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Former Hele's School

A Grade II Listed Building in Exeter, Devon

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Latitude: 50.7283 / 50°43'41"N

Longitude: -3.5385 / 3°32'18"W

OS Eastings: 291511

OS Northings: 93207

OS Grid: SX915932

Mapcode National: GBR P0.PPVJ

Mapcode Global: FRA 37G5.57T

Plus Code: 9C2RPFH6+8J

Entry Name: Former Hele's School

Listing Date: 23 January 2018

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1451167

Location: Exeter, Devon, EX4

County: Devon

District: Exeter

Electoral Ward/Division: St David's

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Exeter

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon


Gothic Revival school buildings of 1849 by John Hayward, including a former covered playground, and with later additions of 1861 and 1872.


A school of 1849 by John Hayward, with additions by Edward Ashworth (1861) and E H Harbottle (1873) and with a mid-C19 covered playground, all with later alterations.

SCHOOL HOUSE (St David’s Buildings)

MATERIALS: constructed of Chudleigh limestone with Bath stone dressings and with some repair and an addition in brick. The window frames are a mixture of iron casements and uPVC units. The roofs are covered in slate.

PLAN: The 1849 school was built as a large central school room with smaller classrooms to each end in short transverse wings. The east wing, with the main entrance, has a first-floor classroom. The building was extended to the north-east and north-west in 1861 and 1873 with further classrooms set back towards the rear of the building. The north-east extension link was rebuilt on a broader footprint later in the C19. There is a single-storey addition of C20 date to the east flank of the main school building.

EXTERIOR: coursed grey limestone in the Old English Gothic style with Bath stone dressings: mullioned and transomed windows with eared architraves, four-centred arches or square heads, and chimney breasts with offsets, and other detailing. Original windows across the 1849 buildings and north-east classroom have cast-iron casements with elongated hexagonal glazing.

The principal (south-east) elevation has four central bays and a projecting gabled bay to each side. The right gabled bay has modern steps and a ramp and is the main school entrance with a projecting central feature with quoins and offsets rising to a bellcote with bell. The arched door has a stopped hoodmould and elaborate iron strap-hinges and a stone plaque carved with the Hele family crest above. At first floor is a lancet with a cinquefoil head and hoodmould. To the left, are the four regular bays of the main school room. The windows have mullions and transoms, although the outer two have been adapted to door openings and have red brick jambs, all as part of restoration and replacement work in the early C21. Between the openings is brick infill at the location of former buttresses. The left end bay is gabled with coped verges and set forward. It has an arched central opening with mullions and transoms.

To the right of the main entrance is an attached wall with sealed arched doorway and opening to the right. A single-storey red brick toilet block behind the wall is of C20 date and adjoins the north-east flank of the school. To the centre of the flank is a chimney with offsets rising to twin octagonal shafts with battlements. To the right the flank is attached to a north-east classroom and has a coped gable facing north-west and arched door with iron strap-hinges facing south-west. The rear of the 1849 classroom has four openings under flat heads with modern frames and there are buttresses with offsets between the openings. The north-east classroom is of coursed grey limestone on a plinth with mullioned and transomed openings, some with hexagonal tracery. The gables are coped and kneelered with a centrally-positioned opening under a stone relieving arch with two quatrefoil vents above. On the north wall is a chimney rising to a battlemented octagonal shaft.

The west flank of the school has later C19 additions including a north-west classroom, set back in stages from the principal building line. To the right is an entrance with plain architrave and head under a lean-to roof. To the left at upper level is a set of four-light window under roundels and shaped hoodmould with wide mullions. Set higher in the gable are four trefoil vents set in a Bath stone band. The south-west elevation has a mullioned window and modern flat head. There is a stone ridge stack on the roof with trefoil decoration. The north-west classroom has mullioned and transomed windows, those to each end elevation under a two-centred arch with tracery, and Bath stone vents and bands in the coped gable above. On the ridge is a lead turret and both roofs to this later C19 addition have terracotta ridge tiles.

