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28 February 2023

The Spring Newsletter is now available online.

19 September 2022

The Autumn Newsletter is now available online.

24 February 2022

The Spring Newsletter is now available online.

28 September 2021

Details of the 2021 FoDA AGM - to be held at the Devon Rural Archive, Shilston House, Modbury, on Thursday 4 November - have now gone live on our events page. Click here for further information.

18 August 2020

The next FoDA event, at 7pm on Thursday 2nd September, will be a joint one with the Devon History Society and the Devon Rural Archive, held at the Devon Rural Archive HQ, Shilstone House, South Devon. The subject is the borough rentals of Moretonhampstead and how they may be used to reveal much about the early history of our communities. The speaker is Dr Ian Mortimer, a past chairman of the Society. Details are available on the website of the Devon Rural Archive.

24 May 2021

The Spring Newsletter is now available online.

17 May 2021

A report about the FoDA-supported project to make the prints and drawings of the Devon & Exeter Institution more widely accessible is available here.

24 November 2020

The Autumn Newsletter is now available online. Apologies for not making it available here sooner.

20 July 2020

A newspage about the new FoDA project to transcribe the detailed survey of various Devon manors, made by John Norden in about 1613, is available here.

14 April 2020

The Spring Newsletter is now available online.

13 April 2020

Seventeenth-Century Communities in Devon: People and their Landscape in the Norden Survey of 1613

In January 2020, we received the fantastic news that the grant application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, spearheaded by FODA and its chair Katharine Chant, for a community project on John Norden’s survey of the Devon Crown Lands of 1613 had been successful. The project aims to enable volunteers to publish a transcription and translation of the Norden survey, an exceptionally detailed description of land and resources for eight Devon manors (Bovey Tracey, Ashburton, Bradninch, Buckfastleigh, Dunkeswell, Exeter Castle, Heathfield in Aveton Gifford, and Ottery St Mary), opening up many areas of study for local and family historians. Teams of local volunteers working together on each of the manors will be trained and supervised by social and economic historian Dr David Stone; volunteers will also be trained in historical research skills and GIS mapping, enabling them to contextualise the information contained in the survey and to depict the fieldscape it describes.

Following two introductory seminars in 2019, held at the headquarters of the Devon Archaeological Society and the Devon Rural Archive, it had been hoped to commence the project formally in March 2020, with a seminar exploring the background to the Norden Survey, the importance of the information it contains, and the palaeographical skills required to read it. Although, with the advance of COVID-19, this seminar had to be postponed, work on the survey can nevertheless proceed. Thanks to the generosity of Frances Billinge, we can access the whole of the document (which is housed at the London Metropolitan Archive) online, through high-quality, zoomable digital photos. The survey is written in secretary hand in a mixture of English and Latin and David is happy to provide any support that is needed at this stage by email, especially queries - however small - about deciphering the language or handwriting. In due course, he will also draw up and circulate some written guidelines about the presentation and format of transcriptions and translations. This interpretive work can, of course, be fruitfully combined with an initial exploration of the local historical context.

The project will provide a wide range of opportunities to get involved, whether with regard to the transcription and translation of the document itself, or with local research, mapping, talks, and the organisation of ‘beating the bounds’ events (which are planned for the summer of 2021). If you would like to be involved with any, or every, phase of the project, please do get in touch with David:

13 March 2020

Members of the Friends of Devon’s Archives will be saddened to hear of the death earlier this week, at the age of 86, of Margery Rowe.

Margery worked as an archivist in Devon for forty years between 1956 and 1996, and was County Archivist from 1977 to 1996.

In retirement she was a regular visitor to many of Devon’s archives and libraries while working on Devon Maps and Map-Makers, which she researched and compiled with Mary Ravenhill (Devon and Cornwall Record Society, 2002).

She also collaborated with Mary Ravenhill in producing two books published by the Friends of Devon’s Archives: Early Devon Maps (2000) and Maps of Georgian Devon (2003).

She will be very much missed by colleagues in the archive profession, the Friends of Devon's Archives and indeed everyone who knew her.

30 September 2019

The text of the Chair's speech from the 2019 AGM is now available online.

