Editor Des

Editor Des


Hello, this is Editor Des back from the West Country of Olde England.  I’ve chosen this little piece because I liked the story Pauline told me about the nursery rhyme and the 15th century cathedral clock at Exeter.

I’m sure you know you how it goes;

 Hickory dickory dock, the mouse ran up the clock. The clock struck one, the mouse ran down, hickory dickory dock.

Anyway, the saying  goes that mice used to sneak into  the clock to nibble on the fat used to lubricate the  workings.  Now at some point during  the 17th century the Bishop owned  a cat, and he cut a hole in the door below the great  clock face so that the cat could  ea… well let’s be kind and  say chase the little wretches  away!  And this inspired the rhyme!!

Here’s the astronomical clock, and the door with the cat hole;



15thC  astronomical clock, Exeter Cathedral

15thC astronomical clock, Exeter Cathedral


17thC cat hole  in the old clock door.

17thC cat hole in the old clock door.

Thank you Desmond, you told that quite well.


There’s something else of interest in the cathedral. It’s the tomb of Bishop Lacy.  After the bishop  died in 1455 pilgrims flocked to the tomb, where miraculous cures were said to take place.  Now  I don’t really believe in miracles but I must confess to  touching the tomb just in case.  A bit hypocritical of me I suppose, but I have a rather nasty auto-immune condition and thought it was worth a try… I’ll let you know if there’s anything wonderful to report!

Touching Bishop Lacy's Tomb

Touching Bishop Lacy’s Tomb

Of course there are lots of superb architectural  features in the cathedral, including  the magnificent vaulted ceiling, the 15th century Great  East Window and the  Chapter House.  I also loved  the 14th century Bishop’s throne, made from Devon oak without the use of nails. It’s an incredible 18 metres tall; that’s 59ft for my English friends who haven’t quite come to terms with metrics. (I’m sorry, but you haven’t!)  However this blog is about some of the oddities , as I am a bit odd myself.

For instance, there’s a set of  carved misericord seats that are the oldest in the country, and everyone loves the  13th century elephant. I do too.

A very old elephant!

A very old elephant!


Living in cracks within the outer walls of the cathedral  are spiders called  Segesria  florentina   (yes they’re of Italian extraction). Oddly enough, they  are nocturnal and have  luminous green fangs. Sometimes one will venture out if you gently touch its  tubular web.  Don’t get too close though as it has a very painful bite.

The Tube spider; beware!

The  Cathedral Tube spider; beware!

I suppose I shouldn’t end on such a scary note.  However, it might encourage people to say their prayers!

What is your favourite cathedral? And do you know of a special feature you could share with us?  Leave your comments below and we will be ever so pleased. BUT DO THE LITTLE SUM FIRST.   Pauline and Editor Des.


  1. Hello Editor Des. Thanks for coming to my city and telling me something I didn’t know! I’d never heard that sotry before. (Say hi to the waifs for me when Pauline’s not looking.)

    Pauline, did we not mention Bishop Lacy/Lacey when you were with us? There is a publ named after him here in Chudleigh and the remains of his palace are in the field near Chudleigh Rocks.

    Lovely to meet you and Dr Bob. See you next time. Ex

    • Pauline

      Hello Elizabeth, I’m glad you liked my nursery rhyme history. Pauline tried to leave the waifs on a stall in Tavistock pannier’s market but I rescued them and they are safely back at Maidenhead! Editor Des. xx

      Yes, you did tell us about Bishop Lacy’s palace. Perhaps I should visit the pub…strong drink connected with the holy man might produce a cure! It was a delight spend time with you in lovely Devon! Pauline & Rob xx

  2. Right, that’s Exeter Cathedral off the list for a return visit – I didn’t know about the spiders last time I was there!
    My favourite ‘old’ cathedral is Durham – sitting high on an island and with wonderful acoustics. I attended an organ recital there and Elgar’s Nimrod made the flagstones vibrate.
    A ‘more modern’ cathedral, also with wonderful acoustics, that I love is Coventry. Beautiful stained glass with vibrant blue that, it seems, can only be seen in stained glass. But there’s etched glass, polished wood and metal as part of the fabric too. It was controversial when it opened and it’s not everyone’s taste but I think it does manage to merge modern and spiritual successfully.

    • Pauline

      Oh, have never been to Durham Cathedral, will have to put it on my list. Yes, I love Coventry too..so moving since it stands beside the bombed ruins of the old one.

      Dear Christine, unless you go to Exeter at night-time and stick your finger in a crack in the cathedral wall you should be quite safe, Editor Des xx PS – It’s not like Australia where spiders jump on you for no reason like the giant huntsman that bit Pauline, ha ha. Mind you, she did nearly drown him.

  3. What a lovely fascinating place! 🙂


  4. That’s an excellent story, Des, and I hope you will continue to a) protect the sensibilities of mice and b) look after the waifs.

    Those spiders sound icky! How did they get there? Any pilgrimages to Rome and back?

    I have two favourite cathedrals. Durham, because it is so old, and has Bede and Cuthbert. The museum in the crypt is almost beyond belief, with Cuthbert’s coffin, and manuscripts and other artefacts from the anglo-saxon period. My other fave is York, because it’s massive, and everything a cathedral should be. I actually like Wells, too, because of the setting and the fabulous domestic-scene medieval carvings.

    • Pauline

      There is a terrible cloud hanging over the waifs Emeralda. That’s all I can say. I don’t really like cathedrals but Pauline loves Salisbury because she read Old Sarum and she visited the Chapter House and went up the spire etc. Her Aunty from Tasmania liked York because of the story about the Bishop and the curse and the cathedral catching fire from the candle. Pauline loved the Rose window.

      I think the spiders came over in a carton of pizza.

      That’s two votes for Durham so far and we haven’t been there yet. Des xx

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