The first Mint chapel was opened in March 1813, on the site of a disused Arian (Unitarian) Meeting House, originally built in 1720. Some 65 years later, in 1878, the trustees purchased the graveyard and the Oatsheaf Inn (with its stables and brewhouse), demolishing these in 1894 to form the wide entrance to Fore Street we see today.

The chapel was built on a grand scale. Its design reflected the taste of traditional “Church Methodists” who cherished their links to the Church of England. Try to imagine walking along the narrow streets of Exeter, crowds confined by the city wall and then finding yourself turning off from Mint Lane through a portico into a vestibule where there were steps to the gallery. This gallery encircled three sides. There was a tall central pulpit for the sermon, a Clerk’s desk below for the reading of the prayers, and a communion table behind the pulpit in an apse on the far wall. (The apse and the inscriptions are still there and may be seen behind the green curtains.) Initially, singing was led by fiddles, flutes and a few singers. The organ was added in the 1830s.

As a result of the Trustees’ ambitious building scheme, the Mint chapel started life with a debt of about ten times the amount raised during the year of building. In the ensuing years, various financial efforts, evidenced in the accounts, were launched to cope with this debt. Despite the debt, school buildings were put up from time to time and the chapel was lengthened.

The original Mint Methodist Church, 1813-1965

The chapel was rebuilt and enlarged in 1867. This renovated chapel remained in use until a structural survey in 1965 declared the roof unsafe. Ironically, this was due to the structural additions made during the enlargement. There was subsidence and the truss holding the roof above the gallery had curved, the walls cracked and the church was slipping into the burial vaults. A decision was taken to build a modern city church on the site. Services were moved to St Mary’s Major.

The ‘new’ Mint we see today utilises a ‘chevron’ design which breaks the monotony of a rectangular box. This aesthetic also represented the Trinity, the ‘chevron’ being a form of triangle. A variety of materials were used and this ‘cacophony’ of materials was selected to reflect the outward spirit of the church, with glass from the Cotswold, afrormosia wood in the finish and ivory muhuhu in the herring-bone floor panels. The Mint was opened on 31 October 1970 free of debt.

In 2010 a further major redevelopment project was completed. The Mint now has a new reception area, full mobility access with lifts and disabled toilets, state of the art kitchen, new AV suite, gallery and lighting. The Mint now operates as a busy community resource, open for a wide range of community activities from 9.30 am to 9.30 pm, Monday to Friday.

Today, the Mint has a membership of over 230 representing a dozen nationalities, including a Korean language congregation.

It continues to adapt to fresh challenges.

Do look out for:

  • The portrait of John Wesley. The oak drop leaf table on which John Wesley stood while preaching in Southernhay.

  • The harvest decorations. This marks the onset of autumn, when the mint celebrates with a Harvest dance and gives thanks for God’s bounty and provision. Wall-hangings and posters. These are the handiwork of many who form the community at the Mint. There is Sunday school, a mother and toddlers group, a luncheon club, a walking group, hospital visitation teams and so on.
  • The pulpit. This is made in afromosia wood from West Africa and is a reminder of the Mint’s international links. The members of this church support schools and missions throughout the world. There is a world map marked with the Mint’s international affiliations near the West wall.
  • Significant Dates:
  • Sep 1739 First visit by John and Charles Wesley to Exeter. John preached at St Mary’s.
  • 1808 Exeter made head of a Circuit
  • 1810 The Arian meeting house became empty when the few members moved joined George’s Meeting in South Street.
  • Mar 1813 New Methodist chapel on Mint-lane opened.
  • 1834 Organ installed. Paid for by donations.
  • 1841 Membership stood at 1,043.
  • 1846 A day-school for boys opened. In 1853, one for girls was opened. Both operated until 1938.
  • 1859 Debt from building expenses finally cleared.
  • 1965 The roof was declared unsafe.
  • 1970 The new Mint church opened.
  • 2010 Latest redevelopment scheme complete
With thanks to Wilson Wong for this brief history of the Mint (originally written in 2005)

References

  • Beardsall, T. (1977). The Mint Methodist Church Exeter.
  • Chick, E. (1907). A History of Methodism in Exeter and the neighbourhood from the year 1739 until 1907.
  • Le Messurier, B. (1962). A History of the Mint Methodist Church, Exeter.