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Sacred Heart Church - South Street

Page updated 15th June 2015

Back to Churches of Exeter

This Catholic Church is built on the site of the Bear Inn, the former town house of the Abbots of Tavistock. It replaced St Nicholas' the first catholic church in the city after the reformation, built circa 1800, off Mint Lane.

The Sacred Heart was designed by C E Ware and Leonard Stokes in 1881 – the church was built in the 1883/4 at a cost of approximately £10,000. It was opened on 18 November 1884 with a Pontifical High Mass by the Rt., Reverend the Bishop of Clifton, and a sermon delivered by the Bishop of Plymouth. At 2 o'clock there was a public luncheon at the Royal Public Rooms. Oddly, the advert proclaiming the opening gave the address as North Street.

The tower, which is 140 ft high, was not completed until 1926 – the original design shows a pointed spire on the tower. It contains a single bell of 20 cwt. and was cast by Murphy. The church in a French, Gothic style, it incorporated a 15th-century window from the Bear Inn on the staircase leading to the choir loft.

Nikolaus Pevsner, did not take to the building and said it 'not worthy' of Stokes. It does appear to be a little cramped on its site in South Street, with the slope making it appear squat. The tower has an air of the unfinished about it.

The interior uses a variety of materials including Pocombe, Bath Corsham and Portland stone. The stained glass windows were made by Frederick Drake, a local glass worker.

Source: Kelly's 1897, ECC Timetrail.

The Sacred Heart Church

The Sacred Heart Church with its stumpy tower.

Architectural plans for the church

Architectural plans for the church show the envisioned tall tower.

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