INTERIOR: the three principal classrooms have arch-braced roofs supported on corbels. The barrel-vaulted roof to the later north-west classroom has slender principals and corbels, the latter having foliate designs to the base. A tiled chimneypiece was recorded in the north-west classroom in 2007. The north-east classroom has a fireplace with a stone mantel. The stair to the first-floor classroom has a ramped handrail, shaped newels and stick balusters. Some of the windows to the building have iron catches and there is C19 joinery, however, most of the fittings are of C20 date or later, and some window units are modern replacements.


MATERIALS: grey ashlar limestone and a red rubble stone to the rear wall, and Bath stone voussoirs to the arches.

PLAN: rectangular on plan.

DESCRIPTION: of five bays the principal (south-east) elevation. It has a projecting central entrance bay with a steep gable and two-centred arch with freestone tablet above. The arches to each side are depressed and spring from chamfered ashlar piers. The arches were enclosed in the early C20 and have C21 glazing. There is a brick dentil eaves cornice. The end gables are coped and kneelered with stone apex finials. The south-west flank has a door with four-centred arch and hoodmould with stops. There is a trefoil ventilator set in the gable. The north-east flank has a sexfoil vent in the gable and the south-east corner is attached to the adjacent classroom by a stone arch. The rear wall is of uncoursed rubble stone. The interior has an exposed principal-rafter roof with braced collar beams (all chamfered), which has been strengthened with iron ties and I-beams.


Hele’s School in Exeter was established by the bequest of Elize Hele (1560-1635). However, while Hele’s trustees established Hele’s School in Plympton in the C17, funds for a school in Exeter were not released until 1837 when new trustees were appointed by the Crown. The disposal of £1,500 to build the boys’ school was ordered by Royal Warrant in 1840 and soon afterwards a site was acquired to the south of Attwill’s Almshouses on New North Road. The site was undeveloped on the St David’s Tithe Map of 1843.

Designs by prominent Exeter architect John Hayward (1807-91) were agreed in 1847 and the school was built in 1849. Hele’s Endowed School opened on 15 January 1850. The school bell, possibly of C17 date, came from the chapel at Magdalen Hospital in Exeter. Drawings for an adjacent Master’s House, also by Hayward, were completed in 1849 and the building was constructed soon afterwards. The covered playground, a detached structure to the west of the school house, is also probably of 1850s date. The school building was given additional classrooms to the north-east and south-west by architects Edward Ashworth (1861) and E H Harbottle (1873). The classroom to the north east may have originally been a detached structure and a corridor-like link is shown on the Ordnance Survey Map of 1880. The link was rebuilt as a wider structure by the time of the Map of 1905. During the early-C20 expansion of the school modifications were made to the 1849 school building and the covered playground.

The school continued to expand and be adapted to suit changing needs in the mid-C20, and a cupola to the main school room was removed. In 1959 Exeter College took over the site when the school was relocated elsewhere. In the early C21 the 1909 buildings were replaced and the C19 buildings were renovated. The covered playground was also restored.

In 2017, the 1849-1873 buildings, known as the Study Centre and St David’s Buildings are in administrative and pastoral use by Exeter College.

Reasons for Listing

The former Hele’s School (St David’s Buildings and The Study Centre) at Exeter College, Exeter, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:
* For its Gothic Revival design by John Hayward and additions by Ashworth and Harbottle, which created a strong set of buildings using quality materials and craftsmanship;
* The covered playground is a rare survival;
* While parts of the building have been adapted to serve changing needs and uses, the level of survival of the principal spaces of the school is good, illustrating their original function;
* Some quality fittings and fixtures survive including cast-iron window glazing, stair balustrades and other joinery.

Historic interest:
* Elize Hele, from whose bequest the school was endowed, was the Treasurer of James I and a notable land owner in south and west Devon in the C17;
* Architects John Hayward and Edward Ashworth were two of the most prolific church and public building architects in Devon in the mid-C19.

Group Value:

* The buildings form an established group of mid-C19 school buildings in a legible form;
* There is further group value with adjacent listed buildings, namely Attwill’s Almshouses and its front wall (both Grade II) and the Equestrian Statue of Redvers Buller (Grade II).

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