Past Remains

A view of yesterday from today

St Nicholas's Priory & Refrectory, Exeter, Devon

The remaining building of the Benedictine St Nicholas Priory is actually only a portion of the original priory, and was the guest wing which provided hospitality for pilgrims and other important visitors. At the northern end was also a kitchen, providing for the refectory, and at the centre a cloisters with a cobbled courtyard where herbs, both culinary and medicinal, were grown.

The priory is now represented as the later 1602 home of the wealthy Hurst family, and has been decorated with the bright colours and replica furniture of the Tudor period.  Only open on certain days, it was closed when I visited, but I managed to take a photo of part of the interior through the window (below).

Opposite the priory is what used to be the priory refrectory, later known as 21, The Mint. After the Dissolution, the various buildings within the quadrangle were split up and this part also became a residence during Tudor times, then later still had Georgian plaster and panelling laid over previous decor. 

As I approached the door I noticed that there was an open day there, so I ventured in, where I was directed up the stairs to a meeting room for the tour.  To my delight, there was a display of Beer stone, as well as the gorgeous original beams.

I knew nothing about this place beforehand, but was whisked off on my own by a tour guide...a lady with the same kind of enthusiasm as me, which meant a lot of wowing and giggling and lots of exchange of information. First stop was the downstairs corridor, where plaster had been stripped away to reveal the original screens between the kitchens and the refrectory.

And in the downstairs loo was this wonderful piece of carving above the door. Jointly managed by Exeter Historic Buildings Trust and St Olaves Court Hotel, the building is used for holiday residential purposes, therefore mod cons have been integrated into the building. However, it has been sympathetically done and is fascinating to see the evidence of different eras and how the residence has evolved from Mediaeval times up to today.

Next stop was the kitchen. Most of the building has only been stripped back to Georgian times, and much of the added decor is in the same vein. Another piece of the original Priory refrectory can be seen however, in this lovely plasterwork (below).
As an aside, I was told that when English Heritage are involved, it is only admissable to strip back to the last era of decor, which in this case was Georgian. However, when renovations were under way, someone accidently went through the plaster to reveal the screens and carving in the hall and kitchen.  A serendipidous accident, methinks!

A funky little staircase at the top of the building with a shutter revealing a tiny Tudor window (below).

The final part of the tour was the courtyard garden, which was originally the cloister for the monks. This building was part of the priory but was sold off for residential purposes after the Dissolution. The cobblestones on the path are original Georgian.

There are some more photos in the Photo Gallery album along with these.

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