FBJoin the Exeter Memories Group Page

Contact EMail

Free Download plus Buy Books and Downloads
New - Exeter Pubs by David Cornforth.
Help fund Exeter Memories


Allhallows Church, Goldsmith Street

Page added 26 June 2009

Back to Churches of Exeter

It is difficult to believe that the entrance to Goldsmith Street by H Samuels, was the site of a small church until 1905. Carts and wagons, heading for the market, during the nineteenth century had to enter Goldsmith Street from Waterbeer Street or Paul Street, such was the narrow width by the church.

The earliest reference to the church was in a deed of gift in the will of Peter de Palerna in 1222 – he left a penny per year to each of twenty eight parish churches, including Allhallows. The church is one of the sixteen mentioned by Bishop Blondy on the very precise 6 January 1247. The church's patron was the Courtenay family, although their last recorded dealings with it was in 1547/8. The church cross and chalice were sold in 1551 to help pay towards the repair of the church tower, a feature that would prove to be a later problem.

A little over a hundred years later and the fall out from the Civil War affected many Exeter churches, and the pro-royalist Allhallows was sold, by order of Parliament in 1658, to be used as a burial ground or a school. Fortunately, an influential physician, Dr Robert Vilvaine purchased it for £50 to preserve it for the local parish. Vilvaine's parents were buried in the church and he founded a 'common brewhouse', that eventually became the City Brewery.

The tower was in poor condition by 1752 and in 1767 was removed and replaced by a belfry with a single bell. The bells were sold to St Sidwell's for 8d per pound weight. By the late eighteenth century the church had fallen into disuse, and services were held in St Stephens between 1807 and 1822. The awkward position of the church at the head of Goldsmith Street was considered in 1820 with a view to demolition but the idea was not adopted. Instead, two years later the church reopened for Divine Service with a new gallery. The Rev C Worthing (1851-1861) further altered the fabric with a skylight type roof over the nave, the windows on Goldsmith Street lengthened, and the entrance moved 12ft away from the High Street.

Further work was carried out towards the end of the nineteenth century, with a new floor and oak seating installed in 1883. The wall bounding Goldsmith Street was rebuilt in 1887. The tiny, 900 sq ft (83 sq metres) church, had no exterior burial yard requiring many burials to be made under the floor, often one on top of another.

The church had a living of 10 acres of glebe land which jointly supported Allhallows and St Pauls to the value of £180 annually.

Monuments and Burials

Alexander Jenkins wrote in 1805 "In the papal times there was an image of the blessed Virgin, before whom candles were kept perpetually burning; the expences of which were defrayed by an estate near Duryard, appropriated for that purpose: this image was much resorted to by the superstitious, and brought great profits to the Rector; it was destroyed at the Reformation."

The church had a monument to the daughters of Christopher Bellott of Bochin (Bochym?) Cornwall, one named Loveday, who died in 1711, and her sister Bridget, who died in 1719. She was the wife of Sampson Hele, merchant. The sisters died of smallpox. The monument of white marble, consisting of a square tablet, and two skulls, conjoined with bats' wings was moved to St Pancras Church when Allhallows was demolished.

Graves in the church included those of Thomas Westlake, gent who died in 1665, Stephen Vilvaine died 1556, Simon Gandy, died 1678, Thomas Bampfylde died 1656, and Peter Vilvaine, died 1602, the father of Dr Vilvaine. It was also the burial place of Thomas Gibbon, Recorder of Exeter from 1684 to 1688. George Arden, a wealthy wool merchant was buried in Allhallows in 1823, while his wife, Joan, was the last to be buried in the church during 1832.

The End

By the 19th-Century the site of the church was proving to be a problem for access to Goldsmith Street. A memorial was read, in 1871, to the Streets Committee requesting that the church be removed. No further action was taken at the time, but in 1874, the Committee recommended that a notice be put up requesting that carts and waggons going to the Higher Market should enter the street via Waterbeer Street, and leave by Paul Street.

For the next twenty-years, the Streets Committee returned several times to the problem of widening Goldsmith Street, but Allhallows Church prevented the work being done – finally the decision was taken to demolish the church and the last service was held on December 19, 1905.

Furnishing from the church was transferred to St Pancras, including a Jacobean pulpit and the tablet memorials dedicated to the two victims of smallpox. The Council paid £8 5s for the burials in the church to be moved to Higher Cemetery in April 1906, where an Allhallows memorial stone was erected.

The Parish Registers for Allhallows go back to 1809, while transcripts of the registers for marriage and burials go back to 1561, and baptisms to 1566.

Sources: British History on-line, Alexander Jenkins the Flying Post.

Allhallows, Goldsmith Street Allhallows, Goldsmith Street before the shop on the High Street was demolished.
H Samuels on the site of Allhallows. H Samuel's now occupies the site of the church.

Top of Page