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It is said by Hooker, that Exeter, from its having abounded with religious houses in the time of the early Saxon kings, was called Monkton, and that Athelstan changed its name to Exanceaster. In an old poem, the city is made to speak as follows :
"The ground of my first Ancestry
Is worn out through Antiquity;
Caeriske the Britains did me name
And Monkton, Saxons did me fame;
Till of the river running by
Exeter icleped became I:
Seven times besieged mightily,
Mine Enemies to flight put I."
Of its MONASTIC INSTITUTIONS there are now but few vestiges. Three of them were situated in the Cathedral close, and one of these was a nunnery, which occupied the site of the Dean's House and College of Vicars. King Ethered founded a priory here about A.D. 868; and in 932, Athelstan founded a Benedictine Abbey, which was dedicated to St. Mary and St. Peter, and stood on the site of the Cathedral. The latter was scarcely completed when it was deserted for fear of the Danes, but it was restored by King Edgar in 969. The monks were again obliged to leave it in 1003, when Sweyne, King of Denmark, ravaged the country. It was restored by Canute about 1019, and is said to have had among its precious relies, part of Christ's garment, some of the hair of the Virgin Mary, and some of St. Peter's beard. On the removal of the Bishop's See from Crediton to Exeter, this abbey was given by Edward the Confessor to the Bishop and his successors, and its walls were incorporated into the structure of the Cathedral then founded. The abbot and monks were removed to Westminster. St. Nicholas' Priory, which stood in Mint lane, was founded by the Abbot of Battle, to whom William the Conqueror had given the chapel of St Olave in this city. King John was a great benefactor to this Benedictine priory, which was valued at £147. 12s. per ann. at the dissolution, in 1545, when its site was granted to Sir Thomas Dennis, who sold it to the Corporation, who disposed of it in lots before the end of the 17th century. The most remarkable remains of the priory is a crypt, with massive Saxon arches, which has long been used as a kitchen. The Catholic Chapel and Priest's House stand on part of the site, and when they were erected in 1792, mutilated pieces of carved mouldings and monuments were found in digging the foundations. The Grey or Franciscan Friary, which stood originally near the priory of St. Nicholas, was founded about 1240, but was removed, about 1300, to a place outside the city walls, beyond the South gate, given by John Gerves. The church of the first convent was standing so late as 1434, and its site was granted to the Corporation in 1507. The site of the friary was granted at the dissolution to Humphrey Rolle, and it afterwards passed to the Colleton and Graves families. Colleton crescent occupies part of the site. The Black or Dominican Friary, which stood in the extra parochial precinct called Bedford Circus, was supposed to have been founded by Bishop Blondy about 1250. Its church became the burial place of the Ralegh, Martyn, Calwoodley, and other distinguished families. At the dissolution, Henry VIII. granted this friary to John Lord Russell, who converted it into a town residence for his family; and after they became Earls of Bedford, it acquired the name of Bedford House. In this mansion, the Russells received many, illustrious visitors, as already noticed. Having been long neglected by the family, it was divided into tenements, which were taken down in 1773. Two ranges of houses, &c., forming a circus, occupy the site of this house and its once beautiful gardens. Cowick Priory, in St. Thomas's parish, was a cell of Benedictine monks, given by Wm. Fitz-Baldwin in the reign of Henry II. to the abbey of Bec-Harlewin. It was suppressed by Henry V., with other alien priories; but was refounded by his successor. In 1451, it was given to King's College, but Edward IV. gave it to Tavistock Abbey, with which it passed to John Lord Russell, at the dissolution. Some remains of the priory may be seen in a farmhouse, standing near its site, and still retaining a few fragments of stained glass in its windows. Polesloe Priory, in the eastern suburbs of Exeter, but in Heavitree parish, was founded for Benedictine nuns by Wm. Lord Briwere, or Brewer, in or before the reign of Richard I. It was suppressed in 1538, when its revenues were valued at £164. 