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Churches of the British Isles

Gallery: Churches of Devon

by Peter Kessler, 12 June 2020

Exeter Part 21: Churches of St Thomas & Exwick

St Thomas Congregational Church, St Thomas, Exeter, Devon

St Thomas Congregational Church sits inside the L-shape formed by Church Road as it connects Cecil Road to Beaufort Road. On the OS map for 1890 the ground here is open and lightly wooded. The church was built at some point between then and 1904. National Archives records suggest a founding date of about 1900. It closed in 2011 and planning permission was granted to convert it into three trendy apartments. That work was completed in 2014.

Salvation Army Donation Centre Alphington Street, St Thomas, Exeter, Devon

Salvation Army Donation Centre Alphington Street is at the south-east corner of the busy Alphington Street and Haven Road junction, on the west bank of the River Exe. It is one in a long line of Salvation Army locations in the city. Others include Belmont Park Hall (closed mid-1920s - see links), while the St Thomas presence started in Alphington Street, moving to a hall next to the former County Ground stadium. Another opened temporarily on Burnthouse Lane, near St Paul.

Chapel of St Thomas on the Bridge, St Thomas, Exeter, Devon

The lost Chapel of St Thomas on the Bridge stood at the western end of the old bridge, the same one which had St Edmund's Chapel at the east end (seen over the river here). Construction on the bridge began around 1190, perhaps not being completed until around 1240. A date for the building of St Thomas seems unknown, but St Edmund was built in the 1200s. St Thomas was removed in 1778 when the new bridge was built to align with New Bridge Street to its east.

Riverside Centre (Assemblies of God), St Thomas, Exeter, Devon

The Riverside Centre (Assemblies of God) is on the west side of Okehampton Street, facing out over the River Exe on its western bank. The building opened as the King's Hall on 2 October 1912, serving as a church hall. It also had the capacity to show the earliest motion pictures, and in 1921 the building became a full-time cinema. Bigger and better cinemas saw it off and it closed in 1937. Various other uses seemingly ended in the 1990s before worship returned.

St Andrew's Priory, St Thomas, Exeter, Devon

St Andrew's Priory stood on the west bank of the River Exe to the north of what is now Hayes Barton Court, close to Okehampton Street. Whilst the precise configuration of the priory's buildings is unknown, the location of the house photographed here matches up with the marker on the late Victorian OS map. Otherwise known as Cowic Priory (Benedictine), it already existed by 1242 but suffered several misfortunes (including flooding) prior to the Reformation.

Emmanuel Parish Church, St Thomas, Exeter, Devon

Emmanuel Parish Church stands inside the north-west 'v'-shaped corner between Western Road and Okehampton Road, and within a stone's throw of the London to Cornwall railway line. The first church for this district was an iron one erected in 1887. The present early Perpendicular building replaced it in 1899 with seating for six hundred. Declining attendances saw it sold off more recently, and by 2019-2020 the building was being converted into private apartments.

Buller Road Evangelical Church, St Thomas, Exeter, Devon

Buller Road Evangelical Church was home to the Open Brethren strand of the Christian Brethren. The gospel hall in which it met stands on the western side of Buller Road (originally, briefly, Cleveland Road), midway between the Nelson Road and Clarence Road turnings. It was built between 1890 when the street was only partly built up and 1904. In 1938 it was labelled as the Mission Hall. The congregation was forced to disband in 2020 after 'more than 100 years'.

Independent Evangelical Church (Trefoil Lodge), St Thomas, Exeter, Devon

Independent Evangelical Church (Trefoil Lodge) stands on the western side of Buddle Lane, about twenty metres north of the junction with Woodah Road. The original buildings on this site were in existence by 1890 while all around was undeveloped green field land. By 1938 what appears to be the present building was in existence. It is primarily a girl guide hall in which the church group also meets. It was due to undergo refurbishment in 2020 to make it more accessible.

St Thomas Union Workhouse Chapel, St Thomas, Exeter, Devon

St Thomas Union Workhouse Chapel, Redhills, is almost hidden at the centre of a residential complex on the former workhouse grounds, on the eastern side of Exwick Road. The workhouse was built in 1836, to a Sampson Kempthorne design, architect for other Devon workhouses. It took 450 inmates. The chapel was erected in the north-east yard. The workhouse became a Public Assistance Institution (1930) and then Redhills Hospital (1948). It closed in 1990.

St Thomas' Cemetery, Exwick, Exeter, Devon

St Thomas' Cemetery was laid out on the eastern side of Exwick Road, with the twin chapels sited at the far end of a short driveway from the main entrance. The cemetery opened in 1877, with the first internment being handled free of charge. The post-war OS map shows that the cemetery still bore its original name, but during the later years of the twentieth century it was rebranded as Exwick Cemetery. By 2020 the southernmost of the chapels was becoming unsafe.

All photos on this page by P L Kessler. Additional information from Historic Collections, Relating to the Monasteries of Devon, George Oliver (P A Hannaford, 1841).



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