About us

The Devon and Exeter Institution is a flourishing Independent Library and Educational Charity which is open to new members of all ages.

We are open from Monday -Friday 9.30-5.00pm and on Saturdays from 10am – 4pm.

Our founders established the Institution in 1813:

‘…for promoting 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.’

We became an educational charity in 1989.   Our Charitable Objects are:

  • ‘The advancement of public education particularly in the History, Literature and Arts of the County of Devon, the City of Exeter and of the South West of England generally and particularly by the provision and maintenance of a Library, Reading Rooms and educational facilities’
  • ‘The advancement of heritage by the preservation of number 7 Cathedral Close Exeter for the public benefit as a building of historic and architectural interest and value’

The library holds 35,000 volumes and many thousands of maps, prints, pamphlets, cuttings and leaflets.  The library is deemed of national importance as an intact collection in its original setting.  The DEI is also a living library and books specific to the history of Devon and the Southwest continue to be acquired.  The building and collections are undergoing conservation to preserve them for future generations.

We have an extensive Programme of activities inspired by our collection and building.   From academic lectures to schools sessions  to creative activities for families,  we hope there is something for everyone.

The Institution occupies historic premises at the heart of Exeter in Cathedral Close.  Adapted from what was once the townhouse of the Courtenay family, the library is housed in two elegant Georgian rooms which provide space for research and reading, educational activities, cultural events and lectures.

The Institution has a close working relationship with the University of Exeter and there is a bookable meeting room enjoying beautiful views of the Cathedral and a charming members’ dining room.

The Institution is cherished by members and visitors alike for its calm and peaceful atmosphere in the midst of a busy city.

We are open for public tours on Wednesday afternoons form 1pm – 4pm.

To find out more about joining us, go to our membership page.