A Visit to Exeter Cathedral

At Mallards, we’re always looking for inspiration for new pieces of jewellery and original gifts. Buildings like Exeter Cathedral, with their beautiful architecture, are rich sources of ideas for Douglas and the team at Mallards. We take a closer look at Exeter Cathedral and the types of detail that inspire our creativity.

About Exeter Cathedral

Or, the Cathedral Church of St Peter in Exeter, to give it its full name. It’s the closest medieval cathedral to Mallards’ Cornish base, and it’s become one of our favourite places to visit. The building is mostly Gothic, completed by around 1400. There’s been a cathedral in Exeter since the mid eleventh century, when the Bishop of Devon and Cornwall took the wise decision to move inland from Crediton, avoiding attacks from the sea.

It was to be a good few years until a new cathedral building was completed. Typically of medieval cathedrals, it was on an ongoing product that took generations to complete, hence today’s combination of Norman and Gothic styles. Exeter Cathedral suffered damage during World War II’s Baedeker Raids; however compared with Coventry, damage was minimal. St James Chapel was destroyed and has since been rebuilt and dedicated to Britain’s air force.

Our Favourite Features in Exeter Cathedral

One of the reasons we love visiting Exeter Cathedral is the incredible architectural details. This starts when you stand outside the West Front and are immediately met by three rows of statues, including the Holy Family, angels and figures from the Bible. Animals and plants swarm around the statues, and every last feature is exquisitely realised. Exeter’s famous West Front Image Screen was completed in the fifteenth century, and would originally have been painted: imagine being greeted by this explosion of colour.

Douglas also looks above the rows of figures, towards the great West Window (see the picture above). Even from the outside, where you can’t see the coloured glass, the shapes created by the stone tracery are beautiful. This is the kind of detail that inspires us at Mallards.

Inside, there’s a wealth of detail, both imposing and quirky. For example, Exeter Cathedral has the UK’s oldest most complete collection of misericords, those amusing little carvings that support folding wooden seats, including what’s probably Britain’s first depiction of an elephant.

In the Nave, look up at the Minstrel’s Gallery for more statues. These “minstrels” are actually angels playing instruments, and protected from the elements inside the building, actually still have traces of their coloured paint.

Vaulted ceiling with bosses, Exeter Cathedral
Vaulted ceiling with bosses, Exeter Cathedral

While you’re still looking up, take in the spectacular vaulted ceiling, the longest, uninterrupted medieval vaulting in the world. Naturally, it’s the bosses between the stone ribs that caught our eye. These are intricately carved, and painted with gilt and vibrant colours.

And of course, as watchmakers, we have to mention Exeter’s astronomical clock, dating from 1484, an astonishingly early timepiece. Fascinating fact: the hole at the bottom is actually a cat flap. Cathedral cats were encouraged to hunt the mice that once scrabbled inside the clock, eating the fat that greased the mechanism.

Visiting Exeter Cathedral

We love this beautiful building, and we’d recommend a visit to Exeter Cathedral to anyone. It’s open to visitors Monday-Saturday, and although it’s not operating a timed ticket system, numbers are limited so you may have a queue to get in. Find out more about visiting Exeter Cathedral and the church’s COVID-secure opening arrangements on their website. Some of the church services are ticketed – again, please see Exeter Cathedral’s website for more information.


If you have a favourite building or piece of art that you’d like to see interpreted as a piece of bespoke jewellery, please get in touch with us at Mallards. Do you manage the gift shop at a heritage or visitor attraction? If so, please contact us to discuss how we can create a distinctive range of jewellery and gifts for you.