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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

Directory Listings





Parish Records




War Memorials



St. Olave's Church, Fore Street, Exeter

St. Olave's Church, Fore Street, Exeter

(Normally obscured by traffic, the War Shrine is in shadow

below the central window)

© Richard J. Brine


As the First World War progressed and terrible casualty figures began to make their impact on those at home,  several places in Devon began to erect some kind of War Shrine outside their churches. These Shrines came into being long before the War Memorials with which we are more familiar today and were in the tradition of the roadside shrines seen throughout Europe - a place to pause, to think, to pray or to leave flowers. 


As the newspapers published long lists of casualties, the names of local men were handwritten onto pieces of wood or cardboard and displayed at the Shrines so that local people passing, in the midst of their busy lives, could  remember those men. Some churches displayed a full, hand-written, Roll of Honour - that is, the names of all their parishioners who were fighting and this is what happened at St. Olave's.


By 1922, most places had replaced their Shrines with the War Memorials we see around us today. The majority of the original Shrines were dismantled but in Devon, a few remain intact to this day - Duncan Brownlie  found this one complete with its tray for flowers under the lych gate of the old church cemetery at Lynton.

The War Shrine in the Lynton Church Cemetery
© Duncan Brownlie


When the war ended, it was decided at St. Olave's to remove the Roll of Honour and replace it with a list of those who had died thus transforming the War Shrine into a War Memorial. (See the following page for details).


St. Olave's War Shrine, Fore Street, Exeter

St. Olave's War Shrine in Fore Street, Exeter

© Richard J. Brine


From Exeter's Express and Echo

11 January 1917





The first war shrine to be erected in Exeter, and, it is believed the second in Devon, was dedicated at St. Olave's Church yesterday by the Lord Bishop of Crediton (Canon Trefusis).


The idea of providing a shrine originated with the respected rector of the parish, Rev. E. C. Long, who had seen many on the continent, and had been impressed by their usefulness to people who used them devotionally. His parishioners generously supported the project and a disused and blocked-up doorway in the south wall of the church, immediately abutting to the main street, provided a very convenient site. It is hoped to be able to erect a number of other shrines in the streets of the parish.


There are over a hundred names on the St. Olave Roll of Honour which is confined to parishioners who are worshippers at the church. Of these, eight have given their lives. The shrine itself is a beautiful piece of work. The old doorway is filled in with fumed English oak, heavily moulded round the ridge at the top. There is a full-length cross of wainscot oak, with Calvary steps, the whole surmounted with a piece of black English oak cut from a beam over 500 years old, and bearing an oxidised crucifix. "Pray for the men of St. Olave's" is the inscription in gold letters. A shelf is provided for flowers. The Roll of Honour is contained in two frames, one being for the fallen*.


(The account then continues with details of the Dedication Service and the address given by the Bishop of Crediton whose sons Arthur and Haworth were both killed in 1916.)

(These elements were changed when the Shrine was converted into a War Memorial and both panels now contain the names of those who died.)




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