St Antony's Chapel

St Antony's Chapel stands on high ground alongside the A377 just outside Exeter. A Grade II listed building it has been wrongly recorded by English Heritage as St Leonard's. It would apparently require the consent of the Secretary of State for this error to be corrected! The last service at St Antony's will be on Sunday 18 September 2011. St Antony's will close - 143 years after it was first consecrated as a chapel of ease.

The chapel owes its location to the Sheppard family. Joseph Sheppard, who was born in Padstow in 1794 , purchased Cowley House (now known as Cowley Place) in 1848. A former woollen draper he lived there with his first wife Maria, who died in 1856, and his second wife Elizabeth whom he married in 1857. Formerly residents of Cowley had been obliged to walk to Brampford Speke to attend services at the parish church. However by the early 1860s, Sheppard was allowing services to be held in Cowley House.

When Sheppard died on 21 June 1865 his daughters decided to give a parcel of land for the erection of a permanent chapel. The land selected was on the corner of the Crediton Road and St Andrew's Road and was specifically excluded from the sale of the remaining estate, much of which was advertised on 21 November 1866:

Beautiful Country Seat and excellent Land for Sale, near the City of Exeter.

Messers. Helmore and Son are instructed by the Trustees under tho will of Joseph Sheppard, Esq., deceased, the late owner, to SELL, by Auction, at the Half Moon Hotel, Exeter,.on Thursday, the 13th December next, at Two o'Clock in the Afternoon, the undermentioned valuable and well-known PROPERTIES, in the following or suoh other lots as the Auctioneers may determine at the time of sale, viz.:-
Lot 1.—'"Cowley," comprising as follows. A most substantially-built conmodious and comfortable mansion-house (standing on an eminence, with southernly aspect), with extensive and very convenient domestic offices, a handsome conservatory communicating with the house, and well heated, ample stabling, large coaoh-house and extensive yards, a very large and productive walled garden in the rear of the house, with well-stocked vineries, potting and other compartments, and a gardener's residence, a fine lawn in front of the house sloping gracefully to the river, pleasure grounds and shrubberies of considerable extent, very picturesque and beautiful, with terrace and other walks and grottoes, and skirted by the river Exe. The carriage dnve is remarkably beautiful, and at the handsome entrance gate stands a substantial and very pretty lodge. The grounds abound with ornamental timber and shrubs. The entire area of this lot ia about eleven acres. Aa a residence Cowley is unsurpassed for beauty, comfort, and convenience. Situate as it is within about a mile and a-half of the Bristol and Exeter and South Devon Railway Statians, and two miles of the heart of the city of Exeter, it nevertheless affords the privacy and seclusion of a retired country seat.
The scenery is charming, and the situation healthy.
The rivers running through the Cowley properties afford good private fishing and boating.
Lot 2.-The Meadow, called "Higher Cowley Marsh," situate on the other side of the river and opposite Cowley, containing about 13a. 2r. 32p., with the Cottage and the Garden, and strip of Land (planted with trees), behind the cottage, which cottage and other last mentioned premises lie between such meadow and the turnpike road.
Lot 3.- The Meadow, called "Lower Cowley Marsh," situate near Cowley-bridge, and on the right side of the turnpike-road from Crediton to Exeter, containing about fourteen acres.
Lot 4.-The Meadow, called "Langworthy's Marsh," situate on the opposite side of the water to lot three, and containing about fourteen acres.
Lot 5.-Two Cottages and capital Orchard and Garden Grounds, comprising altogether about three acres, situate on the opposite side of the turnpike-Road to lot 1. The view from this property is very extensive, and the land will constitute very excellent building sites. Out of this lot will be excepted a small piece of land staked out for the site of the intended new Chapel-of-Ease.
The meadows, being very fertile pastures and lying so near Exeter, are very desirable properties.
Lots 1 and 5 are situate in the parish of Brampford Speke, in the county of Devon, and the other lots in the parish of St. David, in the county of the city of Exeter. All the properties are freehold, except a very little piece of lot 1, which is held for the residue of an absolute term of 2,000 years.
To see the last four lots apply to the GARDENER, at Cowley House; and Lot 1 can be inspected on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, commencing with 23rd inst, by cards only, which, together with further information and a lithographic review of "Cowley," may be obtained of the AUCTIONEERS, Cowley-hill, near Exeter; or at the offices of Messrs. TANNER, CLEAVE, and SPARKES,
Solicitors, Crediton.
Dated Crediton, November 16th, 1866.

William Gibbs, a well-known philanthropist whose parents had lived in the parish, offered to fund the building of the Chapel on the condition that voluntary subscriptions produced an endowment fund of £2,000 to enable a curate to be employed. Unfortunately raising this fund proved problematic. By March 1867, the incumbent of Brampford Speke, the Revd. R C Kindersley was driven to write in plaintive tone to Trewman's Exeter Flying Post:


Sir,—Will you allow me, through your columns, to make an appeal to the public for aid towards our Cowley scheme ? I have once before mentioned our case in your paper, but venture again to urge our need, hoping that Devonshire men will not allow a scheme for benefiting a hamlet well known to Exeter people to fall to the ground, when comparatively so small a portion of the sum required is yet needed to secure so great a boon to Cowley.

That hamlet, belonging to this parish, is more than two miles distant from the church. Mr. William Gibbs has most generously undertaken to build a chapel there, to accommodate about 150 persons, on condition that we can raise £2,000 for an endowment for a curate.

