The Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart, Exeter.

During James II's reign, a "Mass House" was opened in Exeter, but in 1688 this was flattened to the ground. After 1745, Mass was said in an upper back room of King John's Tavern, in South Street. From Christmas 1775 part of "St. Nicholas" mansion was rented and a large upper chamber transformed into a Chapel. Later, the premises were purchased and a proper chapel built. On Epiphany Sunday 1792, the first Mass was offered in the new chapel, in the Mint, close to the remains of the pre-Reformation priory of St. Nicholas. The present Church of the Sacred Heart is built on the site of the famous Bear Tavern, the former town house of the Abbots of Tavistock, which was leased out as an inn.

The foundation stone for the Church was laid by Bishop Vaughan in 1883. The solemn opening took place on November 18th 1884, on the feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Ss. Peter and Paul. The inside walls are of varied stone from Poccombe quarries with Bath stone dressing. The columns up the aisles are of Portland stone with brown Poccombe stone above. The stained glass windows down the side of the north aisle were installed to commemorate the golden jubilee of the church's opening; they show the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the inspiration of St. Mary Magdalene to stimulate devotion to it amongst Catholics. The last one shows St. Nicholas giving alms to needy people, and is a link between this church and the old Mint church opposite St. Nicholas Priory.

The Saint Boniface altar is at the top of the north aisle and is immediately below the Saint Boniface window, which depicts the life of the saint.

Saint Boniface was born in Crediton, baptised Winfrith, later named Boniface. He was educated at an Exeter monastery, then at Nursling, in Hampshire. He was ordained a priest when aged thirty. He was a successful preacher and teacher, and chosen as envoy from the Wessex synod to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Boniface was chosen to go on missionary work to Frisia and was elected Abbot of Nursling on his return to England. However, he preferred to return to Frisia to help Willibrord, then to Hesse and Bavaria. He was consecrated bishop in 722 and archbishop in 732. After helping to reform the church in France he returned to Frisia in later life and was killed with his companions near Dokkum in 754, his body being taken to Fulda.

Saint Boniface is patron of the Catholic Diocese of Plymouth and is revered by the Anglican Diocese of Exeter. The church's bell, hung in 1884, is dedicated to Saint Boniface.

Der Heilige Bonifatius in der Heilig-Herz-Kirche in Exeter.

Der Altar des Heilige Bonifatius ist am Ende des nordlichen Seitenschiffs. Er befindet sich unmittelbar unterhalb des St. Bonifatius-Fensters, welches das Leben des Heiligen darstellt.

Bonifatius wurde in Crediton geboren und Winfrith getauft, spater anderte er den Namen in Bonifatius. Er wurde in einem Kloster in Exeter ausgebildet, dann in Nursling (Hampshire), und im Alter von 30 Jahren zum Priester geweiht. Er war ein erfolgreicher Prediger und Lehrer und wurde daher als Botschafter der Synode von Wessex zum Erzbischof von Canterbury gesandt. Bonifatius wurde ausgewahlt, um zur Missionsarbeit nach Friesland zu gehen. Mit der Ruckkehr nach England wurde er zum Abt von Nursling gewahlt. Allerdings kehrte er nach Friesland zuruck, um Willibrord zu helfen, dann zog er weiter nach Hessen und Bayern. 722 wurde er zum Bischof und 732 zum Erzbischof geweiht. Nachdem Bonifatius half, die Kirche in Frankreich zu reformieren, ging er spater wieder nach Friesland. Dort wurde er im Jahre 754 mit seinen Begleitern in der Nahe von Dokkum ermordet, worauf sein Leichnam nach Fulda gebracht wurde.

Bonifatius ist der Patron der katholischen Diozese von Plymouth und wird auch von der Diozese der Church of England in Exeter verehrt. Unsere einzelne Kirchenglocke, die im Jahre 1884 aufgehangt wurde, ist dem heiligen Bonifatius gewidmet. Es gibt ein okumenisches Bonifatius-Center in Crediton.

Download the Walk-round Guide to the Sacred Heart Church

The Organ

The Organ was built in 1893 by Hele and Company who had premises in Bartholomew Street (later Preston Street), at the time. The organ case was designed by Mr Thompson, the manager of the company - who was a member of the Parish of the Sacred Heart.

There can be no doubt that the Sacred Heart organ is one of the finest in Exeter - it is also one of the most fascinating in terms of its mechanisms. The whole action of the organ is pneumatic - that is, wind-driven, so that every function which ultimately results in a sound is based upon the opening and closing of a vast number of leather bellows ("motors" in organ-builder's language). This means that the "action" of the organ is very light, since the performer is only responsible for causing the same set of "motors" to operate whether he or she is using 2 - or 20 - stops!