8s. 11d. per annum. It was granted in 1541 to Sir George Carew, and afterwards passed to the Champernowne, Petre, Izaac, and Parker families. The crumbling remains of this nunnery now form an indifferent farm house and out buildings. On the same side of the city was St. James's Priory, which was founded in 1146 by Baldwin de Rivers, as a cell to the Cluniac abbey of St. Martin, near Paris. It had only a prior and four monks, and was suppressed by Henry VI., who gave it to King's College, Cambridge. Scarcely a vestige of the building is now to be seen, though Chapple says the barn and part of the priory-house were standing in 1735. The Chapel of St. Ann, with an adjoining almshouse, at the junction of St. Sidwell street and Black Boy road, was founded at an unknown date as a hermitage or hospital. After the dissolution it was purchased by Oliver and George Mainwaring, and converted into an almshouse for eight poor people, in trust with the Dean and Chapter. The chapel is only about 15 feet in length and breadth, but has a handsome perpendicular window of three lights, with a piscina, and a canopied niche on each side of it. Within the Castle precincts stood the Collegiate Chapel of the Holy Trinity, founded by Ralph Avenell, in the reign of Stephen. It had four prebendaries called Cliston Hayes, Ash Clist, Cutton, and Carswell. Divine service was performed in it at the assizes till it was taken down, about 1782. It will be seen at subsequent pages that those charitable institutions, St. John's Hospital, Magdalen Hospital, and Wynard's Hospital, were established on the ruins of ancient religious houses. In the front of a modern house at the corner of North street stands the ancient wooden statue of "Father Peter," reading a book and treading on Paganism. This figure is as large as life, and is in a crouching posture, as in its original situation it had the appearance of supporting the angle of a very ancient house, long since taken down. It then held a church in the right hand, and besides the book in the left, it had two keys suspended on the fourth and fifth fingers, but these are broken off. An ancient building in Waterbeer street, which was pulled down in 1803, was supposed to have been the remains of the first Christian church in Exeter


After its partial subjugation by the Saxons, and the conversion of that people to Christianity, Devonshire became subordinate to the Bishop of Wessex, and so continued until 703, when it was deemed expedient to divide Wessex into two Sees. On that division, Sherborne in Dorsetshire was made the seat of the new bishopric, which comprehended Devonshire; but on the subdivision of the See of Sherborne, in the year 910, Devonshire was constituted an independent diocese, and Aidolf, its first bishop, fixed his See at Crediton. About the year 1040, the Bishopric of Cornwall, which had its cathedral at St. Germain's, was united to that of Devonshire, at the solicitation of Bishop Livingus, whose successor Leofric, the sixth Bishop of Crediton, was chancellor and chaplain to Edward the Confessor. This saintly king, by a charter granted in 1050, consolidated the pontifical chair at Exeter, in the church of the abbey of the Blessed Virgin and St. Peter, as already noticed. The king being present in person translated the Benedictine monks to Westminster, and enthroned Leofric, the first Bishop of Exeter, with much ceremony. Being thus established in his new See, and having a grant of the three monasteries which stood in the Close, Leofric began the erection of the Cathedral, which was finished by succeeding prelates, after the lapse of many ages. From the first establishment of the See at Exeter, 62 BISHOPS have presided over it. The most eminent of these were Leofric, who was Lord Chancellor of England; Bartholomew Iscanus, a native of Exeter; Walter Stapledon, who was Lord High Treasurer of England and founder of Exeter College, Oxford, and was murdered by the rebels in 1327; Bishop Grandisson, a learned writer and founder of a college at St. Mary Ottery; Bishop Brantingham, who was Lord High Treasurer; Bishop Stafford who was Lord Privy Seal, and completed the foundation of Exeter College; Bishop Neville, remarkable for being made a bishop before he was 25 years of age, and Lord Chancellor before he was 28; Bishop Fox, several times ambassador to foreign courts, and one of the founders of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in conjunction with Bishop Oldham, then bishop of Winchester, but afterwards translated to Exeter; Bishop Coverdale, the translator of the Bible; Bishop Alleigh, author of the "Poor Man's Library," and other works; Bishop Woolton, author of the "Scholar's Manual," and other popular works; the pious Bishop Hall, afterwards translated to Norwich; Bishop Sparrow, author of the Rationale on the Common Prayer; Sir Jonathan Trelawney, one of the seven bishops imprisoned in 1684; the Hon. Geo. Pelham, who was translated to Lincoln in 1820; and Dr. Wm. Cary, the late bishop, who was succeeded in 1830 by the Rt. Rev. Henry Philpotts, D.D., the present bishop of Exeter, who is also a prebendary of Durham, and formerly held the rich rectory of Stanhope, which was valued in 1831, at £4848, and this bishopric at only £2713 per annum. The latter has lately