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St Nicholas Priory

Visited April 2012 & October 2019

Location Exeter, Devon
Entrance Fee No 
Railway Station Nearby Exeter Central
Parking City Centre Car Parks
Facilities Toilets


The remains of a Benedictine priory which was later turned into a mint, and a private home. The priory is said to be the oldest building in Exeter.






Exeter was a troublesome place for William the Conqueror. Not all of England fell meekly under his rule after the Battle of Hastings, and the town of Exeter held out for two years after the battle, mainly because Harold Godwinson's mother Gytha was there leading the rebellion against the new King. William had to send his army down to Devon to crush the rebels, and having done so he granted a local church, St Olaves, to the monks at Battle Abbey in Sussex. Battle Abbey had been founded by William after his victory over Harold. The monks at Battle sent a group to Exeter and they founded a priory next to the site of St Olave's Church which they dedicated  to St Nicholas.





The priory was extended over the next few centuries, with the addition of a guest wing, kitchen, refectory, cloisters, court yard and a warming house which contained the only fire. There was also a chapter house and a priory church. The priory had a reputation for looking after the poor and needy, and it was those very same poor and needy in the form of a mob of women who defended the priory when the workmen came to demolish it after Henry VIII ordered it to be dissolved. The women had all received charity from the priory and were determined to stop the demolition. The workmen were chased away, which resulted in the mayor arresting the mob and putting them in prison. After they had demolished parts of the building- mainly the parts used for worship not hospitality- the workmen requested that the women be released. The remaining part of the priory was then sold in two parts- each becoming a fine Tudor home for a rich merchant.





One of the buildings is still in use as homes today, but the other building that we know as St. Nicolas's Priory is a museum, set up in the style of the Tudor era. 


The priory is very hands-on for children, with kitchen utensils of the period set up to be played with. There are also a selection of dressing up costumes for visitors to try on. On the day we visited we were the only ones there for a while and so the children played with hobby horses in the upper chambers, which is apparently what Tudor children would have done!


We actually visited for the first time back in 2012 when the priory was open week days in the school holidays, but now for our repeat visit in 2019 it is only open Sunday afternoons between 1 & 4 pm which is rather restrictive. It is a shame it is not open more often as it is a very interesting place to visit, with beautiful Tudor panelling and interiors.


Exeter has many other attractions to combine a visit with, including Exeter Castle, and the Cathedral, which we visited on our 2019 trip. The interior is stunning, and there is a lovely cafe and gift shop. On the day we visited, the Cathedral was raising money for its upkeep by asking tourists to sponsor a Lego brick on a model of it which is being built. We paid our money and are proud to say that C4K are responsible for part of one of the columns being built. A small but significant piece of the model!





More info:  St Nicholas Priory

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