The West Country Studies Library holds published works relating to all aspects of Devon life and on the wider west country, including books, pamphlets, maps, journal articles and illustrations.
In this section find out how you can access this incredible collection, and information about the resources.
About Devon Local Studies
The West Country Studies Library was opened on 22 October 1975. It was created from the local studies collection of the old Exeter City Library which had been held in the Exeter City Reference Library, and was supplemented from the collection of local studies material held at the Devon County Library, Barley House. Most of the latter collection was eventually used to form the core book stock of Barnstaple Local Studies Library. The West Country Studies Library joined with the Devon Record Office in 2012 to become Devon Archives and Local Studies. The collection includes more than 45,000 published works relating to the history, people and places of Devon, and over 27,000 illustrations of the county, along with a collection of newspapers, maps and ephemera. Since 2014 the West Country Studies Library has been located at the Devon Heritage Centre.
Accessing the Library
Some of the local studies collections at the Devon Heritage Centre are on open access shelves in the searchroom. The items which are held in the strongrooms may be ordered either in advance or on the day. There are no access restrictions to items in the library. Please see our Planning a Visit page for more information.
We may be able to answer an enquiry by telephone, letter or email, though longer enquires should be directed to the Research Service.
Devon and Somerset Local Studies Catalogue
Explore books, pamphlets, maps, journal articles and illustrationsExplore Local Studies
Local Studies Resources
The West Country Studies Library contains published works relating to all aspects of Devon life. The books are arranged on the open searchroom shelves by Dewey number and include a topographical collection by county and place. There is also a substantial collection of books held in the strongrooms.
The searchroom library shelves are self-service and books may be freely used by researchers during their visit. The collection is for reference use only and may not be borrowed. Please ask staff if you cannot find what you are looking for.
The Devon Heritage Centre has a local newspaper coverage for every year from 1737 to 2012. Newspapers are held on microfilm and are available for access in the searchroom, and can be viewed and printed using a microfilm reader. Some newspapers are held in hard copy in the strongrooms. If the newspaper you require is not held on microfilm, ask staff at the searchroom desk for availability. An index to Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post (1763 – 1885) is available on index cards.
Parish Cutting Files
There are parish cuttings files for most of the parishes in Devon. They are mostly made up of newspaper cuttings from the Express and Echo, and Western Morning News newspapers, but often contain other material, including entries from the county histories Lyson and Polwhele, donated research and illustrations.
The open searchroom shelves contain useful guides and aids to research, with the following resources:
County and Town Trade Directories: These list the cities, towns, villages and hamlets of the county with a brief description of the area, including noble families, agriculture, charities and churches. County directories are available from 1823 to 1939, but a complete coverage of all parishes is not available until White’s directory for 1850. For some of the larger towns, eg. Exeter, there are directories after 1939.
Wills transcriptions by Moger and Murry: These are arranged alphabetically by surname, and were compiled before WWII, when the probate office was destroyed. These are held along with indexes to wills (although the wills mentioned may not have survived the Blitz).
How-To Guides: Researching family, house and local history will always bring to light problems that cannot be solved easily. These guides deal with specific issues, including how to read different types of record, how to research an ancestor, or how to use specific types of resources.
Illustrations and Photographs
A collection of over 27,000 prints, drawing and photographs can be accessed online through the Local Studies Catalogue.
These include a collection of topographical prints dating from between 1660 and 1870, compiled by Somers Cocks, and drawings and paintings of the county of Devon. These illustrations were digitised as part of a project called Etched on Devon’s Memory.
A large collection of photographs is available from the Express and Echo newspaper, which we are in the process of cataloguing and making available online. We also hold some illustrations of Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset.
The following periodicals are available on open access in the searchroom:
- Transactions of the Devonshire Association
– Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries
– Devon Historian
– Devon Family Historian
– Devon and Cornwall Record Society Publications
– Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society
There are also a large number of periodicals available which can be ordered from the strongrooms, including parish magazines, community magazines, and county magazines.
Library of the Devon and Cornwall Record Society
The library of the Devon and Cornwall Record Society is held on open access in the searchroom. It contains a collection of transcribed parish registers for Devon and Cornwall, along with marriage indexes for both counties. It also contains a collection of books donated to and published by the Society. There is also a collection of family and parish files which are not kept on open access, but which can be requested from staff at the searchroom desk.