Devon & Exeter Institution


The Devon and Exeter Institution is a thriving independent library and educational charity in the heart of the city. The founders established the Institution in 1813, in order to promote ‘the general diffusion of Science, Literature and the Arts, and for illustrating the Natural and Civil History of the county of Devon and the History of the City of Exeter’.  This resolution remains at the centre of its strategy to this day. The Institution occupies a Medieval building, originally owned by the Cathedral. It was inherited by the Courtenay family in the 17th Century and used as their town house for over 150 years. In 1814, ‘200 Gentlemen of the City’ took ownership of 7 Cathedral Close and adapted the double-courtyard layout to create two elegant Georgian rooms. These rooms functioned as both library and a museum; museum objects were later donated to form the foundation collection of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in 1868. Today the two galleried libraries hold a unique historical book collection, virtually unchanged, and collections of maps, prints, drawings and their fine and decorative art. The Library and collections lie at the heart of the Institution and provide inspiration and a place for research and reading, educational activities, cultural events and lectures.