The Palace Gate Centre was formerly the Kennaways Wine Warehouse that was used for bottling wines and spirits until the 1970s. We know that the front of the building dates from 1743 as this year is shown in the decorative windows on the ground floor. one of the original windows showing the motif of grapes on a vine on a deep red glass is on display in the Centre reception.
The warehouse was linked with the Kennaways bonded warehouse on the Quay; originally, many buildings in and around South Street had links with the Quay as Exeter was a busy port.
When the warehouse closed in the 1970s, South Street Baptist Church which was next door to Kennaways, took the bold decision to buy it and change it into a community centre to serve the city. This was a change of strategy from the pre-war one of putting up signs opposite the warehouse warning of the evils of drink!
With enormous effort and much sacrifice, the church worked to transform the building and connect it to the Baptist chapel on South Street. The Palace Gate Centre opened its doors in 1979. In partnership with the Baptist Union of Great Britain and other city centre churches South Street initiated new projects and groups, such as the Contact Club and the Palace Gate Project. From this work emerged St Petrock’s work with the homeless, Turntable furniture recycling project, Palace Gate Counselling Service and Exeter Community Initiatives.
The Jigsaw Library, deaf community and many anonymous (12 Step) groups found a home here and are still with us.
Today, we continue to seek to offer the Centre to the city as a place where all are welcome to come and seek a deeper peace in their lives as they find help and support to deal with the issues that trouble them. In this way, we believe that we are expressing the unconditional love of God that is being revealed to us in Jesus Christ.
A detail from one of the original Wine Warehouse windows on Palace Gate.
The Palace Gate Centre today, located in one of the most historic parts of Exeter. The double green entrance doors are the original doors of Kennaways Wine Warehouse and we even still have the original key! An original photograph of the Warehouse can be found on the Exeter Memories website.
On display in the Centre reception is one of the original decorative windows with the vine motif, expressing the former life of the building.
A mural painted in the 1970s for the Palace Gate Centre by local artist and church member, Joan Wolkers. Sadly, the mural was lost when the lift was installed. Her painting shows different activities happening in the Centre – a lunch club, games for people of all abilities, children playing at a toddler group and even a discussion group led by the then minister, Revd John Stroud. At the heart of Centre life is the cross representing the incredible love of God – it is bathed in light from the Spirit of the Risen Christ shown as the dove in the South Street Baptist circular window. By his Spirit, the Risen Jesus continues to bring to us light and the hope of transformation.