St Sidwell's Community Centre is a thriving community hub in the centre of Exeter, based in a 1950s former church. We're an independent charity that brings together people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. At St Sidwell’s everyone works together.
On May 4th, 75 years ago, St Sidwell’s Church was bombed during the Exeter Blitz of 1942. Its unique and beautiful stained glass windows featuring Exeter's Patron Saint were rescued, put into storage and forgotten about until their recent rediscovery. Two statues, of St Sidwella and St Boniface, by world renowned Victorian sculptor Harry Hems, also survived the Blitz but, until recently, lay forgotten in our grounds. We want to restore these lost treasures, and put them on display at St Sidwell’s Community Centre where they can be enjoyed by everybody. We aim to raise £5000 of the £8000 needed for restoration through a Crowdfunding appeal that will be launched on April 6th.
We hope that by the 75th anniversary of the Exeter Blitz on May 4th we’ll be remembering the Blitz and also celebrating reaching our Crowdfunder target of £5000 to restore the Lost Treasures of St Sidwell’s.
Although based in a building that was once a church, we have no religious affiliation. We welcome people and groups of all faiths and none.
The Lost Treasures, once restored, will be homed at St Sidwell's Community Centre for everyone to enjoy and feel proud of.
St Sidwella - Exeter's Patron Saint
Have you heard of Exeter's Patron Saint? The Anglo-Saxon legend goes that Sidwella's rich land owning father, Benna, died, leaving his daughter in the care of a cruel stepmother, who was jealous of her beauty and virtue. Her inheritance may have had something to do with it also! The evil step mother plotted Sidwella's death and paid two corn reapers to creep up on her as she knelt in prayer in a field and cut off her head with a scythe. Miraculously, a spring of pure water appeared from the ground where her head came to rest. For the next three nights, the spot was illuminated by a heavenly shaft of light. On the fourth night she was seen walking in the fields with her head re-attached to her body: at that place a church was built, and named St Sidwell's. Sidwell Street is named after her and it's the only Sidwell Street in the world.
Harry Hems - sculptor extraordinaire
Harry Hems was a world-renowned architectural and ecclesiastical master sculptor and wood carver who ran his thriving business from a workshop on Longbrook Street and was a larger-than-life character in the parish of St Sidwell’s. At the company's peak, after 1895, Hems employed over a hundred craftsmen, and also had staff in London, Oxford and Ireland. Hems was commissioned to produce work for many churches and several cathedrals across England, and in America and Australia winning prizes in Philadelphia in 1876, the Chicago World Fair in 1893 and the Antwerp Exhibition in 1894. Hems was a churchwarden at St Sidwell's church in 1895 and donated two statues of St Sidwella and (our other famous local saint) St Boniface to the church. After the Exeter Blitz these two statues were neglected and rediscovered languising in the community centre gardens.
We have been really lucky to have some amazing local artists donate their work for our Crowdfunder and we'd like to say a huge thankyou to them. We hope you'll grab this opportunity to have an artwork gem in your home or office by choosing one of our rewards embracing Exeter, and St Sidwell's, rich heritage. We also have some exciting and unique event experiences. Treat yourself and help a great cause.
Print by Catherine Cartwright:
Watch Catherine creating it: http://youtu.be/YJwOYi0S1GM
St Sidwell's in c.1530 by Richard Parker:
Sidwella story graphic by Mai Sanchez:
Sidwella stencil by Chloe Pooley:
This project has been approved for funding through the Heritage + The Crowd match funding. It has received a bridge of 50% towards its fundraising target from Heritage Lottery Fund.