St Mary Arches Church Exeter after the Blitz

This watercolour and charcoal work on paper was produced by British artist Dennis Flanders (1915-1994). It depicts an interior view of St Mary Arches Church in Exeter in 1942, following German bombing on 4th May. Flanders’ work accurately depicts the severe damage taken, depicting the Church with piles of debris, scorch marks on the walls and columns, and a large hole in the roof. Located at the top of Fore Street in Exeter, the original building dated from the 12th century. Despite the wartime damage, it still retains its Norman windows and arches today.

Flanders specialised in pen and ink drawings, often of English landscapes and buildings. During the Second World War, he enlisted in the British Army in 1942, where he worked at the School of Military Engineering in Ripon. Flanders then went on to work at Welbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire, where he made models of buildings and landscapes based on aerial reconnaissance photographs. He applied for a commission with the War Artists’ Advisory Committee and was unsuccessful, although the Committee did purchase several drawings from him.

The present piece is an example of Flanders’ wartime work, which concentrated mainly on depicting bomb damaged buildings and churches. It was produced after bombing by the German Luftwaffe destroyed much of Exeter’s historic buildings in the city centre in April and May 1942. These raids were part of the ‘Baedeker Blitz’, a series of attacks on English cities of cultural and historic significance, which included Exeter, Bath, Canterbury and Norwich. Planned in response to an increase in RAF bombing in Germany, the raids were intended as retaliatory measures, with the hope of forcing the RAF to reduce their actions and destroying British civilian morale. They are said to have derived from the popular travel guide ‘Baedeker’s Great Britain’, as German propagandist said on 24 April 1942 “We shall go out and bomb every building in Britain marked with three stars in the Baedeker Guide.”

Object Summary

Accession Loan No.
Fine Art
Collection Class
watercolour and charcoal on paper
Common Name
St Mary Arches Church Exeter after the Blitz
Simple Name
Inscription Transcription
Dennis Flanders 1942; 50 Chelmsford Road, Woodford, London E18; passed for publication 26 May 1942
Period Classification
World War II (1939-1945)
Production Town

Production County
Production Country
United Kingdom: England
Production Date
Production Person Initials
Production Person Surname
Production Year Low

Production Year High

View Full Details

St Mary Arches Church, Exeter, after the Blitz