The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon, Barnstaple

4.5
The history of the museum building.

The most prominent building on the Square was built for William Thorne, in 1872. ( Thorne was a quarry owner and operator of the horse-drawn railway to Fremington Quay.) His new house was constructed of brick with decorative stone details.

It is said that Thorne never actually lived in the house.

The house was a sizeable building, with a grand staircase and 15 servants' bells in the back corridor.

Connecting wires run all over the building.

The house was bought by William Rock (Barnstaple benefactor) in 1887, to house the North Devon Athenaeum, a free library and Museum.

It was opened to the public the following year.

The Athenaeum inherited the collections of the Barnstaple Literary and Scientific Institution - founded by William Rock in 1845 and continued to accumulate a wide variety of objects, papers and books.

From 1956, the Athenaeum shared the building with the local branch of the County Library Service. Local people remember coming to the Athenaeum to do their homework.

In 1988, North Devon District Council bought the building.

The Athenaeum, its collection of documents and the County Library moved to purpose-built premises in Tuly Street.

Many of the Athenaeum's objects remain in the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon.

These include the rocks and minerals in the first gallery, local paintings and part of the pottery collection.
Use our Barnstaple trip itinerary builder tool to visit The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon on your trip to Barnstaple, and learn what else travelers and our writers recommend seeing nearby.
Source
Create an itinerary including The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon
map
The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon Reviews
Rate this attraction
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.0
122 reviews
Google
4.5
TripAdvisor
  • We went to this museum as we had a couple of hours to spare. Entry is free and it contains lots of interesting information about the area. It covers pre-history in terms of geological formation, natur...  more »
  • Friendly little museum with resident ghost and nice tearoom. They have a stairlift for people with mobility probs, which is wonderful.  more »
  • Wish we had had longer to explore this museum. It was well laid out in chronological order and so unlike some museums was not confusing to children especially. We were there during the school holidays...  more »
Google
  • Awesome. Shame it isn't three or four tomes the size for more displays. Great facility, great welcome lovely displays. Worth going. We like to revisit with the children as they can get interactive there.
  • This is a very good place to go if you want to know more about the shore birds that live on the river in Barnstaple and Bideford.
  • Shall but still manages to pack in a lot. Great exhibits often with fun activities for kids. Also very helpful tourist centre.
  • Wonderful source of local history, though slightly disappointed at the lack of Shapland history.
  • Small, very interesting museum, good gift shop too! :-)

Plan your trip to Barnstaple

  • Get a personalized plan

    A complete day-by-day itinerary
    based on your preferences
  • Customize it

    Refine your plan. We'll find the
    best routes and schedules
  • Book it

    Choose from the best hotels
    and activities. Up to 50% off
  • Manage it

    Everything in one place.
    Everyone on the same page.

Where to stay in Barnstaple

Browse hotels, guesthouses, and unique homes and book your stay on the world's leading accommodation sites.
Live like a local, find unique places to stay
Millions of travel reviews on TripAdvisor

Plans in Barnstaple by other users

45 days in Europe BY A USER FROM AUSTRALIA May, culture, outdoors, relaxing, romantic, historic sites, museums, shopping, popular & hidden gems PREFERENCES: May, culture, outdoors, relaxing, romantic, historic sites, museums, shopping ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular & hidden gems PACE: Medium 5 days in Devon BY A USER FROM UNITED KINGDOM April, outdoors, beaches, historic sites, hidden gems PREFERENCES: April, outdoors, beaches, historic sites ATTRACTION STYLE: Hidden gems PACE: Medium 18 days in Europe BY A USER FROM NEW ZEALAND February, popular PREFERENCES: February ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 3 days in Barnstaple BY A USER FROM UNITED KINGDOM January, popular PREFERENCES: January ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 6 days in Barnstaple & St Ives BY A USER FROM UNITED KINGDOM December, popular PREFERENCES: December ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 6 days in Braunton & Barnstaple BY A USER FROM UNITED KINGDOM December, popular PREFERENCES: December ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 3 days in Barnstaple BY A USER FROM UNITED KINGDOM December, popular PREFERENCES: December ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 30 days in United Kingdom BY A USER FROM UNITED KINGDOM November, popular PREFERENCES: November ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 3 days in Barnstaple BY A USER FROM UNITED KINGDOM November, popular PREFERENCES: November ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 3 days in Barnstaple BY A USER FROM UNITED KINGDOM November, popular PREFERENCES: November ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 19 days in Devon & Exmoor National Park BY A USER FROM UNITED KINGDOM November, popular PREFERENCES: November ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 8 days in Barnstaple BY A USER FROM UNITED KINGDOM August, outdoors, relaxing, romantic, beaches, historic sites, fast-paced, popular PREFERENCES: August, outdoors, relaxing, romantic, beaches, historic sites ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Fast-paced
View more plans