Saturday, 3 March 2012

Nos. 2, 3 & 4, Cathedral Close

These three properties sit on part of the footprint of the College of the Annuellars. The College, built as a residence for the cathedral's chantry priests, was founded in the 1520s. It was disbanded just two decades later following Edward VI's Chantries Act of 1547. The College buildings appear to have been swiftly subdivided into separate tenements and these are now represented by the plots of Nos. 1 to 5 Cathedral Close.

Nos 2 to 4 are bounded at one end by the well-known 'Mol's Coffee House' and at the other end by No. 5 Cathedral Close which still retains parts of the College's east range and refectory. All three houses date to the late 16th century, after the disbanding of the Annuellars' College in the 1540s, and all three are built of timber-framing. It's possible that fragments of the College remain within the fabric of the later construction but it must be assumed that the sites were largely rebuilt following the College's demise. According to Hugh Meller, "not one of the interiors remains unscathed".

No. 2 (on the far left in the photograph) is Grade II* listed. It has two oriel windows on the first floor with another on the second floor. The second floor oriel window currently in the facade isn't the original. Until 1970 the aperture was filled with a Georgian sash window. The shop front on the ground floor was probably altered at the same time. For many years it was 'Hanson's' tea room but it is now the premises of 'Tea on the Green'. I'm not aware of any historical features that might remain inside. No. 3, in the centre of the photograph, is also Grade II* listed. It is of a similar date to No. 2 but the facade was replaced c1800 giving the building its current Georgian appearance. An egg and dart cornice runs along the top of the facade. Again I've no idea if any internal features of interest survive. No. 4 has a rusticated stucco facade which is now almost invisible beneath numerous coats of white paint. The frontage looks as though it was added c1700. Apparently there are a few features surviving internally including some restored late 16th century panelling. Like the other two properties, No. 4 is Grade II* listed.

All three buildings came close to destruction during the Exeter Blitz. The photograph below, taken from one of the towers of the cathedral, shows the properties within the context of the Cathedral Close with the reconstructed areas of the city stretching away to the north and east.


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