St Martin's Church, Exeter, Devon
- What's nearby
A thousand-year-old church in the heart of modern Exeter
St Martin's props up the black-and-white building of Mol's Coffee House on a corner of Exeter's historic Cathedral Close. It is one of the oldest buildings in the city, consecrated a year before the Norman Conquest, and was once one of six churches clustered in the cathedral's shadow.
It is the most important and complete church in the centre of Exeter, having escaped both Victorian refurnishing and the Second World War bombing that severely damaged many other Exeter churches.
The first church on this site was consecrated on 6 July 1065 by Bishop Leofric, the same bishop who founded the cathedral in Exeter. Its tiny parish - smaller than the size of a football pitch - served the workers and traders who crowded into the three and four-storey houses in the surrounding streets.
The roughcast exterior of red volcanic stone with bright, white Beer stone windows makes it look a little bit like a fancy gingerbread house. Inside, it is simple and full of light. Look out for the communion rails with their closely set balusters designed, according to a seventeenth-century order from the Archbishop of Canterbury, to keep parishioners' dogs from reaching the altar!
The gallery has painted on it the arms of the city and of Bishop Trelawny, a local hero in Cornwall, who was imprisoned for libel by James II. There are also several magnificent monuments in the church including one of Philip Hooper (a benefactor who donated the reredos) splendidly bewigged, he kneels at a prayer desk with a skull and pile of books.
The building is accesssed by the front (aka west) door on Cathedral Close. Access is leval and the door is passable in a standard wheelchair. Please note that the door is not automatic and once inside there is one small step to access one part of the building.
Facilities & Hire
St Martin's has heating and electricity. There is no running water or toilet facilities inside the building but toilets are available in the Drake's Coffeehouse and the pub next door.
Nearest railway stations: Exeter Central (5 minute walk), Exeter St Davids (15 minute walk) or a 5 minute bus ride. Exeter bus and coach station approx 7 minute walk. Bus route numbers 173/360.
History & Further Information
Why not make your visit more enjoyable and informed by finding out more about this church before you visit? You can download a range of publications below including the relevant county guide, and any walk round guides we have for this church.Cornwall, Devon & Dorset County Guide
This free of charge short guide contains details of all the churches we care for in Cornwall, Devon & Dorset. Printed copies of the county guide are also available at the church.
- Community information