“Recalibrations” and Heritage Open Days

Summer seems to be drawing to a close and we are trying to make the most of the warm, sunny hours the last few days have afforded us. I’m still sorting through the photos and clips we took during our Tudor Reenactment Days but I can do that in the garden, with the bees buzzing around me and the slowworm quietly gliding through the ivy. 

Quite by chance, I spent some time at the Custom House on Exeter’s quayside, supporting the set-up of a temporary exhibition. The Custom House is one of Exeter’s most interesting historic buildings and gives visitors an impression of what this place was like when Exeter’s quayside was full of ships and the woollen cloth trade booming. At the moment, the Custom House, run by Exeter Canal and Quay Trust, is host to an exhibition you don’t want to miss. An exciting collaboration between ECQT and Honeyscribe, a small local arts organisation, produced “Recalibration” by artist Marcus Vergette. In a sensitive and thoughtful way, the team have used the historic space of the building to showcase Marcus’ artwork – a reflection on time and tide with bells in various shapes and sizes, materials and ways to use them, and a statement about the importance of biodiversity and the part we play in keeping it diverse.

Funded by Arts Council England, Devon Wildlife Trust, Devon Ash Dieback Resilience Forum and Saving Devon’s Treescapes, you can imagine that trees play an important part in this exhibition. Marcus has turned some of his clay bells into flowerpots – he calls them “Change Ringing Bells” (how clever) – and each contains a sapling tree of a species particularly important to biodiversity here in Devon. I can’t decide which one of these bell jars to get… they are all so beautiful and such a simple way to contribute a little bit of good. The exhibition runs until 26th September, and in case you wonder why they call themselves Honeyscribe, Natasha Freedman (executive director), told me that Amy Shelton (artistic director) was inspired by the ancient Egyptians having special scribes to record every single drop of honey produced; she puts herself into that role for another project… find out more @honeyscribe.

Meanwhile at the priory we are preparing for Heritage Open Days, 11th – 19th September, always a busy time of year. This autumn, we are partnering with Exeter Community Centre and Devon & Exeter Medical Heritage Trust to deliver a busy programme. We’ll start with the Lord Mayor and consort visiting for our annual ceremony of receiving the keys to the priory from the city – in exchange for a loaf of bread. We’re then open on 11th and 12th September from 1-4pm: admission is free, and we offer free guided tours. On Sunday, Devon & Exeter Medical Heritage Trust will be at the priory with their session on “herbal remedies”. Throughout the week, you can explore the new St David’s trails and get involved in activities at the community centre. We’ll be at Powderham Castle on 17th September to talk about Tudor food and then the priory is open again on 18th-19th September for more guided tours, and one of our popular Tudor cooking sessions on Sunday. An exciting programme all round.

Did you enjoy our online lecture series about a wide range of topics last spring? Well, we’re starting a new series on 22nd September: the creative team at the Cygnet Theatre will be joining us to tell us about their theatre, its history and how it fits into Exeter’s theatrical landscape. Rosalind and Alistair are great entertainers and speakers, so something else to look forward to! 

For those of you who take the train, keep the tickets – and show them to us at the priory to claim a free guidebook. We’ve partnered with Great Western Railway for their reward scheme https://swr-rewards.com/ –  always very happy to support public transport #goinggreen.

And now I will have to make a decision about which tree sapling to get… life’s full of tough choices, ain’t it. Looking forward to seeing you in Exeter soon!

Until then, stay safe and be in touch, Judith

News from St Nicholas Priory, Dr J Morgane, manager of St Nicholas Priory, Exeter