Southernhay URC

Southernhay has a light and airy feel with a high ceiling, large stained glass windows and a rear gallery.

About this church

Situated in the centre of Exeter, the church was rebuilt in 1950s following extensive damage in 1942 but retains its original Victorian tower and spire which is Grade II listed. The foyer was refurbished in 2014.

The first Congregational Church in Exeter, which was founded in the late 1790s, bought the site of the infamous County Gaol in Castle Street, just below Rougemont Castle. It now houses a nightclub. However by the 1860s the congregation had decided to build a new church on the site of the ‘Old Baths’ at Southernhay, where it stands now. This church, then seating 1,000 people, was built in the early English style, complete with tower and spire in contrast to the plain box like structure of earlier nonconformist chapels. Worship continued at the church until the night of 4th May 1942 when it was burnt out by fire bombs, only the tower and spire remained intact.

The new church was opened in 1957 with the meeting rooms and hall added later. American Congregational churches generously supplied the pulpit and choir stalls, and private benefactors the lectern, communion table and font. The fine organ was brought from the Methodist Church which had been used by the congregation as their temporary home since the war.

The interesting stained glass windows illustrate various aspects of the church’s ministry, service and activity as seen at the time of the rebuilding. Those on either side of the large wooden cross represent the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.

The light and airy church, with gallery and fine oak pews, will now seat 400 people. The recent removal of some pews from the front of the church provides a more flexible space for the conduct of worship and more easily accommodates musical events.

The iconic spire was completely restored in 2008, with the vane splendidly regilded. Improvements to the church foyer were completed in 2014 including new glazed entrances doors, a stone tiled floor and improved insulation. An exhibition of photographs in the church shows how it has changed over the years.

Key Features

  • Captivating architecture
  • Spectacular stained glass
  • Glorious furnishings
  • Enchanting atmosphere
  • Social heritage stories

Visitors information

  • Level access to the main areas
  • On street parking at church
  • Parking within 250m
  • Accessible toilets nearby
  • Dog friendly
  • Walkers & cyclists welcome
  • Space to secure your bike

Other nearby churches

Exeter Cathedral

Exeter Cathedral is one of the great Cathedrals of England, and one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture anywhere: inside you’ll find a building which has lived through war, political unreset, the Exeter Blitz and much more.

Holy Cross

In 739AD Aethelheard, king of the West Saxons, granted land for a monastery. In the early 900’s a cathedral was built, almost certainly of wood.

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