gilbert Venn, Exeter Civic Society 1982.



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