Devon Archives and Local Studies Service

On-line Catalogues

Devon Heritage Centre boxes

To find out whether our repositories hold archives or local studies books and materials which are of interest to you, it is necessary to consult catalogues or other finding aids. Many of the catalogues of collections held in Devon Heritage Centre and the two other record offices in Devon are now available online.

Devon Heritage Services Online Archive Catalogue

This catalogue lists and describes the archival collections at the Devon Heritage Centre and North Devon Record Office. The catalogue includes brief general descriptions of most of the collections (both catalogued and uncatalogued) which have been deposited since 1989. We have also added collection-level descriptions of some of the collections deposited before that date. Although content is being added on a regular basis, it will be some time before complete coverage is achieved. Entries from the former Access to Archives catalogue (also known as A2A - which have now been incorporated into The National Archives’ Discovery Catalogue - see below) can also be used to access information about the collections of the two offices. It should be noted that, although the Devon Heritage Services Online Archive Catalogue now duplicates most of the information on the former A2A catalogue site, it also includes details of many collections not covered by it.

Access to Archives Catalogue (now part of Discovery Catalogue)

The Access to Archives project which was funded by the National Lottery fund between 2000 and 2005, resulted in a number of archive catalogues being placed on-line for the first time. The Access to Archives (A2A) on-line database, which was sponsored by the National Archives website, has since 28 October 2014 been incorporated into an upgraded version of The National Archives’ Discovery Catalogue. This includes catalogues of archives cared for in hundreds of local record offices and similar institutions across England, as well as documents held in The National Archives itself.

Between 2000 and 2005, the former Devon Record Office (now known as the Devon Heritage Centre) at Exeter was involved in a number of phases of the Access to Archives project, in some cases in conjunction with other record offices in the south-west of England. As a result, Devon Record Office contributed about 40-50% of its catalogues to the Access to Archives database. North Devon Record Office at Barnstaple, and Plymouth and West Devon Record Office at Plymouth, contributed about 90 to 95% of their catalogues during the same period.

A number of specific theme-based projects resulted in the submission of catalogues of Quarter Sessions records, magistrates records, crew lists, the Inland Revenue wills series, railway and hospital records, and the political correspondence of the Addington family (Viscounts Sidmouth).

The first south-west regional phase of the project, completed in March 2002, was named @ the Heart of the Community, and catalogues of ecclesiastical parish collections, schools and educational organisations were submitted. The second phase of the project, completed in December 2003, was named South West Family Fortunes, and involved submission of some catalogues of family, estate, solicitors and business archives. In the third phase, named South West Access All Areas, a large variety of archive catalogues were sent, including those of non-conformist congregations, District Council and additional Borough Council records, some clubs and societies and additional family, estate and business records. This phase was completed in 2005.

The Access to Archives database has not been added to or altered for some years, and has now become part of the Discovery Catalogue, but note that it is gradually being complemented by on-line catalogues developed by the individual record offices, including that at Devon Heritage Centre.

Catalogues contributed to Access to Archives up to 2005 by the former Devon Record Office (now known as the Devon Heritage Centre), Exeter included:

  • Parish records
  • Non-conformist records
  • Educational records, including school and education department records
  • Estate Duty Wills, 1812-1857
  • Hospital and asylum records
  • Quarter Sessions - County of Devon
  • District Council and Borough Council records
  • Parish Council records
  • Feoffees’ records
  • Court of Petty Sessions [Magistrates' Court] records
  • Records of some families and estates
  • Some solicitors’ records
  • Some other business records
  • Records of some clubs and societies
  • Devon crew lists, 1860-1914
  • Political and personal papers of members of the Addington family, Viscounts Sidmouth [152M]
  • Railway company records

Catalogues contributed to Access to Archives up to 2005 by North Devon Record Office, Barnstaple included:

  • Parish records
  • Non-conformist records
  • Educational records, including school and education department records
  • Hospital records
  • Borough, Town Council and District Council records
  • Barnstaple Quarter Sessions
  • Bideford Bridge Trust
  • Court of Petty Sessions [Magistrates' Courts] records
  • Family and estate records
  • Solicitors’ records
  • Other business records
  • Programmes of North Devon events
  • Railway company records

Information about Plymouth and West Devon Record Office’s catalogues

Dartington Hall Trust Archive Catalogue

Most of the archives of the Dartington Hall Trust are now housed at the Devon Heritage Centre.  Researchers wishing to access material in this collection should first search the Dartington Hall Trust's online catalogue. This was developed by the former archivist at Dartington Hall, and is still the best finding aid to the collections now held at Devon Heritage Centre.

