Sunday, 24 August 2008

Exeter - St Catherine's Almshouses

Later on Saturday afternoon, GB and I went into Exeter city centre for a wander.

We had coffee in the Cathedral refectory - a place we had frequented this time last year.

Afterwards, one of the places we spent some time exploring ws St Catherine's Chapel and Almshouses. A combination of ruined buildings and foundations, it has been brilliantly interpreted for the public.

St Catherine's Chapel and Almshouses were founded by Canon John Stevens in 1457 to house thirteen poor men. The Dean of the Cathedral took on the upkeep of the almshouses when Stevens died, then Edward VI suppressed it, only for it to be restored to the Dean by Elizabeth I. The Chapel became a carpenter's shop while the almshouses were divided into two to provide accommodation for elderly women.

In 1894, Lady Hulham of Exmouth financed their restoration and they were handed over to the Church Army as a hostel. During the second war, servicemen were billeted in the buildings. The bombing of May 1942 destroyed the Almshouses and Chapel. Rather than clear the ruins, the City Council landscaped the ruins as a memorial to that dreadful night.

The photo below is from the Exeter Time Trail website and shows the site in 1988.

In each 'doorway' is a doorway shaped steel frame with glass into which is set some of the finds from the archaeological dig. A brilliant combination of modern materials and old walls.

The glass panels are an artwork entitled Marking Time. The inserts include pieces of medieval pottery and Victorian glass right through to a Coke can. These items, excavated by archaeologists during the building work, are sandwiched between the panes. Apparently, the type of ring pull on a Coke can will help future archaeologists to date 20th-century artefacts with some precision.

Set into the ground are stones with extracts from the rules of the almshouses.

Other stones bear quotations from the archival material relating to the almshouses.

In all, this was one of the most impressive site interpretations I have seen. Whether one is a local or a tourist it is an essential spot to visit in the centre of Exeter.

1 comment:

Ηλίας Θαλάσσης said...
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