been augmented by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to about £5000 per annum. Bishop Brewer appointed the first dean about 1231, previous to which the 24 prebendaries were presided over by the precentor. There are four priest vicars and eight lay vicars, besides choristers, &c. An ancient almshouse for 12 poor men and 12 poor women, called Fratres Calendarum, was converted into a college for the vicars choral, by Bishop Grandisson, about the middle of the 16th century. The bishops are said to have had thirteen houses, besides the Palace, at Exeter. The latter was embattled by Bishop Quivil in 1289, and Bishop Stapledon had license in 1321 to fortify the Palace, and to surround the Close with a wall of stone. There was formerly a prison connected with the Palace for "convicted and scandalous clergymen." During Cromwell's usurpation, the Palace was sold to a sugar-refiner, who carried on his business there till the Restoration, after which it was repaired at a great expense by Bishop Ward. Among the ancient customs of Exeter Cathedral, was that of riding in procession on the vigil of St. Peter; and also that of electing a Boy Bishop out of the choristers, on St. Nicholas' day.

The Diocese of Exeter is divided into four ARCHDEACONRIES, one of which is Cornwall, which includes nearly all that county, together with the Scilly Isles; and is divided into eight Deaneries. The other three Archdeaconries are Exeter, Totnes, and Barnstaple, which comprise Devonshire, except three parishes which are in Cornwall Archdeaconry, and some others which are peculiar jurisdictions of the bishop, the Dean and Chapter, &c. The DEANERIES, in the Archdeaconry of Exeter, are Aylesbeare, Cadbury, Christianity or Exeter; Dunkeswell, Dunsford, Honiton, Kenne, Plymtree, and Tiverton. Those in the Archdeaconry of Totnes are Holsworthy, Ipplepen, Moreton, Okehampton, Tamerton, Tavistock, Totton or Totnes, and Woodleigh. Those in the Archdeaconry of Barnstaple are Barum or Barnstaple, Chumleigh, Hartland, Sherwill, South Molton, and Torrington. The number of benefices in the diocese returned to the commissioners in 1831, inclusive of sinecure rectories, but exclusive of benefices annexed to other preferments, was 613, besides 16 not returned. The number of parishes in Devon is 465, and in Cornwall 203, but in some of them there are chapelries and parochial districts. Several of the latter have been recently created and provided with new churches, in the populous parts of Devon. The aggregate amount of the gross yearly incomes of incumbents in 613 of the returned benefices in 1831 was £194,181, making the average gross income of each £316; but the total net income was stated at £174,275, and the average individual net income at £284. The total number of curates in the diocese in the same year was 323, and the stipends paid them amounted only to £28,759, averaging only £89 per annum each. At the same time, there were in the diocese two benefices worth from £1000 to £1300 per annum; 60 worth from £500 to £1000; and 247 not yielding £200 each. The rectorial tithes of about 160 parishes in the diocese are in the hands of lay impropriators, and those of nearly 100 other parishes are in the appropriation of clerical dignitaries. Deans and Chapters, Colleges, &c. The total amount of the average gross yearly income of the bishop, for the three years ending Dec., 1831, was £3147, but the net income was only £2713, including the profits of ecclesiastical preferments annexed to the See, viz., the rectory of Shobrooke, a prebend in Durham, and the treasurership of, and a prebend in, Exeter Cathedral. "The revenues of this bishopric," says Tanner, "were valued in the 26th of Henry VIII. at £1566. 14s. 6d. per annum; but so much was shortly after taken from it, that they have long been rated at £500 only." The net common revenues of the DEAN AND CHAPTER were valued in the time of Henry VIII. at £1132. 18s. 11d. per annum, and in 1831 at £7352, besides £754 appropriated to the Custos & College of Vicars Choral. There are 24 Canons and Prebendaries, of whom nine are Canons Residentiary, the dean being one. The prebendaries not being Canons Residentiary, receive fixed payments of £20 per ann. each. The nine Canons Residentiary receive each a fixed yearly payment of £69. 