Page updated 1 August 2009
Apart from Little Stile, the Catherine Gate site is
the least visible of the seven gates of the Cathedral Close. Indeed,
since the refurbishment of the modern
St Catherine's Square during 2005, there appears to be no reminder of
the position of the gate.
St Catherine's Gate was situated by St Catherine's Chapel and had been marked by an iron ring in the retaining wall of the flower bed in St Catherine's Square. Before St Catherine's was built around about 1457, the gate was named Bickleigh or Berkly, a corruption of Ercevesk, because it was situated next to the house of Canon Ercevesk.
Catherine Street runs from the corner of Cathedral Close, by St Martin's Church to Bedford Street. Before 1942, it ran parallel to the High Street as far as Bampfylde Street. It was one of those thoroughfares that was laid out during the time of King Alfred in the 9th-century. Prior to 1942, it was a narrow congested street full of pubs, shops and small businesses. It took its name from St Catherine's Chapel that was on the corner of Egypt Lane. The ruins of the chapel remain as a memorial to the 1942 bombing.
the 19th-Century it was a street in a not particularly good condition,
with one concerned Exonian blaming the Dean and Chapter for its poor
state, in 1840. In 1885, the Streets Committee voted to have the road
surface metalled, thus covering over the ancient pebbles, and widening
the footpaths, between Cathedral Yard and Bedford Street. One scheme,
proposed by a member of the Streets Committee, was to extend Queen
Street across the High Street by widening Martins Lane, cutting across
Catherine Street and demolishing the Swan Inn and the houses that were
on the site of the present Oddfellow's Hall, pushing past the rear of
St Martins Church, through the gardens at the rear of the houses lining
Cathedral Close, down as far as Southernhay. Suffice to say, it was not
supported; it seems City Councillors have always been megalomaniacs.
Oddfellow's Hall, now housing a shoe shop and coffee shop, can also be found in Catherine Street. Opposite the church is the SPCK Bookshop, which dates from the 15th-century, and the only one remaining from several in the street. There is evidence that John Whytten, a mason signed an agreement to build them on 14th September 1404, for the cost of £6 6s 8d. They had all mod-cons with an indoor gardrobe on the first floor, for the convenience of the occupants. The houses were probably built to accommodate priests and were converted into shops in the 17th-century.
Some concession towards modernity was made, when Mr H E Williams opened the Devon Cycle Company at Nos. 40 and 41 Catherine Street in 1892. He offered a wide range of perambulators, mail carts, and invalid, Merlin and Spinal chairs, alongside the more conventional bicycles and tricycles, priced between £2 and £19 15s. His business evolved into the Devon Motor Works.
Street in the late 19th Century – the Swan Inn is behind the
Destruction in Catherine STreet after the May 1942 blitz..
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