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  • Writer's pictureWellbeing Exeter

Guided Tour of Devon & Exeter Institution

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

The Devon & Exeter Institution in Cathedral Close is open every Wednesday from 1pm to 4pm for free tours. It is well worth a visit to have a look around. It is an independent library and educational charity, established in 1813 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’.


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 galleries 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 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 building and all it's history, plus the smell of old books, is fascinating. They hold lots of interesting events, some of which are open to non-members. And also offer reasonably priced lunches in the Courtenay Room every Wednesday and the first and third Saturdays of the month. #DEI #library


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3 King William Street, Exeter

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