Holy Cross Catholic Church, Topsham, is at
the north-west corner of Elm Grove Road and Station Road, very close
to the level crossing. By the 1920s mass was being celebrated
regularly in private houses in Topsham by priests from Sacred Heart
in Exeter. Then Victoria Chapel (see below) was purchased, by 1930.
However, the bishop thought the surroundings unsuitable and it was
sold in 1932. Holy Cross was built between 1936-1937, opening that
Victoria Chapel (Presbyterian) is on
Chapel Place, deep within the corner formed by the Fore Street and
White Street junctions. Following the passing of the Declaration of
Indulgence (1672), a dissenting congregation was formed. Initial
meetings would have been in private houses, but the chapel opened
not long after 1727, the only one of its kind in Topsham at the
time. It had closed by 1930 so that a Catholic meeting could take
over. Today it is a private residence.
Topsham Congregational Church is on the
south side of Victoria Road (formerly Hope Walk), about twenty
metres east of an unnamed side road that connects to Globe Lane and
Globefield. It is occasionally referred to as Victoria Chapel (but
see above). It was built in 1839 and opened in 1840 to cater,
presumably, for a congregation that had formed out of the original
Victoria Chapel. A school was added in 1897, but post-war closure
meant that both are private residences.
St Nicholas Wesleyan Methodist Church is
on the eastern side of the junction between Fore Street and Victoria
Road. Early records report a Wesleyan congregation in Topsham from
about 1808 which, in 1811, occupied the site of the old Friends
Meeting House (see below). By 1861 the congregation was ready for
a bigger premises and the present site was purchased. It was built
between 1865-1867 to a design by the architect F R (Robert) N
Haswell of North Shields.
The Parish Church of St Margaret Topsham
stands on the eastern side of Ferry Road and the River Exe, with
Fore Street on its eastern flank. It is one of some two hundred
churches in England dedicated to St Margaret of Antioch in Syria,
a semi-legendary saint who is reputed to have been beheaded for
her faith and refusal to marry the local Roman governor in the
third century. In 937 Athelstan gave land here to the monastery
Church of St Mary and St Peter in Exeter.
A chapel was then built here - re-consecrated in
the mid-fifteenth century, after which it grew to meet the needs of
the town's expanding population. In 1676 it was severely damaged by
fire and then rebuilt. The tower, which survived, came almost half
way across the interior of the rebuilt church. Finally that red
stone building, except for the tower, was pulled down and the
present church was built, consecrated in 1877 by Frederick Temple,
later archbishop of Canterbury.
Friends Meeting House (Quakers) lies
midway along Majorfield Road, on its north side. The Quakers were
active, probably from the late 1600s and certainly by 1785 when the
Devon meeting structure was changed. They left their meeting house
before 1811, at which time it became Majorfield Wesleyan
Methodist Meeting. When they left in 1864 to build their St
Nicholas chapel (above) it was converted into the town's first
school building. Today it is a private residence.
Topsham Gospel Church occupies a narrow
plot on the western side of Fore Street, around twenty-five metres
south of the Station Road junction. The building is a simple
structure, as can be seen, and is set deep inside its plot. Its
evangelical congregation probably moved here after the Second World
War as old OS maps fail to show it. Now that Topsham has been
completed, the tour switches over to Exeter's south-westernmost
corner - Alphington.
The Church of St Michael & All Angels
Alphington and its churchyard sit inside the Dawlish Road
and Chudleigh Road junction. Rectory Drive is on its southern
flank. The first church here existed before 1142, thanks to Ralph
Avenel, 'Lord of the Honour of Okehampton'. Upon completion it was
immediately handed over to the Augustinian Plympton Priory. In 1440
a complaint was made that the church, rectory, and other parts had
been left in disrepair by the late rector.
It was beyond repair in 1447 and much of it was
substantially rebuilt. It is thought that the tower was added at
this time. The present church was built around 1480, perhaps as a
comment upon the standard of the work undertaken after 1447. A
Church House was built to house the workers (see links), while the
rood screen in the present church dates from this period. The church
was used as stables by Parliamentarians in 1645-1646, and was
heavily repaired in 1878.
All photos on this page by P L Kessler.
Additional information from A History of the Presbyterian and
General Baptist Churches in the West of England, Jerom Murch (R
Hunter, 1835), and A History of Alphington, Professor Walter
J Harte (James Townsend & Sons, 1953).