As will be seen by a reference to the subscription list in the advertisement sheet, we have raised of this sum over £1,550. By investing our subscriptions in interest notes, we can increase our sum at the end of the year to nearly, if not quite, £1,600. There is therefore £400 only to be raised out of the £2,000, and a Devonshire man has most liberally come forward with a promise of £100, subject, however, to the condition that I raise the remaining £300. It is for this purpose that I most earnestly make an appeal to all your readers for help. The gentleman who so kindly offered the £100 informed me that he did so, feeling that Devonshire ought not to allow such a work to fall to the ground when so near completion.

I may add that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, owing to the enormous demands made upon them from every quarter, have been unable to accede to our request for aid. Donations are payable to the "Cowley Chanel Endowment Fund," at the Exeter Bank, the City Bank, Exeter, or to myself.

Apologising for thus troubling you, I remain, yours faithfully,
R. C. KINDERSLEY. The Vicarage, Brampford Speke, March 22nd, 1867

Kindersley's appeal appears to have raised just £100 of the £300 required. Fortunately William Gibbs stepped in and paid the remaining £200. The architect instructed was Major Rohde Hawkins, who appears at the same time to have been overseeing the construction of the much larger St. Michael's Church at Mount Dinham in Exeter - also funded by William Gibbs.

By Wednesday 28 August 1867 Trewman's Exeter Flying Post was able to report that the foundation stone for the chapel had been laid:

The foundation stone of the new Chapel-of-Ease at Cowley-bridge was laid in the presence of a large number of spectators on Wednesday. Tne hamlet of Cowley is about two and a half miles from Brampford Speke, to which parish it belongs. For the last five or six years what are termed the Cowley services have been held at the residence of the late J. Sheppard, Esq., Cowley House, by whom they were started. A large number of people attended them, and as the parish church was such a long distance away it was felt that it was desirable to have a ohapel-of-ease. The name of William Gibbs, Esq., of Tyntes Field near Bristol, but late of Mamhead, near Dawlish, is well known in this county for his noble generosity, and he promised to erect the building at his own cost, provided £2,000 were raised as an endowment. The land was given by the family of the late Mr. Sheppard. The £2,000 has been raised—Mr. Gibbs giving, in addition, £200 to make up the total sum. The endowment fund is now closed. The site of the building is upon the brow of the hill, after passing Cowley-bridge, close to tbe road leading'to the village of Exwick The total cost will be £1,200. The builder is Mr. E. P. White, of Pimlico, London, who has the contract for building the church at the Free Cottages. Mr. Hawkins, also of London, is the architect. The plan of the buildings is a nave, chancel, and vestry. There will be a stone pulpit, to be entered from the vestry, and a recess for the harmonium by the side of it. The building will be capable of seating 150 persons. The chancel will be 22ft. by 18ft., nave, 48ft. 4in. by 21ft. 6in., porch, 7ft. 6in. by 8ft. 3in., vestry, 12ft. by 7ft. The total height will be 36ft. The walls will be of Westleigh stone with Hamhill and Bath stone dressings. The style of architecture will be the decorated Gothic, and at the eastern end there will be a three light window; which, it is hoped, will be filled by a handsome stained glass one. The work is expected to be finished about the end of the present year. Tbe ceremony of laying the stone was very appropriately performed' by Miss Sheppard. The Rev. R. C. Kindersley, vicar of Brampford Speke, read the prayers, the forms used being the new edition of the order published by Joseph Master, Aldergate-street, London, The hymns commencing "From all that dwell below the skies" and "This stone to Thee in Faith we lay," were sung. The Brampford Speke church and glee choirs were present, and Mr, Clarke, sub-organist Of the Cathedral, presided at the harmonium. Amongst those present were, Lady Northcote, Miss Northcote, Rev. Canon Cooke, Mr. T. M. Snow, Mr. J. C. Bowring, Mr. J. C. Wilcocks, Mr. J. W. and Mrs. Sparkes, Captain Selby, Mr. G. H. Roberts, Mr. L. Roberts, Dr. Blackall, Rev. C. S. Northcote, Rev. T. Davy, Rev. R. A. Knox,. Misses Barnes, Miss Snow, Mr. and Misses Merivale, S. Partridge, Esq., Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Kindersley, Mrs. C. Kitson, Mr. Gaines, Mr. and Mrs. Chalice, Mr. Helmore and party, Mr. Hayward, &tc.

Building work continued apace. By May 1868 the chapel was complete. On Monday 4 May 1868 St Antony's was consecrated by Bishop Walter Trower. The dedication is to St Antony of Egypt.

Inside St Antony's the contributions of William Gibbs and the daughters of Joseph Sheppard are commemorated by a plaque. The Revd. R C Kindersley, died on 16 July 1871 at the early age of 40. Stained glass windows were installed in his memory both at Brampford Speke and at Cowley.

Priests in charge of St Antony's have included:

1868 J.Gillam
1875 W.J.R.Neame
1878 J.S.Maler
1880 F.E.Molyneaux
1883 S.E.Martin
1886 P.J.Pulman
1888 W.R.Barnes
1892 A.Bonns
1900 W.W.Secretam
1902 J.Eaves
1903 E.E.McG.Benson
1907 W.A.Garrard
1911 E.Johnson-Smith
1916 E.D.Drake-Brockman
1922 J.M.Fulford
1937 J.Pearmain
1938 D.M.Cooper
1941 A.L.Langley
1943 J.E.Blakeman Ball
1949 E.S.Phillips
1950 R.C.B.Llewellyn