Past Remains

A view of yesterday from today

St Catherine's Chapel & Almshouses, Exeter, Devon

St Catherine's Chapel and Almshouses is situated in Princesshay, which is in the city centre and within the Ancient Roman wall. It's a great place for a wander or to sit and eat a packed lunch, and is a quiet little haven amongst the bustle of the city. At the time of taking these photos there had been some changes since my previous visits...gothic-arched glass panels hold odd artefacts, plus quotes from the old Almshouse records have been inscribed into the flagstones.

The Almshouses were originally founded in 1457 by Canon John Stevens, for the purpose of housing thirteen poor men. Later on the Chapel became a carpenter's shop and at that time the almshouses were divided into two, to provide accommodation for elderly women.

Severely bombed during the WW2 Exeter Blitz on the night of May 1942, it was decided that the ruins should be kept as a remembrance. 

The glass panels were placed as an artwork called Marking Time. The embedded artefacts were some found by archaeologists during preservation work, and include pieces of Medieval pottery and glass. Oddly enough a Coca-Cola can was also included, as the type of ring pull on the can is sufficient to date it accurately within the 20th century for future archaeologists. 

One of the flagstones (below) inscribed with the following quote...

"Friday and Saturday 22nd and 23rd 1809
They ordered the Chapter Clerk to give notice on Mrs Holmes to quit the house and when she has quitted they ordered the Surveyor to pull down the house and to lay the scite of it into the street."

Built with Heavitree Stone, which is a red sandstone indigenous to the Heavitree district on the eastern edge of the city, the dressings are of Beer Stone; a limestone from the ancient quarry above the village of Beer. The Almshouse comprised a large room containing a fireplace and bake-oven and a range of small cubicles opening into a central courtyard. Presumably the cubicles were the sleeping quarters for the original incumbents, although I haven't been able to corroborate please don't quote me!  

Above, a view from inside the front entrance wall. Below shows the rear part of the chapel.

The wall to the right (below) abuts the rear of Cathedral Close, which was the boundary of the Annueller's College in the Middle Ages. I love the old door surrounded by vines and creepers.

These and a few more photos can also be seen in the Photo Gallery album. Not my best by a long way, unfortunately, but I will be going back at some stage to take some better ones.

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