21 The Mint Rescue and Restoration
In 1995 it was discovered that the refectory wing of St Nicholas Priory was on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk register. EHBT was founded the following year and a feasibility study was commissioned. Significant grants were secured from the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage. Further grants and donations were obtained from Exeter City Council, The Leche Trust, The Steele Trust and local organisations and individuals.
A full programme of archaeological recording formed part of the restoration work.
Restoration was a roller-coaster of highs and lows. The Trust was able to secure a 125 year lease at a peppercorn rent from the owners, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Plymouth, in 1998. As be-grimed layers of cladding, lath and plaster and limewash and wallpaper, applied over the last four centuries, were painstakingly peeled away, the almost complete survival of the medieval priory refectory was revealed, together with many other significant, exciting and magical discoveries, eg the discovery of a medieval carved and painted oak screen. The process of carrying out the restoration was a minefield of requirements and very hard work, punctuated by considerable setbacks. Seven years on in June 2002, the Grade II* listed 21 The Mint was officially opened.
The former Refectory range of the 11th century St Nicholas Priory, now includes a delightful first-floor apartment and a house over three storeys – with a host of historic features, is tenanted. The Trust retains the large room under the handsome 15th-century arch-braced roof as an office and meeting room. It is frequently open to visitors, featuring on the City’s Red Coat guided tours. The Trust also retains the courtyard (former cloister) garden.