20 September 2019

The Devon Family History Society's AGM and conference, on the theme of 'Fact or Fiction', will take place on Saturday 5th October at the Kenn Centre, Exeter Road, Kennford, Exeter EX6 7UE. FoDA members might like to note that our ex-Chairman, Dr Todd Gray, will be among the speakers. Further details are available from the DFHS website.

19 August 2019

Details of the FoDA 2019 AGM, which will take place on the morning of Saturday 21st September in St Nicholas's Priory, Exeter, are now available on the Events page.

4 June 2019

News from the South West Heritage Trust concerning Torbay Archive Service.

It will soon be possible for researchers to order original documents and microfilms from the vast holdings of the Devon Heritage Centre to consult in the heart of Torquay. Starting in July, Brian Carpenter, Community Learning Officer, will be paying quarterly visits to Torre Abbey, and he will be able to bring records from the Centre’s collections for researchers to consult.

During the rest of 2019, Brian will be visiting Torre Abbey on the following dates:

The sessions will run from 11 a.m. until 3.30 p.m., and will take place in the Learning Lab at Torre Abbey.

It is possible for searchers to enquire about ordering anything from the Centre’s holdings, although there will be some restrictions on the quantity and size of documents which can be taken to Torquay.

If you are interested in ordering documents or knowing more about the service, please contact Brian Carpenter ( or telephone 01392 888712).

22 October 2018

Dr Frances Billinge (Secretary of FoDA), Dr David Stone (University of Exeter) and Penny Martin (Latin tutor) have arranged a seminar to be held on Saturday 2 March 2019 at 10:30-12:30, at Berkeley House, Exeter. The title is 'Investigating medieval and early modern Devon: manorial records and the c.1613 Norden survey of Devon Crown Lands'. This is in conjunction with the Devon Archaeological Soociety. Admission is free but please book a place with Dr Billinge. For further information, see the poster for this event.

30 September 2018

At the AGM of the Friends of Devon's Archives yesterday, Katharine Chant was elected to the chairmanship of FoDA and Susan Jackson to the position of Programme Secretary. The outgoing chairman, Ian Mortimer, was elected an ordinary committee member. At the end of the meeting, the president, John Allan, presented Dr Mortimer with a specially made Bideford pottery jug to mark his period as chairman of the organisation (see picture below).

The minutes may be viewed here: Minutes of the 2018 AGM

4 September 2018

Our Autumn 2018 Newsletter is now available online. Also, booking is now open for our AGM at Polsloe Priory. The speakers after the formal part of the meeting will be John Allan FSA, on the subject of the building itself, and Professor James Clark, on the dissolution of the monasteries inthe West Country. Details on how to book may be found on the events page.

11 April 2018

With the approach of the General Data Protection Regulation next month, we have drawn up a privacy statement for how we will deal with members' data. This is linked from the 'about FoDA' page.

22 March 2018

Booking is now open for our Spring Meeting at Torquay Museum: a great line up of speakers on the theme of 'Unwritten Archives'. Details on how to book may be found on the events page.

21 March 2018

The Spring 2018 Newsletter is now online. Click here to download it.

15 January 2018

The South West Heritage Trust has been awarded a grant of £18,861 by the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust to conserve the political correspondence of Henry Addington, Viscount Sidmouth, Prime Minister and Home Secretary between 1801 and 1822. FoDA are supporting the project by promising £2,000.

14 January 2018

The Agenda for the Spring meeting (28 April) is available here.

2017 News

31 August 2017

Details of the September 2017 AGM in Barnstaple are now online and places may be booked for that and the tour of barnstaple by John Allan, our president. Click on the 'Events' link on the left for all the papers. Also, the new newsletter is now online.

