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HER Number:MDV18353
Name:North Devon Athenaeum, Barnstaple


The North Devon Athenaeum was founded in 1888 by William Rock as a library and museum.


Grid Reference:SS 558 329
Map Sheet:SS53SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishBarnstaple
DistrictNorth Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishBARNSTAPLE

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SS53SE/235

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • MUSEUM (XIX to XXI - 1801 AD to 2009 AD (Between))

Full description

North Devon Athenaeum, 02/04/2012, North Devon Athenaeum (Website). SDV349513.

The North Devon Athenaeum was founded in 1888 by William Frederick Rock as a library and museum. It was designed to replace the Literary and Scientific Institute he set up in 1845. The Athenaeum Library moved into the new purpose-built North Devon Library and Record Office in 1988.

Watts, S., 02/04/2012, North Devon Athenaeum (Personal Comment). SDV349514.

The Athenaeum building is now the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon and tourist information centre.

Ordnance Survey, 1855-1895, First Edition 1:500 Town Map (Cartographic). SDV338879.

North Devon Athenaeum marked.

Wainwright, T., 1902-1903, Barnstaple, a Mint Town in Anglo-Saxon and Early Norman Times, 61 (Article in Serial). SDV75184.

Coins of Ethelred II, Edward the Confessor and William the Conqueror purchased by Athenaeum who believed them to have been minted in Barnstaple. See article for details.

Blackwell, A. E., 1961, The North Devon Athenaeum at Barnstaple, 174-183 (Article in Serial). SDV67288.

The museum was founded with a gift of money from W. F. Rock and opened in 1888.

Lomas, J., 1967, The Old doors and Doorways of Barnstaple, 42-4, Fig. 1 (Article in Serial). SDV85818.

A door dated circa 1530 with linen fold panelling was removed from the Prince Charles Room in the High Street at the beginning of the 20th century. It now stands on the half landing of the Athenaeum.

ASI Heritage Consultants, 2000, Leaderflush and Shapland Site, Barnstaple: Archaeological Assessment (Report - Assessment). SDV70999.

Southwest Archaeology, 2013, Greater Barnstaple Area Project Database, BHBS Mapping Area 340 (Un-published). SDV351581.

Ordnance Survey, 2013, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV350786.

Modern mapping shows the northern part of the building, the service building or coach house, to have been demolished.

English Heritage, 2013, National Heritage List for England (National Heritage List for England). SDV350785.

Museum of North Devon including garden railings adjacent to river front. House, later library, now museum. 1872. Red brick with dressings of stone and terracotta. Hipped, slated roof, the flat centre guarded by ornamental iron railings. 5 red brick chimneys with moulded, bracketed stone caps. Plan: square, built round an internal courtyard. To right (on N side) a small service wing (probably a coach-house) with walled courtyard behind. EXTERIOR: 2 storeys, the main house with garret. Front to square is 7-window range. Ground storey has centre doorway with pilasters having foliated stone capitals; above is a stone hood on large carved brackets. 6-panelled door. At either side a recessed sash window having in front of it a stone column supporting 2 round-arched transom-lights under a single round arch. Canted bay window at either end. Upper storey has sash windows with moulded stone lintels, rounded at the corners. Stone balcony with open tracery in front of middle window. Ground storey has 3 horizontal stone bands. Continued moulded cills in 2nd storey. Inset stone shaft with foliated capital at each corner. Bracketed eaves cornice with terracotta panels between the brackets. The other 3 fronts are similar in character, the best being to the left (facing S) and at the rear (facing the river). The latter front has terracotta panels and, at the right-hand end, a bow window having a string course carved with heads and heraldic shields. INTERIOR has several rooms and lobbies with enriched cornices and chandelier bosses. Open-well, wooden staircase in Jacobean manner with twisted balusters and large carved newels. Glazed inner doorway and screen with decorative woodwork, probably of the 1880s. Gothic stone chimneypiece in entrance hall. SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: at the rear, facing the river, is a small garden enclosed by iron railings having spearhead uprights and standards. The gate piers, with the bases of Dolphin lamp posts, are separately listed (qv). HISTORICAL NOTE: built for William Thorne, but sold to the Barnstaple Bridge Trust in 1876. They in turn sold it to Mr WF Rock, who founded the North Devon Athenaeum and Free Library here in 1888.

Timms, S., 29/09/1982, North Devon Athenaeum (Personal Comment). SDV67289.

Now used as a library and museum.

Friends of Archaeology ND, Unknown, Historic Barnstaple (Leaflet). SDV356772.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV338879Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1855-1895. First Edition 1:500 Town Map. First Edition 1:500 Town Map. Map (Digital). [Mapped feature: #82215 ]
SDV349513Website: North Devon Athenaeum. 02/04/2012. North Devon Athenaeum. http://www.northdevonathenaeum.org.uk. Website.
SDV349514Personal Comment: Watts, S.. 02/04/2012. North Devon Athenaeum. Not Applicable.
SDV350785National Heritage List for England: English Heritage. 2013. National Heritage List for England. Historic Houses Register. Digital.
SDV350786Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2013. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital.
SDV351581Un-published: Southwest Archaeology. 2013. Greater Barnstaple Area Project Database. Greater Barnstaple Area Project. Digital. BHBS Mapping Area 340.
SDV356772Leaflet: Friends of Archaeology ND. Unknown. Historic Barnstaple. Leaflet + Digital.
SDV67288Article in Serial: Blackwell, A. E.. 1961. The North Devon Athenaeum at Barnstaple. 93. Hardback Volume. 174-183.
SDV67289Personal Comment: Timms, S.. 29/09/1982. North Devon Athenaeum. Not Applicable.
SDV70999Report - Assessment: ASI Heritage Consultants. 2000. Leaderflush and Shapland Site, Barnstaple: Archaeological Assessment. ASI Heritage Consultants Report. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV75184Article in Serial: Wainwright, T.. 1902-1903. Barnstaple, a Mint Town in Anglo-Saxon and Early Norman Times. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 2. 61.
SDV85818Article in Serial: Lomas, J.. 1967. The Old doors and Doorways of Barnstaple. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 99. Paperback Volume. 42-4, Fig. 1.

Associated Monuments

MDV102389Related to: 42 High Street, Barnstaple (Building)
MDV16710Related to: Barnstaple Mint (Monument)

Associated Finds

  • FDV6614 - CLAY PIPE (SMOKING) (Undated)
  • FDV6616 - CLAY PIPE (SMOKING) (Undated)
  • FDV6615 - SHERD (Undated)
  • FDV6617 - SHERD (Undated)
  • FDV6613 - GLASS VESSEL (XVIII - 1701 AD to 1800 AD)
  • FDV6621 - CLAY PIPE (SMOKING) (XIX - 1840 AD to 1860 AD)

Associated Events

  • EDV7429 - Results of an Archaeological Evaluation: Barnstaple Museum Extension, Barnstaple, North Devon. (Ref: 161116)

Date Last Edited:Feb 16 2018 2:46PM