5s., and divide among them the surplus net revenue, after payment of all stipends and allowances. The three Archdeacons of Devonshire are paid the annual sum of £135 among them. The Lecturer has a fixed stipend of £30 out of the revenues. The average sum, divided annually among the nine Canon Residentiary, in the years 1829, '30, and '31, was £5983. There are houses assigned for the residence of the Dean, the Precentor, and the Chancellor, and three others for Residentiaries, all of whom are bound respectively to keep their houses in repair. There are separate revenues belonging to the Dean, Sub-dean, Precentor, Chancellor, and Treasurer, amounting to about £300 per annum, exclusive of fines paid on the renewal of leases. These fines belong solely to the Precentor and the Dean, and the former derives from them about £300, and the latter about £60 a year. The Corporation of the Custos and College of Vicars Choral, consists of four Priest-Vicars, of whom one is dean's vicar and sub-treasurer, and another custos of the college. They divide the net revenues among them. They have houses in the Close, but being unfit for the residence of clergymen, they let them to lay tenants. There are in the cathedral choir eight lay-vicars and five secondaries, (one of whom is organist,) and ten choristers. A tenth part of all fines, payable to the Dean and Chapter and the Vicars Choral, have (by ancient custom,) been set apart for the reparation of the Cathedral, which is now in a sound state.


The CATHEDRAL, which is dedicated to St. Peter, stands in a spacious close, and is a venerable and magnificent structure, which ranks as the chief ornament of Exeter, and is highly interesting to the admirer of ancient architecture. As noticed at page 74, the original cathedral was but a small fabric, formed about the year 1050, out of the conventual church of the Benedictine Abbey. This Saxon structure, of which there are now no apparent remains, gave place in A.D. 1111, during the prelacy of Bishop Warelwast, to the commencement of the second, or Norman edifice. That prelate is recorded to have built the two existing towers, under which the transepts were afterwards formed. The cathedral suffered much during the siege of Exeter by King Stephen, but was repaired by several succeeding bishops. The honor of commencing the third or present Cathedral, belongs to Bishop Quivil, who was installed in 1280, but he made portions of the old edifice subservient to the grand design of the new one. The lower parts of the two ponderous Norman towers were converted into transepts, and the beautiful Lady Chapel, and that of St. Gabriel, built by Bishops Bruere, Blondy, and Bronescombe, were retained. Several successors of Quivil continued the work, according to the plan designed by him, and it was finally completed, with the exception of the internal decorations, and the Chapter House, by Bishop Grandisson, in 1360. Nothing can exceed the beauty of many parts of this cathedral, but on the whole it is not so satisfactory, for the unusual position of the towers renders the want of some lofty central feature very apparent, whether the building be viewed from the Close or the City. The ground on the north-east side of it has lately been drained, and lowered, so as to lay bare the plinth, which had been covered for ages; and within these few years several mean buildings which stood near it have been removed, so that the exterior can now be tolerably well seen. It is built in the form of a cross, but the arms are very short, owing to the transepts been formed under the towers. The entire length of the building, including the Lady Chapel, is 408 feet; the length of the of the [sic] transepts 140 feet, and the height of the towers 145 feet. The towers are Norman, and similar in size and general appearance, but they display varieties in their ornaments. Their surfaces are covered with blank arcades and other Norman ornaments, and there are square turrets and vanes at the four corners of each, rising several feet above the embattled parapets. The rest of the Cathedral is in the decorated style of English architecture; and the numerous windows, with their flowing tracery, are amongst the finest examples of that rich style. Between the windows are bold flying buttresses, with crocketted pinnacles. The roof, which is of very high pitch, is covered with lead, and crowned by a fleur-de-lis ridge ornament. The most striking portion of the exterior is the WEST FRONT, which is unlike those of all other Cathedrals, and is surpassed by none of them in beauty. The lower part of this front is adorned with a rich screen, extending beyond the walls of the aisles, and rising to about a third of the height of the central pediment. This elegant screen has three door-ways, and its entire surface is occupied by canopied niches, containing statues of apostles, kings, bishops, crusaders, &c. The second story is formed by the west wall of the nave, and contains the large and noble west window, the arch of which is filled with the richest flowing tracery. On each side of this window are decorated arcades. The upper story, which recedes somewhat behind the second story, is formed by the gable of the nave, and has a smaller window of the same character. The statues and other ornamental work have lately been carefully restored, so that this magnificent facade is now seen in a nearly perfect condition.