Hele and Co. built into the organ one of their own patent devices in the form of the stop-operating system which, instead of the more usual knobbed draw-stops, is based on a surprisingly modern-looking system of ivory "tabs" or "bars" which are arranged along the top of the keyboard which they control rather than on a separate board alongside the console.

Perhaps one of the strangest aspects of the original design of the organ is that the smaller wind-carrying tubes (wind-trunks) consist of 1/2" lead gas piping. This fact caused a good deal of consternation when it came to light during the restoration of 1985 since such piping is no longer available. However, a quick-witted member of the rebuilding team spotted that the outside diameter of the lead piping is the same as the inside diameter of modern metal-reinforced plastic hose-piping which, of course, will never wear out. Thus, it will be seen that this magnificent musical instrument which started its life dependant upon domestic gas piping continues to make music with the aid of a hose pipe!

The organ, as we now have it, was expertly restored by the then Taunton-based organ-builders - George Osmond and Co. Over the years, the original instrument had suffered badly due to water-damage from the leaking roof of the transept which houses the organ and the choir loft. In addition, a very large number of the leather "motors" had weakened and cracked. By 1984, playing the organ for Sunday Mass had become something of a lottery since it was impossible to predict from one choir practice to the next which bits would still be working! It was often the case that very few stops could be used and it was not unusual for the organist to climb into the instrument (in his Sunday best!) to try to dislodge - or "kick-start" - some recalcitrant object in the mechanism!

The original instrument was blessed by Bishop Vaughan on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, 1893 and the restored organ was blessed by Rev Fr Keith Collins at sung Mass on Sunday, 4th August, 1985.

The 28 speaking stops of the organ are controlled from three manuals and a pedal-board. There are two non-adjustable composition pedals to Great and Swell. The foot-operated levers which control the "boxes" of the Swell and the Choir Organs are old-fashioned, unbalanced types with wooden latches which permit a certain degree of adjustment of the swell effect.

Great Organ Swell Organ Choir Organ Pedal Organ Couplers
Double Open Diapason, 16' Double Diapason, 16' Gedackt, 8' Trombone, 16' Swell super
Open Diapason, 8' Violin Diapason, 8' Dulciana, 8' Violoncello, 8' Swell to Great
Claribel, 8' Gedackt, 8' Lieblich Flote, 4' Open Diaspon, 16' Swell to Choir
Principal, 4' Salicional, 8' Clarinet, 8' Bourdon, 16'  
Harmonic Flute, 4' Celeste, 8' Gamba, 8'   Swell to Pedals
Twelfth, 2 2/3 ' Cornopean, 8'     Great to Pedals
Fifteenth, 2' Oboe, 8'     Choir to Pedals
Mixture, II Salicet, 4'      
Posaune, 8' Gemshorn, 4'      
  Mixture, III      
  Tremulant      

Canon Sheehan of Doneraile.

Patrick Augustine Sheehan was born on St. Patrick's Day, 1852, at 29 New Street in Mallow in County Cork. Third eldest of five children born to Patrick Sheehan, owner of a small business, and to Joanna Regan. Canon Sheehan's father died on 13 July 1863, and his mother died on 6 February 1864. Following the loss of his parents, together with his three surviving siblings, he became the ward of the Parish Priest of Mallow, Dr. John McCarthy.

His early education was received in the Long Room National School in Mallow. He completed secondary education in St. Colman's College, Fermoy, after which he studied for the priesthood at St. Patrick's College in Maynooth, County Kildare. Transferred to the seminary of the Vincentian Fathers in Sundayswell, County Cork, he was ordained to the priesthood in the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Anne on Sunday 18 April 1875.

Canon Sheeham began his priestly ministry firstly in the Cathedral Parish in the Diocese of Plymouth, and thereafter in the former abbey church of St. Nicholas in Exeter. He quickly established a reputation as a preacher and was much sought after for sermons, retreats, and incidental addresses. Whilst in Plymouth he also acted as a supply chaplain for Dartmoor prison. He returned to Ireland in 1877 to take up a curacy in his native Mallow. In 1881 he was transferred to Cobh (Queenstown) and subsequently back to Mallow, where he remained until Bishop Robert Browne nominated him Parish Priest of Doneraile on 4 July 1895.

Canon Sheehan's literary career began modestly in 1881 with a series of essays published in The Irish Ecclesiastical Record. He is best remembered as a novelist: his novel My New Curate recounts an incident of a clerical appointment that may well be autobiographical and refer to his arrival in Doneraile.

Canon Sheehan was diagnosed with a fatal illness in 1910 but refused to undergo surgery, carrying out his parish duties until he died of cancer, on the evening of Rosary Sunday, 5 October 1913.

The Catholic Church of St. Thomas of Canterbury, Exeter.

The Church of St. Thomas of Canterbury was built in 1930 to serve parishioners living in the St. Thomas area of Exeter. The Church was closed in 2002.