THE DEVON & EXETER INSTITUTION was founded in 1813 by some two hundred gentlemen of the county and city,
‘for promoting the general diffusion of Science, Literature and Art, and for illustrating the Natural and Civil History of the county of Devon and the city of Exeter’.
A lease, later to be followed by a freehold, was obtained from the Dean and Chapter of Exeter Cathedral of the former town house of the Courtenay family and one-time home of the Parliamentary general, Sir William Waller. Retaining part of the Tudor house at the rear, which still stands, and the gatehouse range fronting the Close, the founding fathers demolished the old hall and kitchen and in their place and on the former courtyard built two lofty libraries lit by domed lanterns, each library with its own gallery, glazed cupboards and extensive shelving. The building, unchanged except for the installation of electric light and gas-fired central heating has a Grade II* rating in the statutory list of historic buildings in the city.