The interior of the Cathedral is far more imposing than the exterior. It comprises a spacious nave, with two aisles; a chapel at the north-west angle, a porch on the north side; a transept, from which two chapels open on the east; a choir, with two aisles, from which two chapels branch off near the middle, and several others at the east end, which is terminated by the Lady Chapel. The Nave is grand and spacious, - its lofty arch vaulting, covered with a profusion of bold ribs and elaborate bosses, exquisitely finished, attracts and leads the eye from one extremity of the church to the other, and will not fail to strike the stranger with. its sublime and imposing effect. The subdivisions next merit attention, and command admiration; they consist of seven high and broad arches on each side, resting on clustered columns, with a low triforium above, and that crowded by a series of large florid windows. On the north side of the nave, projecting from the clerestory, is that singular example of ancient art, called the Minstrel's Gallery. It rises from a bracket cornice, and displays in front a series of twelve quatrefoil-headed niches, in which stand as many figures of angels, playing upon musical instruments of different kinds. There are galleries extending round the whole and communicating with each other. Two noble and elegant windows adorn this cathedral, - one at the east and the other at the west end, both of which are particularly admired for the beauty of the tracery and rich colour of the painted glass. Wooden gates of a peculiar but handsome pattern, separate the aisles of the choir from the transept; whilst the choir itself is divided from it by a screen or rood loft of most exquisite design; probably constructed in the reign of Edward III. The upper part has a modern finishing, and includes a range of thirteen paintings in oil upon stone, in arched compartments, representing the Creation, Adam and Eve, the Deluge, Moses dividing the Red Sea, the Destruction of Solomon's Temple, Building of the Second Temple, the Angel appearing to Zacharias, the Nativity, the Baptism of Christ, Taking down from the Cross, the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the Descent of the Holy Ghost. On a gallery, over the entrance of this screen, stands the organ, which is one of the largest and most powerful of the kind in the kingdom. It was built by John Loosemore, in 1665, and its scale ranges from G.G. to D. in alt. Its total number of pipes is 1496. In the north tower is a curious clock made in the reign of Edward III.; and the great bell, which weighs 12,500 lbs, and is the heaviest bell in England, except Great Tom of Christ Church, Oxford, which weighs seven tons six cwt. and that at Lincoln, which weighs five tons eight cwt. In the south tower are eleven bells, ten of which are rung in peal, and form the largest and heaviest set in the kingdom, the tenor weighing 2000 lbs more than any other of that denomination in this country. In the nave is a handsome stone font, given by Canon Bartholomew, in 1843, and executed by Mr. S. Rowe.

On entering the Choir, the stranger will feel the force of the description of the Rev. Dr. Oliver, where he says "The mind is enchanted with the exquisite richness of the noble east window, with the splendid episcopal throne, that towers in airy state to the vaulting, and seems to despise the modern desks and seats around it; and as the spectator advances to the sanctuary, he will acknowledge that the three stalls on the right are unrivalled in beauty and delicacy of sculpture." The throne is of oak, about 52 feet in height, and its canopy is composed of pointed arches, columns, niches, pinnacles, and foliated ornaments, tastefully and delicately carved, rising in a pyramidical form, and finishing in a series of ascending spires. It was erected by bishop Bothe, in the year 1470. During the Commonwealth it was taken down and concealed, but replaced at the Restoration, and now remains as perfect as when first erected. The pulpit, opposite the bishop's throne, constructed in 1650, is an elegant piece of workmanship. The stone altar screen in the choir is a modern work by Mr. John Kendall, of Exeter, in 1819. It is in the pointed style of the fourteenth century, and composed of seven divisions, which are separated from each other by receding buttresses, surmounted by pinnacles, and supported by columns. The centre, over the altar, is enriched by a canopy entwined with ivy, combining the rose, thistle, and shamrock. The height of the centre is 21 feet, and length of the entire screen 41 feet. The fine old monuments existing in this Cathedral are numerous, and especially worthy the stranger's attention. We cannot do more than enumerate some of the