North Devon Athenaeum
Discover & Explore North Devon’s Rich Past

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The Story So Far...

History

Founded in 1888 by William Frederick Rock, the North Devon Athenæum was designed to replace the Barnstaple Literary and Scientific Institute he had set up in 1845. The North Devon Athenaeum was designed to be a free library and museum for the local area. Situated on the Square in Barnstaple the Athenæum also became an unofficial record office for the town as well.  

There were to be no separate reading rooms for men and women as Rock believed it would only encourage the women to gossip! The Librarian was expected to live on site and this continued until the 1930’s.

In 1956 the Devon County Library Service moved into the ground floor of the building from more cramped premises in Bridge Buildings.  The arrangement continued until the plans were drawn up for the Library and Record Office now in Tuly Street.

In 1988 the Athenæum library moved into the newly purpose built North Devon Library and Record Office where it made up one third of a local studies library along with the North Devon Record Office and North Devon Local Studies Library.

The Museum Items belonging to the North Devon Athenaeum remained behind on loan to the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon which had been purchased for the purpose by the District Council.

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