N St Nicholas Priory

N St Nicholas Priory

The Benedictine Priory of St Nicholas was founded in 1080-87, and its standing remains are among the oldest surviving medieval buildings in Exeter.

Originally it followed the standard layout of a medieval monastery: a church on the south side and three ranges of two-storeyed buildings grouped around a square cloister.

The west and north ranges were extensively altered in the mid-15th to early-16th centuries to provide guest accommodation, refectory, and a new kitchen. The facework includes large blocks of ashlar breccia, ashlar being the highest quality worked masonry. There is some volcanic trap and limestone mixed in, reused from other buildings. The dressings and other fine work are in Beer Stone. The kitchen included huge Heavitree Stone fireplaces in its north and west walls.

In 1536 the Priory was dissolved, and the church and east range soon destroyed. The stone was used elsewhere, including in the Old Exe Bridge and City Walls. The west and north ranges were converted into one large house in the 16th and 17th centuries, then two houses from the middle of the 17th century, eventually separated by Mint Lane into what is now St Nicholas Priory and 21 The Mint. The Priory was converted into five tenements until in 1913 it was purchased and restored by Exeter Corporation.

The exterior walls can be seen to be mostly Heavitree Stone with volcanic trap and Beer Stone dressing. They are not fine masonry, but randomly-sized uncoursed rubble.

Sources:

  1. Exeter City Historic Environment Record, 1300-1540 – http://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=1816868&resourceID=1054
  2. Exeter City Historic Environment Record, 1540-1640 – http://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=1816967&resourceID=1054
  3. Historic England Pastscape – https://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=448328
  4. Historic England image caption – https://historicengland.org.uk/services-skills/education/educational-images/st-nicholas-priory-the-mint-exeter-7060
  5. Historic England Scheduled Monument – https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1016257

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