principal, and point out their situation. In the choir, is a splendid monument of bishop Stapledon, who was murdered in 1326, and chaste and elegant altar tombs of bishops Marshall and Lacy, the former died in 1206, the latter in 1455. In a recess in the north aisle of the choir is a sepulchral memorial, representing a full length skeleton, lying on its winding sheet. Nearer the Lady Chapel, in the same aisle, is the statue of an armed knight, commonly supposed to be to the memory of Sir Richard Stapledon, the bishop's brother. In the chapel of St. Mary Magdalen, on the north of Lady Chapel, is the sumptuous tomb of bishop Stafford, who died in 1419. In the chapel of St. Gabriel, stands the stately monument of bishop Bronescombe, the founder of the chapel, who died in 1280. In this chapel also, are two fine specimens of modern art; one is an exquisite piece of sculpture, by Sir Francis Chantrey, and has a full length statue, in white marble, representing Northcote, the painter, who died in 1831. The other is by Flaxman, in memory of Lieutenant General Simcoe, who died in 1806. In the Lady Chapel are three monuments of early bishops, supposed to be those of Bartholomew Iscanus, Simon de Apulia, and Quivil. In the south choir are the effigies of two crusaders, one of whom is said to have been of the Chichester family, and the other represents Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford. Most of the chapels contain monuments, and the open screens, which separate them from the body of the Cathedral, are in several instances of exquisite beauty and delicacy. The Chapter House is said to have been built in the 15th century by bishops Lacy and Bothe, but the lower part of it appears to be much older. It is a handsome oblong structure, with an oak roof, in richly ornamented pannels. In it is arranged the Cathedral Library, which was formerly kept in the Lady Chapel, and contains about 8000 volumes, among which are many valuable and scarce books, and some genuine Saxon manuscripts. The cloisters of the Cathedral were sold to the city, and converted into a serge market, during the Commonwealth, when the whole of the sacred pile "suffered grievously from puritanical wrath." Before the year 1547 there were 21 chantries in the Cathedral, founded by the Bishops and others, but they were all dissolved at the Reformation, and their lands and revenues given or sold to laymen.

The CLOSE, or Cathedral yard, comprises a large extra-parochial area, finely shaded with trees, and having many neat houses, &c., besides those occupied by the dignitaries of the church. In the 14th century it was enclosed by walls and had seven gates, but they were taken down many years ago. The BISHOP'S PALACE, which has extensive gardens, has been thoroughly renovated, and mostly rebuilt since 1845, in the Tudor style, at the cost of about £4000, of which £3400 was given by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who have recently augmented the Bishop's yearly income from about £2700 to about £5000. The old Palace was a very irregular building, which was erected at various periods, and was considerably reduced in size in the reign of Elizabeth, owing to the diminished revenues of the Bishop after the Reformation. In 1647 it was sold to the Corporation, who conveyed it in 1650, to the Governor's of St. John's Hospital. who leased it to a sugar baker. After the Restoration of Charles II., it was purchased by Bishop Ward, who repaired it and made it habitable. When altered and improved by Bishop Cary, in 1821, some of the troughs, &c. of the sugar refinery were discovered. It is now an extensive and elegant mansion, and has a very beautiful Tudor window, removed from Elyot's House, in St. Petrock's parish, and richly ornamented with carved tilting-shields, &c. A private covered passage leads from the Palace to the Cathedral; and the gardens are bounded on the south by a portion of the ancient wall of the city, on which is a terrace walk. Near the Palace Lodge is the DEANERY, a commodious mansion, which stands on the site of an Augustine Nunnery. Near it is COLLEGE HALL, an old chantry of the Vicars Choral, which has recently been restored and decorated, and is now occupied by the Architectural Society. This edifice is of the 14th century, and contains some fine specimens of wooden carved work, and some old portraits of the early bishops. The hall is now hung round with drawings, models of fonts, and other designs, chiefly ecclesiastical subjects, by some of the members of the society, which was established in 1841, for the promotion and cultivation of a correct taste in church architecture. The following are the -

Brian Randell, 24 Oct 1998

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