Past Remains

A view of yesterday from today

Cathedral Close & Yard, Exeter, Devon


Comprising the two streets circumventing the cathedral green, Cathedral Close runs along the east side and Cathedral Yard to the north. Closely tied to, and once an essential part of the Cathedral, nevertheless there are important buildings here whose history have run along a separate course since.

Starting at the eastern entrance to Cathedral Close, above, is the delightful 'Mayor's Bridge'. Built in 1814, it enabled the mayor to walk along the top of the city walls during the annual treading of the civic boundaries, without having to descend from one side and ascend again on the other. Exeter is one of a small handful of cities in which the cathedral holds it's own 'state within a state', a little like the vatican in Rome...albeit on a much smaller scale!

There was always an uneasy alliance between the cathedral and civic authorities, as attested to by some of the delightful stories from Mediaeval times. In one account, the city men chased a felon into the sanctity of the cathedral itself during a service, whereupon the large body of clergy immediately rose up, drew cudgels and short swords out from beneath their seats, and set upon the trespassers. Studs can be seen set into the ground along The yard and entrances to show where the cathedral boundaries lie and during certain occasions chains are drawn across street bollards to prevent access. However, relations with the civic dignitaries are much better these days and the clergy no longer brandish weapons at them! ;)

The massive and ornate oak door on the first photo belongs to Number 10 Cathedral Close, above. Dated from about 1500, it still belongs to and has been used by the Cathedral since it was built, and is the residence of the Dean. Whenever I see another impressive door, I always feel tempted to do a 'Crocodile Dundee' by showing this one and saying 'Call that a door? This is a door!' ;)

The next two buildings along, numbers 8 and 9, were also built for the cathedral around 1500 and used to house the canons, then latterly used as one building for a law library.

Number 7 Cathedral Close now houses the Devon & Exeter Institution, which is a members only society dedicated to preserving books and documents about Exeter as well as promoting the arts and science in the south-west.

I love seeing how buildings have evolved and changed during successive eras of fashion, especially when there are still remains of the former style in evidence. The two adjoining buildings, below, show how a 'mirror image' arch on the left one has been blocked up and Georgian windows added.

Mol's Coffee House, below, dated 1596, sits between two equally historically important buildings; St Martin's church to the left, consecrated in 1065, and 5 Cathedral Close on the right. Number 5 comprised the showroom and workshops of Charlotte Treadwin's Honiton Lace business for around fifty years.

Mol's was supposedly the haunt of Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh, among other famous Elizabethan seafarers, but this may be apocryphal. Originally part of cathedral buildings built in 1528 to house the Annuellars, the facade was added much later.

The Ship Inn is just around the corner in Martin Lane. Reputedly another favourite haunt of Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake and other swashbuckling notables of the day.

Near the corner of Cathedral Green, where the Close and Yard meet, is the statue of Richard Hooker. Born 1554 in Heavitree, Exeter, he was an influential theologian who helped to develop, and was a founder of, the Church of England.

There he is below...complete with seagull!

This takes us to the Cathedral Yard. The photo below is a view along the yard towards the Close. The Cathedral Green is on the right.

I don't have much on this article for Cathedral Yard at the moment, as I only had a few photos and scant info at the time of writing. However, as I now have photos and a lot of history I might write up a separate page for it. Or not, lol. In any case, I will get the rest sorted as soon as I've got a mo.

Just to start off Cathedral Yard...St Petroc's church, below, sits at the end of Cathedral Yard and is one of the traditional seven gates into the Close. It is now partially a refuge and day centre for the homeless, the church still accessible from the other side on the High Street.

These and more photos can be seen in the Photo Gallery album.

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