Art and Soul

Explore Exeter using the Art & Soul trail to visit some fine gothic revival buildings and find the locations for many of the exhibits.

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Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery
(Stop 1 of 11)

Built in 1868, designed by John Hayward, with the stonework crafted by local craftsman Harry Hems, the Royal Albert Memorial museum is a fine example of the splendour of Victorian taste and the fashion for Gothic Revival architecture. Both architect and stone sculptor were masters in their field and inspired by the Gothic and the Gothic Revival happening in the architecture and art surrounding them.

RAMM's Queen Street exterior is relatively unchanged since its construction and showcases the Gothic style of the Victorian Period.

The original competition design for the Albert Memorial Museum

The original competition design for the Albert Memorial Museum

The original competition design for the Albert Memorial Museum
(Stop 2 of 11)

The building that stands before you now first came about as a result of a competition. After the initial plans for a memorial museum for Prince Albert were made, a competition was launched in order to find an architect.

John Hayward won with a design with very strong gothic influences. The original design, however, is not what stands before you today. Originally the design featured a tall tower and roofs that mimicked the shape of the cathedral. However both designs represent Hayward's strong influences from the south-west Gothic Revival school. For example, the pointed arch windows, quatrefoils and neo-gothic tracery.

The winning design shows off the ostentatious fashions of the Victorian period, and their love of neo-gothic design.

The West of England Life and Fire Insurance Company

The West of England Life and Fire Insurance Company

The West of England Life and Fire Insurance Company
(Stop 3 of 11)

This site is where once stood the sumptuous building home to the West of England Life and Fire Insurance Company. The building was the owner of the of the most impressive neo-Classical style facades in Exeter until the building was partially destroyed by a bomb in 1942, and later demolished entirely.

The emblem of the West of England Life and Fire Insurance Company was the medieval King Alfred. The combination of Alfred and the grand neo-Classical design of the façade demonstrate the magpie nature of Victorian taste. This particular plaque was once attached to the company's building. King Alfred stands in his Classical-style dress with Exeter burning in the background. To the right of the King is the West of England Life and Fire Insurance Company building.

Exeter Cathedral – the Choir

Exeter Cathedral – the Choir

Exeter Cathedral – the Choir
(Stop 4 of 11)

Between 1870 and 1877, George Gilbert Scott, said to be the leading architect in the Gothic Revival, was employed to refurbish the, then, very unfashionable choir in the cathedral. The simpler Stuart and Georgian design in the choir was unpopular, and it was felt that a modern make-over was needed.

Many of Scott's alternations to the choir are still in place today, the photograph will allow you to compare and contrast the views of the space. Scott gave the space new choir stalls, inspired by the medieval stalls at Winchester. Despite protest, Scott made the decision to recycle some of the features of the choir rather than replace everything in the modern neo-Gothic style, for example the 13th century misericords in the choir stalls and 1324 pulpitum.

Stained glass roundel of The Nativity from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital chapel

Stained glass roundel of The Nativity from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital chapel

Stained glass roundel of The Nativity from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital chapel
(Stop 5 of 11)

In 1868 a chapel was added onto the hospital, which was at that point was 125 years old. The chapel was built in the gothic style and this is just one example of the stained glass windows that was added to the building. This depiction of the nativity is also in the gothic style, this fine stained glass roundel demonstrates the Victorian fashion of extravagant style and the love of the gothic. It shows Biblical characters all wearing clothes typical of the medieval gothic.

The chapel was demolished in 1975, but the stained glass, designed by local firm Frederick Drake & Sons, gives us some clue about its style. The chapel was originally financed by one of the surgeons at the hospital, Arthur Kempe.

Mayor's Chain, Exeter Guildhall

Mayor's Chain, Exeter Guildhall

Mayor's Chain, Exeter Guildhall
(Stop 6 of 11)

You have stopped outside Exeter's historic Guildhall, a building of civic importance for over 800 years. The Guildhall was the home of civic offices, courtrooms and ceremony since the 12th century.

The Mayor's chain was designed by the distinguished designer and architect William Burges who was well known for his gothic design. Burges was inspired by the art of the middle ages he has seen in European architecture and incorporated this into his own designs, including this chain. Burges was commissioned by the members of the Royal Archaeological Institute; they presented the chain to the Mayor to mark their appreciation of the warm reception given by the city at their 1873 annual congress.

The Mayor of Exeter has been seen wearing, in terms of regalia, only a chain since the Victorian period. This chain, presented 1874, marked the beginning of this tradition. Although the chain was designed and made in the Victorian period, there are clear influences from the medieval gothic.

