We’re currently closed. Following the Government’s roadmap announcement we’re making plans for a spring reopening.
Devon Heritage Centre holds all types of historical archives relating to the county of Devon and the City of Exeter (excluding Plymouth.) They include records of churches and chapels, of county, district and parish councils and of many families, estates, schools and other organisations. The popular West Country Studies Library is also located here.
In this section you’ll find information about visiting the Devon Heritage Centre and how to access its research resources.
How to Find Us
Please see our Directions page for our current How to Find Us instructions, as well as information about local and public transport.
The Devon Heritage Centre is open for research visits from Tuesday 4 August. Visits must be booked in advance.
o The opening days are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
o There are two bookable sessions each day. These are from 10.00 am to 1.00 pm and 2.00 pm to 4.30 pm. There is a limit of 6 people per session at each centre.
We issue South West Heritage Trust readers’ tickets which are valid for four years. If you have not visited us before, please bring some form of identification containing your name, current address and signature (for example a driving licence, utility bill and other ID with signature) so we can issue you with one of our readers’ tickets.
South West Heritage Trust readers’ tickets are valid at Devon Heritage Centre, Somerset Heritage Centre, North Devon Record Office and the North Somerset archive service.
Please be aware that we do not accept passports, tickets from The National Archives or library cards. We are not part of the CARN ticket scheme and do not accept CARN tickets.
If your card has expired please bring some identification with you when you visit, so we can issue you with a new readers’ ticket.
Which Record Office Should I Visit?
Devon has three repositories which hold archives:
- Devon Heritage Centre at Sowton, Exeter
– Plymouth and West Devon Record Office at Plymouth (run by Plymouth Council)
As each holds collections relating to its own geographical area, it is important to check before making a visit where the records you wish to see are held. The following information will help you decide which of these three best suits your own research needs. If you have any further queries about the location of a particular collection, please contact Devon Archives and Local Studies by email, firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone, 01392 888700.
The most commonly used archive items – Church of England parish registers for the whole of Devon, Plymouth and Torbay – have been microfilmed. All three of the above repositories have a full set of these either on microfiche or microfilm. Some registers, particularly those that have been recently deposited, are not filmed, and in this case it is necessary to visit the record office which holds the original.
Many Church of England parish registers have been digitised and are available online via Find My Past. Free access to Find My Past is provided at all three offices and a small number of Devon Libraries.
Microfiche of some other filmed sources such as non-conformist registers, Bishops’ Transcripts and tithe maps and apportionments are also available at all three offices. Microfiche of filmed electoral registers, land tax assessments and the Inland Revenue wills series are available at both the Devon Heritage Centre and North Devon Record Office.
Devon Heritage Centre in Exeter generally holds collections which relate to the whole county, including the Diocesan records, county Quarter Sessions and County Council collections. This includes estate and family collections, and solicitors’ collections which cover more than one area of Devon. Most of these records are not filmed or digitised, and are only available in their original format. The West Country Studies Library, which contains the county collection of local history material is also available at the Devon Heritage Centre. It includes published books, manuscript volumes, pamphlets, journals, maps, prints, engravings, photographs, newspapers and various files relating to local parish and family history.
The North Devon Record Office holds collections from churches and chapels, borough courts, solicitors, estates and families, local authorities and poor law unions, hospitals, clubs, societies and charities, businesses and schools in the North Devon area. Some collections which were previously held at Exeter have been transferred to the North Devon Record Office since 1988. The Local Studies collection relating to North Devon is also available. The North Devon Athenaeum, which is a private library also shares the searchroom facilities.
Plymouth and West Devon Record Office is run by Plymouth Council. It holds archives relating to the city of Plymouth and some West Devon parishes, as well as several other South Devon parishes close to Plymouth. Local Studies collections relating to Plymouth and its surrounding area are held separately. The Local Studies Collections include resources useful to anyone researching naval history, including books, periodicals and illustrations relating to the history of the Royal Navy and its presence in Plymouth.
The majority of our catalogues can be viewed online from our Online Catalogues. This provides access to catalogues for items held at the Devon Heritage Centre and North Devon Record Office.
In the searchbox that appears, type any keywords, and click search. The results can be ordered by Relevance, Reference Number or Date depending on your preference. To view a catalogue description in detail click on the reference number of the item in which you are interested. Further guidance on searching the online catalogue can be found in the ‘Help’ section of the Online Catalogue, or by clicking the question mark logos scattered around the page.
