Our Big Project

In 2019 Exeter Community Centre Trust (a community-based registered charity working from a Grade 2 listed building in the St David’s neighbourhood in Exeter), was awarded funding by National Lottery Heritage Fund to refurbish the derelict top floor of Exeter Community Centre to bring it back into community use. The project is called ‘Our Big Project’.

When the St David’s community set up a charitable Trust and re-opened the doors of Exeter Community Centre in 2012, it became clear that the £1.6 million raised for refurbishment was not going to be enough to refurbish the Centre’s derelict top floor. After 6 years of operating, the number of activities in the Centre had grown so much that it became obvious that the top floor needed to be brought into play, so that even more activities could be offered to the community.

Additionally, we were often told by visitors that the Centre building stretches so far along St David’s Hill that somehow it was almost too big to notice!

So our ‘Our Big Project’ came about, with 2 main aims:

  1. To keep an interesting heritage building in good repair, so that it can continue to be a community hub for activities in St David’s and Exeter
  2. To engage people in learning about the history of the Centre – as a Georgian merchant’s house through its donation in Victorian times as a School for the Blind – and to give people the opportunity to learn more about the history of St David’s Neighbourhood – a very special part of the City.

We were successful in gaining grants to achieve ‘Our Big Project’ from National Lottery Heritage Fund, Power to Change, Exeter City Council, the Co-Operative Fund, Viridor Credits and other smaller charitable trusts and funders – for which we are very grateful.

The timescale for ‘Our Big Project’ is:

September 2020 Launch ‘Our Big Project’, in conjunction with Heritage Open Days 2020
September 2020 Recruit a volunteer ‘Community Research’ team to research the history and heritage of Exeter Community Centre and St David’s
October 2020 Community Research begins, in line with the 4 main project themes:
  1. The Community Centre and St David’s (its history and heritage)
  2. Plants, Parks and Pleasure grounds (including local links with the Veitch family of famous Victorian plant hunters)
  3. Death, Epidemics and Disease (including the plague in Exeter and cholera epidemic of 1830s)
  4. The Changing Face of Charity (including charity of the Exeter Guilds and religious orders, Victorian benefactors, through to modern charity)
February 2021 Complete the restoration of the top floor of the Community Centre providing: 8 new rooms, 2 kitchenettes, and 3 toilets (all areas accessible).
May 2021 Research period ends. Bring together the research produced and, with the help of Dr Todd Gray and other history specialists, develop it into an online archive that can be researched online, or by touchscreen in the Centre
Summer 2021 We create a St David’s Trail for visitors and recruit volunteer community trail guides to lead the Trails

Experience the ‘Big Project’ story so far…

We have held a series of Illustrated History and Heritage Talks in 2020/2021, primarily to support the community research programme, but of interest to anyone curious about the history of St David’s and Exeter, including:

  1. Our Big Project launch event, an illustrated talk on the parish of St David’s with renowned authority on the history of Exeter, Dr Todd Gray. View the talk on our YouTube channel here.
  2. Getting Started with your Family History, an illustrated talk with Sue Bond, Research Coordinator at Devon Family History Society.
    View the talk on our YouTube channel here.
  3. The Veitch Nurseries of Exeter, an illustrated talk with Caradoc Doy, authority on this remarkable family of horticulturalists, and their Victorian plant hunters – coming to our YouTube channel soon

The St David’s Symphony of Sounds

Local composer and musician, Philip Robinson recorded sounds from our neighbourhood over the Summer: people, places, inside, and outside. The soundscape was broadcast outside the Centre as one of our launch events in September 2020. The community were invited to come by and hear the intriguing sonic map, to have a listen, and lend an ear… You can access the 4 movement (21 minute recordings) at the links below - headphones recommended!

Movement 1
Movement 2
Movement 3
Movement 4

How to get involved

We will be recruiting for further volunteer roles during 2021, including St David’s trail guides, and event welcomers, in addition to holding a series of community events.

If you would like to stay in touch with ‘Our Big Project’ events at the Centre you can follow us on our social media channels here:

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

If you would like to know more about the ways in which you can get involved, or would like to find out more about the project, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Karen Cunningham via the contact page of this website or on 01392 420549.