St Clare’s Chapel is situated at the top of Heavitree Fore Street, where the route from the quarries forks on the way into central Exeter. But is it St Clare, the more well-known 13th century founder of the religious order of Poor Clares, or St Clarus, the 9th century English missionary martyred in Normandy?
According to one early 20th century local historian, St Clare’s Chapel was first referred to in 1439 as the chapel of St Clarus. But more recently it has been suggested that St Clarus stood near St Leonard’s Church, and that St Clare’s Chapel dates from the 16th century. It could therefore have been built at the same time as the original almshouses next door.
Even though it could have been built two centuries after them, its architectural style and building materials are similar to the small medieval chapels in Exeter. It could have been modelled on them, and have been built from materials reused from nearby redundant chapels such as St Clairs, St Clements, and Mincinglake or the dissolved religious houses of Cowick, St Nicholas, and Polsloe.
St Clare’s is built of rich red Heavitree Stone, with a different stone in the window tracery, and a slate roof. The stone in the walls is a multitude of sizes. In the south side wall, it is undressed and irregular in shape too. On the east the stone looks of better quality and has been worked more. The south wall buttresses contain the best stone, dressed and laid in courses. That means it was squared off, roughly regular in size, and laid in horizontal layers.
- Exeter City Historic Environment Record, Chapel – http://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=MDV78059&resourceID=104
- Exeter City Historic Environment Record, Alsmhouses – http://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=MDV15880&resourceID=104
- Historic England Listed Building – https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1103985
- Historic England Pastscape – https://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=448431
- There is a service of Holy Communion at St Clare’s on Thursdays at 10.30am. At other times, it used to be possible to get a key from one of the almshouses.
- Exeter Memories – http://www.exetermemories.co.uk/em/_churches/stclares.php