Past Remains

A view of yesterday from today

St Mary Magdalen Almshouses, Exeter, Devon

Many years ago I took a couple of photos of these almshouses whilst walking past, and always meant to return to take more and find out the history of the building. Fast forward to 2012 when I had an appointment nearby, which was the perfect reminder to take a closer look. Better late than never! ;)

Comprising a terraced row of housing facing onto Magdalen Road, and a smaller adjacent building facing onto Denmark Road, the buildings, wall and lovely Larch trees form a very delightful corner. I'm not sure why, but only the Denmark Road building has been given a grade listing, yet all the buildings, along with the wall, form an architectural and historical group.

The Denmark Road building, seen below, is Grade II  listed. Both buildings and the wall are built with Heavitree stone.

A two storey house, with two and three light casement windows, a gabled porch, and a delightful bargeboarded gable in the slate roof above the porch gable; this and the other building are lovely examples of Victorian Gothic.

I had difficulty finding anything about the history of these buildings, and the only reference I could find was Magdalen Hospital on the website Exeter Memories (where I found the history, below) . Interestingly, dated 1863 on the rainwater head, and on a plaque on the exterior chimney stack, these almshouses were built in the same year that the Magdalen Hospital was demolished.  

Originally opened for lepers, circa 1161-1184, and to keep them away from the general populace to protect the city from the disease, Magdalen Hospital was built in Bull Meadow, which is situated opposite Wynard Almshouses further down and towards the end of Magdalen Road. As leprosy declined, the building was used as almshouses to house the poor, but by 1863 had become derelict and subsequently demolished.

Although this is only my theory (and please don't quote me on this, as I haven't found any corroborating evidence), it seems that St Mary Magdalen Almshouses were built to replace the hospital / almshouses. Now residential, they are a delightful reminder of the social history regarding aiding the poor, elderly and destitute.

More photos can be seen in the Photo Gallery album, along with these. A special thanks to David Cornforth and his website Exeter Memories, which can be found on the links page. I will add more information as and when I can discover it.


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