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WYNARD'S ALMSHOUSES

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Description:Wynard’s Hospital, former almshouses, was founded in 1436, rebuilt and altered in the 17th and 18th centuries, and restored to a medieval appearance in 1863-4 (Cherry and Pevsner 1989, 428-9). ‘This almshouse was erected and endowed by William Wynard, the third recorder of Exeter. By his foundation deed, dated 20.i.1436, twelve poor infirm and elderly men were provided with decent lodging and subsistence, and a chaplain […]. In the confusion occasioned first by the religious changes, and subsequently by the grand rebellion, this charity received a severe shock; but it has partially recovered, and twelve decayed tradesmen still reside within its enclosure.’ (Oliver 1846, 404). During the Civil War the chapel and house were demolished (anon. n.d.), and the earthwork fortifications around the city walls were extended outwards to include Wynard’s as an outwork (Stoyle 1995, 18; Fig. 14). The chapel is in the range along the street frontage, the entrance arch, the east end of the houses, and the upper storeys of the houses all date to the restoration of the 1860s (DoE listing; Recognition Event No. 1017); the plan comprises twelve two-storied almshouse cells around a cobbled courtyard, plus a house for the chaplain (which in 1909 was also used as almshouse accommodation; Endowed Charities 1909, 387); of Permian breccia throughout. A 19th-century copy of a 17th century plan of the almshouses by G.G.Palmer in the Devon Record Office depicts a number of aspects of the building which have subsequently disappeared). The plan is inscribed: ‘This plan appears to be after the destruction of the Chapel in 1643 […] it was restored under the decree of 1674 in 1675. Copied in 1863 from the original in the possession of the Town Council of Exeter.’ The plan shows the chapel without a roof; a two-storied front range, with three chimneys, and a broad ogee-headed doorway with a wicket gate. The three ranges around the courtyard are single-storied and seem to comprise single-roomed cells, each with a window and ‘stable’-type door; twelve chimneys seem to indicate that there was a fireplace in each most cell, although thirteen cells are actually shown: five in the west range, four in the north, and four in the east. A well is depicted slightly west of centre in the courtyard; to the rear (north) is a garden, apparently divided into individual strips, with a large square garden, subdivided by diagonal paths, to the east. By 1758 this area is marked on the Chamber Map Book as the Quaker burial ground (Recognition Event No. 4332). Addition: A recent assessment of the almshouses by John Thorp (2001) supports the idea that although the almshouses were substantially rebuilt after the Civil War, the basic layout survives from the original 15th century plan, and some fabric was at least re-used in the rebuilt courtyard, if not retained in situ from the earlier structures (Thorp 2001, 36). Thorp, J.R.L. 2001 Wynard's Almshouses, Magdalen Street, Exeter Devon, Keystone Historic Buildings Consultants Report K465, Exeter. Original description SRB, 4.viii.00; updated SRB 16.v.03. Further addition: Watching brief on the excavation of service trenches etc, in 2002 led to a number of minor observations about the building (recording of the standing building is still to be assessed, as a report is awaited: see EUAD 15201). The observations yielded wall footings of late medieval or early post medieval date in a trench on the west side of the central courtyard, and in trenches opened to the south east of the almshouse buildings. No one observation seems of sufficient significance to affect the mapping of the building, although all are of note in representing secondary, and perhaps ephemeral, buildings in these areas during the life of the building. Original description: SRB, 4.viii.00; further additions: SRB, 4.iii.04.

Extant: Yes
District:Exeter
County:Devon
Grid reference:SX923923
Map reference: [ EPSG:27700] 292327, 92326
Periods:1436 - 1540
LATER MEDIEVAL CITY
Subjects:ALMSHOUSES
Identifiers:[ ADS] Depositor ID - 11092.0

People Involved:

  • [ Publisher] Exeter City Council

Bibliographic References:

  • Department of the Environment (1974) List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest: District of Exeter, p. 170. Department of the Environment.
  • Jenkins, A. (1806) The History and Description of the city of Exeter and its environs ancient and modern, pp. 380-3. Exeter.
  • Harvey, H. (1996) Exeter Past, p. 22. Phillimore & Co., Chichester.
  • Thorp, J.R.L. (2001) Wynards Almshouses, Magdalen Street, Exeter, Devon, in Keystone Report K645. Keystone Historic Buildings Consultants, Exeter..