News from St Nicholas Priory – We are reopening!

What a wash-out! I’ll spare you the tale of our cycle ride to Topsham last weekend and move straight to our outing to Powderham Castle. Now, my best friend there is the chipmunk in the pets’ corner of the Secret Garden – he invariably makes me laugh. Though having said this, the ducklings are just adorable, too… we love observing our animal friends, and the team at Powderham are knowledgeable and friendly (thanks for the chipmunk photo!), and always ready for a chat. Don’t forget to search for Tessa, the tortoise. Naomi tells me they found her abandoned in a bin and think she’s about 15 years old. Her favourite food is sweetcorn, I’m told – makes me wonder what the chipmunk’s preference is…

While the castle itself isn’t open for tours yet, the grounds and gardens are really worth a visit. The rose garden is a treat to sit in and the marquee provided cover from showers and enjoy our refreshments. But you want to go there for the wisteria – the castle walls are covered in waves of lilac and any number of birds flit in and out of the beautiful tangles, while the swallows herald summer darting overhead… After a short walk to the forge, the American Garden and up to the Belvedere for the most amazing views of the Exe estuary, we couldn’t resist a short stop at the farm shop and garden centre to pick up a few treats for dinner and some more plants for the garden. We’ll be back with our season tickets to discover more when the castle itself opens on 25th July!

Admittedly, our wisteria arch at St Nicholas Priory isn’t a match for Powderham’s stunning display but for that quiet moment away from the bustling streets of Exeter it is simply a marvel in our little green oasis. On a rainy day like today though, we are busy getting the building ready – Covid-secured and all tests passed, we are good to go! And tomorrow, Devon and Exeter Medical Heritage Trust are getting their wonderful exhibition on poisons ready for our Sunday openings.

The medical trust was set up last summer to save a collection of over 12,000 items and make them accessible to the public. It’s amazing how much you can find in those boxes and on the shelves – everything from Roman scalpels to bespoke saws, medicine chests and manuscripts, paintings, books, letters and diaries… a wealth of medical heritage to discover. The curators and volunteers of DEMH Trust tell me they plan to display the highlights of the collection and ask visitors about what they’d like to see for their new exhibition. We are hosting  the first handling session of those historical medical instruments at the priory on 30th May from 1-4pm, so come along and have a chat! For more info, please visit or @demh_trust on Instagram and get in touch!

And just in case I haven’t mentioned it often enough, St Nicholas Priory is opening its doors again this Sunday, 23rd May!  Admission is free, and we are very pleased to welcome back Commotion Times, our living history friends, who will re-enact a bit of Tudor life for you! Here’s a link to their facebook page – you’ll see a host of images from their last visit to the priory there. I, for one, can’t wait to have them back in our beautiful building!

Until Sunday then, stay safe and always be in touch, Judith

Dr J Morgane, manager of St Nicholas Priory, Exeter