Local Studies Catalogues

These catalogues include local studies books and other materials held in local studies collections at branch libraries all over Devon, as well as the former Westcountry Studies Library local studies collection, which from October 2012 came under the care of Devon Heritage Services and which are now held at the Devon Heritage Centre.   More information

The local studies catalogues listed below are still used to identify local studies books, newspapers and other materials now held at the Devon Heritage Centre. Location codes and references to the Westcountry Studies Library are gradually being changed as opportunity allows, but it is important at present to realise that those items identified in the catalogues as being in Westcountry Studies Library (location code: WSL) are now all held at the Devon Heritage Centre.

Devon and Cornwall Record Society handlist

The Devon and Cornwall Record Society’s collection, formerly held on the mezzanine level at Westcountry Studies Library is now all under the care of Devon Heritage Services at the Devon Heritage Centre, Sowton, Exeter.

National Register of Archives (now part of Discovery Catalogue)

The National Register of Archives (NRA) is maintained by Historical Manuscripts Commission staff based at the National Archives at Kew. Its on-line database, which was sponsored by the National Archives website, has since 28 October 2014 been incorporated into an upgraded version of The National Archives’ Discovery Catalogue. It contains basic information on most known collections of manuscripts and historical records that relate to British history, including personal, family and estate collections, and those of organisations, businesses and other corporate bodies. The on-line register gives a very brief description of the contents and date coverage of these archival holdings and their locations in the United Kingdom and, occasionally, overseas.

Regular additions to the National Register of Archives entries – i.e. now to the Discovery catalogue entries - are made, based on information submitted by record offices and other repositories. Catalogues of collections are sent each year to the National Register of Archives by these repositories. The National Register of Archives currently holds over 44,000 unpublished lists and catalogues. In its annual 'Accessions to Repositories' survey The National Archives also collects information from over two hundred record repositories throughout the British Isles about manuscript deposits received in the previous twelve months. This information is also added to the Discovery Catalogue.

The National Archives has launched the NRA Digitisation Project. The purpose of the project is to digitise 250,000 pages of paper NRA catalogues, and make them available online as .pdf files. The project focuses on repositories which are unable to make their lists available online through any other route.

Other Online Catalogues

Devon newspaper bibliography

This newspaper bibliography was compiled some years ago by former local studies library staff, and has not been updated for some time. It includes historic newspapers previously published in Devon cities and towns, and gives the locations of films and hard copies of these newspapers as they were at the time - wherever they may have been held in England. You will find that most of these local Devon newspapers are held in the British Library Newspaper Library collection, even if copies for some years are also available in Devon local studies collections or libraries. This list is quite out of date now, especially as far as the availability of microfilmed newspapers is concerned, and enquiry should always be made of a holding library before a visit is made. Some local libraries in Devon now only hold filmed newspapers for their area.

Newspapers listed as being held at Exeter PL are now held in the local studies collection at Devon Heritage Centre, Sowton, Exeter.

Devon Libraries Catalogue

Copies of some books on Devon local and family history are held in Exeter Central Library and local libraries around the county, and may be available for borrowing.

The Drake Family of Colyton

The records of the Drake family of Colyton were purchased by the former Devon Record Office with generous support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Friends of Devon's Archives, and the Kent Kingdon Trust.   They are now held at the Devon Heritage Centre.

  • The catalogue of the main collection (Accession 1700) which was submitted to the former Access to Archives catalogue (also known as A2A) has now been incorporated into The National Archives’ Discovery Catalogue.
  • View the on-line exhibition of letters and other papers relating to the War of the Spanish Succession and the Napoleonic War.
  • There is also an on-line list of additional letters and papers received in 2005.

Plymouth and West Devon Record Office Catalogue

The Plymouth and West Devon Record Office has its own online catalogues.