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Description:The dedication of St Martin’s on July 6th 1065 is recorded in an early-15th century transcription from the ‘Old Missal of St Martin’s’ (Cresswell 1908, 86; Lega-Weekes 1915, 16). Monitoring of repair works at the ‘SE’ corner of the nave in 1987, led to the observation of large blocks of volcanic trap built as ‘long-and-short’ quoins, with rough volcanic trap rubble facework to both south and east elevations (Blaylock and Westcott 1989, 119-21). The quoins appeared to project forward of the plane of the facework, suggesting that both elevations were originally rendered, and that only the better-quality blocks of the quoins were visible. One jamb of a small lancet window survived in the south elevation, blocked and then cut away to the west by the surviving larger Perpendicular south window. The uniform colour and texture of the rubble masonry, and the distinctive brown colour and sandy texture of the mortar, are consistent with materials used in other buildings of known or suspected 11th-century date in Exeter, such as the castle gatehouse and parts of St Nicholas’ Priory and, coupled with the dedication date, allow this fabric to be identified as a remnant of the pre-Conquest church with confidence. With the nature of the original fabric of the church established by this fragment, comparison of exposed masonry elsewhere in St Martin’s suggests that more survives. The equivalent area of the north wall of the nave is visible from Catherine Street, although the quoin itself is obscured by a modern buttress, the facework is reminiscent in style and composition to the south-east corner, and probably also represents late-Saxon work (Blaylock and Westcott 1989, 121). Elsewhere the fabric of the church is more disturbed, although patches of dark-coloured rubble masonry further west in the north wall, and in small areas of the west gable may be enough to suggest that the whole plan of the nave survives from the church dedicated in 1065. Observations on the west gable wall during repointing and repairs in June 1996 suggested that columns of masonry of early character also survived to each side of the large Perpendicular west window, although heavily patched and repaired with mixed materials of later date (EA archive notes by Richard Parker). Observations and recording by photography of the interior elevation of the north wall of the chancel when stripped of plaster in February 1998 also showed masonry of a related character, although it is uncertain if the chancel can also be identified as late-Saxon on the basis of this observation alone (EA photographic refs. B&W 3852/2-19). The importance of the various phases of observation work at St Martin’s lies in the incremental nature of the observations, and the result that it can now be demonstrated that the plan of the nave, at least, was established in the pre-Conquest period. Although the evidence for early fabric in the chancel is more tenuous, three items combine to suggest that this too might survive from the church dedicated in 1065: (i) the observation just described in the north wall of the chancel, which showed masonry of early character; (ii) the south-east quoin, and the possible equivalent to the north, together representing the end of the nave, and the narrowing to a contemporary chancel; (iii) the general probability of an early date for a simple, two-celled plan form such as this.

Extant: Yes
Grid reference:SX921926
Map reference: [ EPSG:27700] 292106, 92656
Periods:850 - 1068
Identifiers:[ ADS] Depositor ID - 11001.0

People Involved:

  • [ Publisher] Exeter City Council

Bibliographic References:

  • Youngs, S.M., Clark, J., Gaimster, D.R.M., & Barry, T. (1988) 'Devon, Exeter. 26. St Martin's Church', pp. 238-39 in 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1987' in Medieval Archaeol. 32, pg(s)255-314. Society for Medieval Archaeology.
  • Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit (1988) Report to Exeter Archaeological Advisory Committee, 4.3.88, p. 5; Fig. 2. Exeter City Council.
  • Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit (1987) Report to Exeter Archaeological Advisory Committee, 5.6.87, p. 9. Exeter City Council.
  • Department of the Environment (1974) List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest: District of Exeter, p. 26. Department of the Environment.
  • Blaylock, S.R., & Westcott, K.A. (1987) St Martin's Church, Exeter: Recording of the south wall of the nave 1987 in EMAFU Report No. 88.01. Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit.
  • Blaylock, S.R., & Westcott, K.A. (1989) 'Late Saxon fabric in St Martin's Church, Exeter' in Proc. Devon Archaeol. Soc. 47, pg(s)119-22. Devon Archaeological Society.