Under the Iron bridge, Exeter

Under the Iron bridge, Exeter

Under the Iron bridge, Exeter
(Stop 7 of 11)

St Michaels Iron Bridge
This iron bridge, constructed in 1834, is an example of both the advances and improvements brought by innovations in engineering in the 19th century, also the fashion for the gothic. This bridge is a good example of the trend for mixing the new with the old in order to create the distinctive neo-gothic style.

The bridge was a result of the 'Improvement Commission' in Exeter. The cast iron design of the bridge features typical neo-gothic characteristics such as the quatrefoils typically seen within gothic architecture.

From the bridge you see a view of St Michael's Church, another feature of neo-gothic design within Exeter. The view of the church from under the bridge is seen in an engraving by Edna Fry which features in the Art and Soul exhibition.

Architectural elevation: St Michael's and All Angels Church

Architectural elevation: St Michael's and All Angels Church

Architectural elevation: St Michael's and All Angels Church
(Stop 8 of 11)

Built between 1865 and 1968, the architect, Major Rhode Hawkins designed St Michael's Church in a distinctly neo-gothic style. You can see good examples of this architectural style in the use of steep sloping roofs and in the height of the spire. The church design also features decorative tracery that is very representative of the gothic style, for example the flower-like shapes - quatrefoils.

The church was built to commemorate John Dinham, a philanthropist who donated the land as a means of saving the local children from the corruptions of the fairs that often used the land. He believed the impressive church could enrich and inspire the lives of the poor.

The theme of the neo-gothic continues throughout the church building, with the pulpit craved by local stone craftsman Harry Hems.

Stained glass roundel of The Ascension from St David's Church, Exeter

Stained glass roundel of The Ascension from St David's Church, Exeter

Stained glass roundel of The Ascension from St David's Church, Exeter
(Stop 9 of 11)

St David's Church
The stained glass roundel dates to 1859, it was crafted for the neo-Classical incarnation of St David's church. Produced by the leading stained glass manufacturers, Clayton and Bell, it demonstrates the Victorian fascination with the gothic, marrying medieval style with the story of Jesus' ascension into Heaven. The shapes and style of the stained glass reflect the gothic style, while the Biblical characters are seen with recognisably medieval dress.

The church building of St David's that stands today, is very different to the building that stood in its place throughout most of the 19th century. Until 1897, the church was a building with a very recognisable neo-Classical design. The building in its place today reflects the Victorian trend and popularity of taking inspiration from medieval architecture.

W D. Caroë designed St David's in the fluid gothic perpendicular style. This is often seen in the architecture of medieval churches, and saw a renewal of popularity in the late 19th century.

Guild of St Sidwell ecclesiastical medal

Guild of St Sidwell ecclesiastical medal

Guild of St Sidwell ecclesiastical medal
(Stop 10 of 11)

St Sidwell's Church

This ecclesiastical medal dates to the period 1881-1903, from the Guild of St Sidwell. Before it was bombed in 1942, an earlier version of the church was built in the gothic style. It is from this period that the medal dates.

The medal depicts the beheaded St Sidwell standing within a pointed archway decorated in an elaborate gothic style. The gothic-style script bordering the medal reflects the fashion for using this ancient style, as does Exeter's own Saxon saint, represented in classic medieval dress.

Exeter Middle School for girls perfect attendance medal

Exeter Middle School for girls perfect attendance medal

Exeter Middle School for girls perfect attendance medal
(Stop 11 of 11)

Pennsylvania Road

This grand building was once home to the Exeter Middle School for girls, later named Bishop Blackall, built in 1887.

You will find in the Art and Soul exhibition a medal dating to 1889 from the girl's school, awarded to a student for perfect attendance. The medal features imagery that is typical of the gothic revival, and inspired by the medieval. The school's crest is an example of the use of medieval iconography, such as the heraldic motifs of the rose, thistle and shamrock. The medal also makes use of gothic script.

This medal is a typical example of the Victorian passion for the gothic style, which was so fashionable that it was even incorporated into the design of a school award!

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My Art and Soul Notes

Art and Soul

Explore Exeter using the Art & Soul trail to visit some fine gothic revival buildings and find the locations for many of the exhibits.

Some of the most memorable Victorian works of art and architecture were inspired by the middle ages. It was an era when Britain was both the most powerful nation in the modern world, but also one that looked back to a pre-industrial age of centuries past.

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