Handling Original Documents
Please treat all documents with care. When using original documents or microfiche, use a pencil at all times. Do not place your notebook or sleeve on top of the document, or lean on it. This applies to maps as well as volumes and loose documents. Cushions and foam wedge supports are provided for supporting the spines of open volumes, and to prop them up at a convenient angle for reading. Weights are provided to hold maps and other documents flat where necessary. We do not recommend the use of cotton gloves for handling documents, but these can be provided if they are needed in particular cases. Please return the cushions, foam supports and weights after use to the table or shelf where they are stored.
Looking at Local Studies Material
All of the West Country Studies Library materials which were once on open access in the former reading room at Castle Street, Exeter are stored on open shelves in the Devon Heritage Centre searchroom. Our searchroom staff can advise you on the location of material and help you find it.
The local studies material formerly held in the stack at Castle Street, Exeter is now held in strongrooms at the Devon Heritage Centre. You may order these local studies materials at the searchroom desk on arrival, once you have identified the shelf reference. Our searchroom staff can help you do this.
Please contact us before you visit if you would like to see unfilmed hard-copy newspapers.
You can bring in a camera to take photographs of documents, as long as you purchase a photographic licence from the main reception. Charges apply for Daily, Weekly, Monthly and Annual Licences. Please see our Charges Page for more information.
Photographs of original documents must be for personal use or research. If you wish to exhibit, reproduce or publish a photographic print or an image of a document in printed form, or publish it on a website, please inform us. We can identify and contact the document/photograph owner, and the copyright owner for permission, or assist you to do this yourself. If you do not inform us that you are intending to reproduce or publish an item held in our archives to which copyright applies, you will be infringing the laws of copyright.
The use of hand-held scanners is not permitted.
Our Kiosk computers provide access to a range of websites to help with your research.
If you know of any suitable websites that are not currently available, please speak to a member of staff. Once agreed, new websites will normally be available within a week.
Please note, we do not provide general access to the internet through these computers. Our public Wi-Fi is available if you wish to use your own device.
Copying of Microfiche & Microfilm
In addition to reader printers available in the searchroom, we also have a microfilm & microfiche digital scanner. Prints can be made from the digital images. Please see our Charges Page for more information. Alternatively, you can save the digital images to your own USB stick, but you will need to have purchased a photo permit from reception before doing this. The same photo permit also allows photography of any original documents during your visit.
The digital scanner can also be used for sources provided on CD-Rom, including digital books and parish register indexes.
Please leave any bags, luggage or bulky coats in the lockers or on the coat rack available in the locker room. Laptops, notebooks, wallets, glasses etc. are permitted in the searchroom. We can supply a clear transparent plastic bag to hold these items.
Outside the entrance there are two machines which dispense hot and cold drinks and snacks.
Researchers can bring their own laptops. There are power points on searchroom tables and next to microfiche readers. Wifi access is available. Please note laptop bags must be stored in the lockers provided.
Devon Heritage Centre users can park in the front car park although the availability of spaces is often very limited and spaces are not marked out specifically for Devon Heritage Centre (DHC) users.
The car park is for the use of visitors and DHC staff and users. DHC users can park in any non-designated spaces. Spaces are reserved and marked for South West Heritage Trust staff, occupational health attendees (Wellbeing@work) and for disabled visitors.
Disabled Parking:- There are some disabled parking spaces in the Great Moor House car park and the entrance is accessible via a ramp which leads to the main entrance, or via a wheelchair lift situated at the corner of the building. All public areas in the Devon Heritage Centre are on the ground floor.
It is free to visit the Devon Heritage Centre in person to look at the documents and other materials we hold, and to receive general advice about your research.
There are a range of charges for copying, for the use of private cameras, for detailed research, conservation work and outreach services. Please see our Charges Page for more information.
Service Points provide a vital resource to people who find it difficult to travel to the Devon Heritage Centre or the North Devon Record Office. They are generally located in museums, libraries or heritage centres, and hold microfiche and microfilm copies of historical records for the areas which they cover. These include parish registers of baptisms, marriages and burials, while some of them hold microfiche copies of tithe maps and apportionments (showing land ownership and use in about 1840), non-conformist registers and some other records of the local area. Some Service Points also have internet access and hold a range of printed source material.
Please see our Service Points page
For more information please contact us
Tel: 01392 888700