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Churches of the British Isles

Gallery: Churches of Devon

by Peter Kessler, 10 April 2020

Exeter Part 19: Churches of Topsham & Alphington

Holy Cross Catholic Church, Topsham, Exeter, Devon

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 February.

Victoria Chapel (Presbyterian), Topsham, Exeter, Devon

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, Exeter, Devon

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, Topsham, Exeter, Devon

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, Exeter, Devon

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.

The Parish Church of St Margaret Topsham, Exeter, Devon

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), Topsham, Exeter, Devon

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, Exeter, Devon

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.

Church of St Michael & All Angels Alphington, Exeter, Devon

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.

Church of St Michael & All Angels Alphington, Exeter, Devon

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).



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