Medieval Bridge over Exe
Medieval Bridge over Exe


(first published in March 2002)


This pop-up party on 22 March 2019 proved to be a wonderful evening – everyone was reluctant to go home.  We had a great spread of food and – interestingly – a great spread of non-alcoholic drinks. What  conscientious drivers our members are!


Early arrivals were put to work blowing up balloons – essential to highlight the entrance for those who had not previously visited St Katherine’s.  After an hour or so of chatting, we sat down for a quiz.  Everyone cheated shamelessly, conferring all over the place but hey, it was a party, not your GCSEs.  However, a clear winner emerged who was rewarded with Kit Kat bars.  Much laughter accompanied the cheerful presentation for it’s the game that counts, not the winning.


St Katherine’s is such a lovely old building and, after our meal, Malcolm gave us a short but illuminating talk on the structure’s history and then took us upstairs in groups to examine the Tudor remains: the prioress’s living room with some very faded decorations painted onto a cross beam, a beautiful fireplace and on two corbels were ancient carvings, one being a 13th century Benedictine nun and the other a male figure, possibly a page boy.   And, of course, the prioress’s garderobe (toilet over a chute disguised within a corner pillar of the building). 

We moved to a much larger room which had a truly magnificent fireplace with a monolithic lintel of Heavitree stone dating from the 15th century.  Even more magnificent, however, was the screen (left) at the south end of the room.  This massive screen is supported by an ancient Samson post on the ground floor.


The building is only a quarter of the original complex and It was easy in the dark to imagine the courtyard outside the window (high up so as not to intrude on nuns who might be praying there), and the church, dormitory, refectory etc which enclosed the courtyard on its other three sides.

So much has disappeared over the centuries, when it became a mere farm building and  - worse still  - was used for storage.  It was fortunate that the wonderful Samson pillar (right) and its adjoining posts were not destroyed to improve the storage potential, though ceilings and staircases have gone – we could see their supports still set into the walls.


 John Allen was a guest and of course could not stop himself from telling us more about St Katherine’s and also about his new book describing the  Medieval Exe Bridge, St Edmund's Church, and Excavations of Waterfront Houses.

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