We are a thriving Independent Historic Library and Educational Charity, welcoming new members of all ages.
We are open as usual: Tuesdays to Fridays 10am-5pm and Saturdays 10am-4pm.
Contact us:
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]

About us

The Devon and Exeter Institution is a thriving Independent Historic Library and Educational Charity, we welcome new members of all ages

The Devon and Exeter Institution is a thriving independent historic library and educational charity in the heart of the city.  Our purpose is to Preserve and Educate and we welcome new members and visitors of all ages.  Our founders established the Institution in 1813, in order to promote ‘the general diffusion of Science, Literature and the Arts’ and this resolution remains at the centre of our cause to this day.

The Past

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.

The Present

Today our two galleried libraries hold a unique historical book collection, virtually unchanged since 1813, and collections of maps, prints, drawings, fine and decorative art. The DEI is also the premier institution collecting books on Devon, particularly in the fields of history and biography. 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.

The DEI has been an Educational Charity since 1989 and enjoys a close working relationship with the University of Exeter and other heritage sites across the city.  We offer meeting rooms for business hire; our beautiful libraries are also available to hire for cultural activities and business events. We are open for public tours every Wednesday afternoon from 1pm – 4pm.

The Future 

Our Vision for the next five years (2021-26) will ensure that:

  • Our outstanding heritage building and research collection is preserved and made fit for contemporary needs
  • We are leading as an educational charity by inspiring and engaging with people of all ages and abilities
  • We are financially resilient and enterprising with a growing membership
  • We have a strong employee and volunteer team which is well led and collaborative
  • We offer an authentic, special and unique member and visitor experience

We are very proud that the Institution is embarking on yet another new chapter in its long and vibrant history. In September 2021, we secured a grant from the National Heritage Lottery Fund for “The Next Chapter”.  This 3-year project will see us upgrade our current spaces facilities, while also making them more accessible; carry out essential conservation work and a collection review; and increase and diversify our educational and events programmes.

The Institution, like many independent libraries, could not do without its wonderful team of volunteers, drawn from its membership, and Exeter University students. The Institution is cherished by members for its calm and peaceful atmosphere in the heart of the city, and its ability to bring a wide range of people together.

About_Us leaflet pdf