Audio Tour

We’re excited to announce that St Nicholas Priory will soon have an audio tour for visitors to enjoy. We’ve been working with storyteller Sara Hurley and a team of actors, musicians and technicians to bring the history of the building to life. Listen to a short preview here.

Sara Hurley and Ben Tallamy discuss the creative process in this video.

Interview: Sara Hurley and Ben Tallamy from St Nicholas Priory on Vimeo.

This project has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Embalmed Crucified Man

Dear Friends,

Our own wonderful David Radstone has taken the time to record a little lecture for us. Here are his intriguing, introductory words:

How do we connect an eminent 18th Century Surgeon, his mummified mistress, a poisoned harpoon, and a balloon? Learn more about John Sheldon. He was a surgeon at the Devon & Exeter Hospital, an expert embalmer and an intrepid balloonist.

We think it’s a most fascinating story and hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we do.

As always, stay safe and keep well.


The stained glass of the chapel of the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital

Dear Friends,

Exeter’s excellent Darren Marsh and I have been chatting about his latest research  – and a possible project at the priory. More shall be revealed soon but, for now, Darren has agreed to be our first contributor to our blog.

Enjoy and be safe,

In 1868, Exeter’s much-loved surgeon Arthur Kempe (1812-1871) offered to donate a chapel to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, to obviate the need for holding services on each ward every Sunday.  John Hayward (1807-1891), Devon’s leading architect at that time, was retained and by 1st September 1869 the chapel was ready for use.

Over time the chapel was enhanced with stained glass memorials to persons of note, including Kempe who sadly passed away just two years after the completion of the building that he inspired.  At least some of this glass was provided by the internationally-renowned local firm of F. Drake and Sons.

Regrettably the chapel was needlessly demolished in 1975 but the stained glass was salvaged and today awaits restoration before being permanently displayed; backlit and shown en masse it would make a stunning museum exhibit.  Alternatively it may be possible to insert it architecturally into a church.

Among the Drake glass there are three windows of rose form showing, respectively, The Nativity, The Crucifixion and The Ascension of Our Lord.  Nearly 200 subscribers jointly contributed the necessary £50.  Another extant set of panels, approximately 6-7ft. in height and 2ft wide, depict Christ Healing the Sick, The Good Samaritan and St. Luke.  The biblical scenes are framed within architectural devices, and are all set against a background which features the initials ‘AK’, for Arthur Kempe.

These panels, vibrant yet dignified, are deserving of a wide audience.  There is considerable artistry on display in these precious fragments of the past; given their provenance and importance to Exeter it really should be possible to study and enjoy them.  Perhaps one day the names of Kempe, Hayward and Drake will be synonymous with the beautiful stained glass of the hospital chapel.

Copyright of Darren Marsh 2020

Hello and Welcome

Dear Friends,

I and my wonderful team sat down the other day to look at your feedback and suggestions of what we could do to enrich our website and social media platforms. This blog is one of the ways we hope to respond to your wish to engage with us in times when visiting our building might be difficult. Our contributors write about various things of interest to us and we certainly hope you will enjoy it. Do let us know if you would like to contribute – we are always looking for material to enrich our experience and understanding of our building and the historical as well as cultural context surrounding it. I’ll check in regularly for updates, too. 🙂

The last few weeks have been full of activity for us here at the priory – we received lots of support from individual members and subscribers, and are delighted to read your messages and experiences of visiting our building again. As you will know, we have started trialling our Sunday openings, after putting in place all necessary safety measures and completing relevant staff and volunteer training. Once again, I take great joy in seeing our wonderful building back in use, and we are all set for half-
term with offerings online as well at our venue.

I also have more good news, and I am sure you’ll be as pleased as we are that our application to the Culture Recovery Fund has been successful. All very exciting and positive. On this note, I’ll sign off for now and look forward to seeing you at the priory some time soon.

As always, be in touch and stay safe, Judith