21 July 2017

FoDA has just published Dr John Booker’s book, Devon Deciphered. This is a guide for local historians, genealogists and other researchers who are tempted to explore the original documents that underpin their research. It places high-quality facsimiles of twenty Devon manuscripts alongside full transcriptions and explains the historical terminology. Thus John not only demonstrates how the problems of palaeography and language may be overcome but also provides the reader with a glossary of useful terms and an understanding of the documentary formulae involved. The result is a unique and indispensable guide to understanding local documents from the Middle Ages to the eighteenth century. Copies may be obtained from Devon Heritage Centre for the price of £10.00 plus postage and packing (£2.80 within the UK; please make cheques out to 'South West Heritage Trust Trading Limited'). Further information is available in a flyer, which is available here.

Second, please note that the FoDA AGM and autumn meeting this year will be held in Barnstaple on 30 September. Further details will come to you at the end of August via the newsletter but, in a nutshell, we will meet at North Devon Record Office at 10:30 am for the AGM and a tour of the newly laid out record office, plus an introduction to the North Devon Athenaeum. After lunch (which will be self-supplied or purchased in town, if you prefer) we will have a tour of the town by our president, John Allan, the leading expert on the historic fabric of Devon, who has arranged access to several historic buildings. The day will end with the last stop of the tour, at the Museum, at which we should arrive about 3:45 pm. The cost has been kept to a minimum £5 for members or £10 for non-members to encourage as many people as possible to come. Please do! You won’t get a better guided tour of the historic town from anyone.

Third, the Devon and Cornwall Record Society are holding an event entitled ‘Desert Island Documents’ to celebrate the archival work in Devon of Margery Rowe, former County Archivist, on Saturday 21 October 2017. It will take place at 2-3 pm in Exeter Guildhall, and refreshments will follow. To book, please send (by 18 October) a cheque for £7 (£5 members of D&CRS) made out to DEVON & CORNWALL RECORD SOCIETY to: The Cottage in The Hayes, Cheriton Fitzpaine, Devon EX17 4JG.

Fourth, in case you had forgotten, Janet Tall will be talking on Lewis Burfitt’s diaries on 21 August, and Deborah Phillips will be speaking on looking after your own documents on 10 October, in North Devon. Further information is available here.

Lastly, several of you may have noticed that our Tithe apportionment database on our website has not been working for a while. This has now been fixed. Please let me know if there are further difficulties.

28 March 2017

We have added a section on Members' research interests to the Projects page. If you are a member and would like to add your research interests to this list, which we hope will grow, please contact us. In addition, Sue Jackson has provided a note on the feofees of St Sidwell's parish, Exeter, which we have added to the Projects page.

6 March 2017

The Spring 2017 Newsletter is now online. Members who have registered their email addresses will shortly receive an electronic copy, together with details of the event at the Devon Heritage Centre, Exeter, on the afternoon of 3 April (13:00-17:00). Booking forms will be included in the mailing but also may be downloaded here. Speakers include:

Please note: admission is free for members of FoDA and Devon History Society; £4 for those who are not a member of either organisation. If you wish to book a place at this event by telephone, ring Stuart Tyler, Secretary of FoDA, at the Devon Heritage Centre (01392 384253).

2016 News

28 November 2016

In line with the priorities discussed at the AGM on 15 October in Plymouth, and following the subsequent meeting of the committee on 9 November, the chairman has sent an email to all those members who have lodged an email address with the Membership Secretary. We hope to communicate with more members more regularly by email in future.

15 September 2016

The Autumn Newsletter is now online. Members will shortly receive a paper copy and details of the AGM and conference on Saturday 15 October in Plymouth. Booking forms are available via the Events page. Speakers at the conference include:

12 September 2016

Our ever-watchful committee member, Graham Parnell, has spotted several small manuscript collections of Devon interest this year. In addition staff at the Devon Heritage Centre has asked for help acquiring a couple of other items. Thus the list of acquisitions that we have either purchased or deposited as a a result of a gift has been updated. See the Acquisitions page.

24 March 2016

The booking form for the Spring 2016 conference on 16 April in Barnstaple Guildhall is now available. Please come! You don't have to be a member of the Friends. Speakers include:

28 February 2016

The Spring 2016 Newsletter is now available online. Paper copies will be printed and sent out to members soon with the booking form for the Spring conference in Barnstaple Guildhall on 16 April (see below for speakers).

FoDA News 2012-2016

Items of old news may be accessed via this page.