The Church and the Cemetery
The first Chaplain appointed by the Hospital was Rev. G. T. Lewis in December 1845, at a salary of £150 per year. In 1857, due to the amount of work he performed over a long period of time, his salary was increased from £175 to £200 per year. The services were held in a room between Male and Female Wards VI which was decided to be inadequate. The Church was felt to be important, as the patient numbers had risen to 700.
A Church was built halfway up the drive, on the right. It was designed by Joseph Neale. The first service was held on 7th December 1876. It had 420 places and cost £2,600 to build. Stained glass was used for all the windows at a cost of £190. These windows were provided by Messrs. Horwood Bros. of Frome, and Mr F Drake of Exeter. The pipe organ was installed shortly after the opening of the Church by Mr Phillpott of Exeter.
In 1878, Rev. Lewis commented on the gas lighting in the church - an advantage, as it not only lit up the Church but it supplied heat too. Also, in this year the Mortuary Chapel was built and the Cemetery enlarged. In 1883 the Rev. Lewis referred to “the small choir of boys” but a few years later he was proud to refer to them as “the choir formed of staff and patients”. He died in 1889, after 44 years of service.
In 1900, it was decided to run a 2” steam pipe direct from the Boiler House to heat the Church.
The Great War saw the death of 10 male nurses. A memorial tablet was placed in the Church to commemorate their sacrifice. Also, in 1916, the Rev. J. B. Williams died. He was only the second chaplain appointed since the Hospital opened - a period of 71 years. He was succeeded by the Rev. J. C. James who then resigned from the post in 1922 and was succeeded by the Rev. I. W. Eliot.
1923 saw works carried out to the interior of the Church roof which was cleaned and varnished and kneelers were provided. Collections were introduced which enabled altar vases and vestments to be purchased and a chancel screen was erected.
Although the Chapels within the Exe Vale Group - Exminster, Digby and Wonford House - were Church of England, The Management Committee took great care in acknowledging the various religious beliefs of patients and were strong in encouraging the sharing facilities of the chapels within the Exe Vale Group and all denominations held services in the chapels.
From 1968, each of the hospitals within the Exe Vale Group had a part-time Chaplain (Church of England, Roman Catholic and Non-conformist) and regular services were held on the wards as well as the churches.
Since the closure of the Hospital, the Church has become an independent preparatory school for boys and girls aged 3 - 7 years.
The Hospital Cemetery was situated opposite the Boiler House, in close proximity to the Nurses' Home.
In 1878, the original proposal was to build a new Cemetery, north of the Hospital but the site was not approved by the Commissioners. It was later decided to extend the Cemetery to the East. Also in 1878, the Bishop of Exeter, Dr. Frederic Temple, consecrated the new land as well as the original burial ground. The further extension was consecrated by the Bishop of Crediton in 1935. The stone wall which stands on the south side of the Cemetery dates back to 1845 as the boundary wall of the original cemetery.
The Cemetery was multi-denominational, mainly due to the fact that many patients did not have a family to organise a funeral for them.
In 1963, 17 patients were buried in one week in the Hospital cemetery because of the flu epidemic. The last patient was buried there in the 1970s.
A touching tribute is to be seen in the Exminster Parish Churchyard, which reads as follows:
'This stone was erected to the memory of John Bethrey, Head Attendant of the Devon County Asylum by the Officers, Attendants and Servants of the Asylum as a mark of respect for his character as a faithful servant and kind fellow attendant. He died December 12th, 1865, aged 50.'