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Archives and Local Studies Projects


As well as providing access to historic documents, operating both public searchrooms, and answering enquiries over the phone, by letter or email and face to face, both Devon and Somerset Archives and Local Studies Teams are constantly involved in projects of different sorts.  


Click on the links below to find out more about the work being done to improve access and preservation to documents relating to Devon and Somerset.

Current Projects

Know Your Place West of England

Know Your Place West of England is an extension of the successful Bristol project and will provide access to a range of historical maps covering Somerset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and the former Avon area, digitised to a high resolution and placed online onto an interactive, searchable website.  The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund with generous match-funding and support from local authorities and heritage organisations across the region.

A West Country Dynasty: The Wyndham's of Orchard Wyndham

One of the South West’s finest family and estate archives is becoming much more accessible thanks to a cataloguing grant.  The archive, which relates to the Wyndham family, is the largest held at the Somerset Heritage Centre in Taunton and is regarded as a foundation stone of West Country history. A total of £31,570 has been given by the National Cataloguing Grants Programme so that the Heritage Trust can undertake major cataloguing work on the collection and make the results fully available online.  A project archivist has been appointed and work started in Spring 2016 and will be continuing until the autumn of 2017.


The Cataloguing Grants Programme is administered by The National Archives and supported by organisations including the Pilgrim Trust, the Foyle Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the J. Paul Getty Junior Charitable Trust.

Hidden Histories

We are working in partnership with Beaford Arts on their ‘Hidden Histories’ Project.  With support from the Heritage Lottery Fund this project will conserve, digitise, catalogue and publish around 10,000 unseen images that illustrate the social history of rural North Devon during the late 20th century.  Many of these images were taken by the renowned photographer James Ravilious.  Much of the conservation and digitisation work is taking place at the Devon Heritage Centre.

Devon Remembers Heritage Project

The Devon Remembers Heritage Project aims to tell the distinctive story of Devon during the First World War. The project team is based at the Devon Heritage Centre in Exeter and works with communities and organisations across Devon, Plymouth and Torbay. Our work includes the creation of a permanent WW1 archive collection with the Devon Archives, support for a wide range of volunteer-led research projects, arts initiatives across the county and an extensive programme of talks, events and exhibitions leading up to the centenary of the Armistice in 2018

South West Heritage Trust Local Studies Library Catalogue

We have recently designed and developed a new, joint Library Catalogue for Devon and Somerset.  For the first time this allows dedicated searching across all five libraries in the Trust, including Somerset Studies, SANHS, Rural Life Museum, West Country Studies Library and the Devon and Cornwall Record Society.

Visit the catalogue using the link below.

Somerset Archive Collections Available on Ancestry

Over seven million historical records containing centuries of details of Somerset residents have been published online by Ancestry, the leader in family history and consumer genomics.

Digitised from original records held by the South West Heritage Trust, the collections hold details of baptisms, marriages, burials and school admissions from almost 400 years of Somerset's history, including the Somerset School Registers, 1860 - 1914, and the Somerset Church of England baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538 - 1812.  


Searchable by name, age, type, date and location of crime, the newly digitised records contain vital information and fascinating details for anybody looking to find out more about ancestors who may have lived in the county.  

South West Heritage Trust Archive Catalogues

We have launched a new online catalogue for Somerset Archive collections and a new online catalogue for Devon Archive collections.  These have more search options, a clearer display, improved help guidelines and easier ways of contacting us about the records in which you are interested.  Visit our new catalogues by following the link below.

The Kenyon Photographic Project

The photographer Stanley Kenyon from Wellington created a remarkable collection of 58,000 images during his long career, which spanned over 50 years from 1938 – 1994. They depict Somerset people, places and communities that are rapidly changing, and industrial sites across the country, many of which no longer exist. The acetate images are suffering from vinegar syndrome and the project is a race against time to digitise these unique photographs before the syndrome destroys the images. The further glass plate negatives are fragile and difficult to use. This project is saving the rich information contained in these images for future generations, opening up this hidden collection for people to enjoy and to learn more about Britain’s 20th century communities and industrial past.

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Completed Projects

Manorial Documents Register

​The Manorial Documents Register (MDR) is the national statutory register of the surviving manorial records for England and Wales. It was established in the 1920s and is now maintained by The National Archives.  An exciting project to create an online index of all of Somerset’s existing manorial documents was completed in 2014, and the project archivist then worked to complete the Devon index in January 2017.  A comprehensive list of all the manors in Somerset and Devon was being created as part of the project.

Somerset Remembers

A major project to create indexes of First World War sources for Somerset has now been completed.


The names of thousands of Somerset people who served in the war are now searchable online, thanks to volunteers and archivists who worked together as part of the Somerset Remembers Project.  

From The Grass Roots: An Oral History of Community Politics in Devon

From the Grassroots: An Oral History of Community Politics in Devon created a sound archive of people involved in local politics within the county from 1945 until the present day. A History of Parliament project based at the Devon Heritage Centre, From the Grassroots was principally funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and ran until April 2015.  With the help of volunteers, we recorded political events in Devon from a local angle and charted the changes in post-1945 political campaigning. The new archive of oral histories will remain in Devon as valuable resource in political history for current and future generations.

From Jamaica to Somerset: The Dickinson Family of Kingweston

The archive of the Dickinson family of Kingweston. This extensive collection comprises records concerning the development and running of the family's estates in Somerset and Jamaica, personal correspondence of the family and records of public office, 1545 - 2004.  Archivists and volunteers worked on the collection for three years.

Heritage of the Ile Photographic Archive

 This archive is a unique collection of over 4,000 images of life in and around Ilminster, Somerset.


The images capture the changes to this lovely market town and area over the past 150 years.  The archive shows everything from early 20th century town parades, local celebrations, personalities and buildings, right through to modern expansion with new housing estates and the building of the Ilminster bypass. 

Etched on Devon's Memory

The Etched on Devon’s Memory project ran from 2002-2003 and digitised over 3,500 topographical prints of Devon, dating from 1660-1870.  A catalogue of these, compiled by John Somers Cocks, was published in 1977.  The prints depict a wealth of Devon scenes including landscapes, townscapes, buildings and some interior views. 

All the images are available via the online library catalogue, and are best searched using the Advanced Search options, where there is an option to exclusively search images.  Details on how to get the best from your search are included in the Help Guide under ‘Etched on Devon’s Memory Image Collection’.


The project also created thematic information and a biographical list of illustrators to accompany the images.  These are available as research guides.

Exmoor Oral History Archive

On behalf of the Dulverton and District Civic Society, Birdie Johnson travelled throughout Exmoor with her recorder, listening to people's life stories. Whatever their profession, whether blacksmith, chambermaid, farm worker or landed gentry, Exmoor's older generation shared their lives with us. The result is over 200 hours of recording, giving a unique insight into life on the moor during the 20th century. 

Somerset Voices Oral History Archive

The archive is a unique collection of over 500 recordings of twentieth century Somerset life.


Recording began in the 1970s, and the collection captures the distinctive life of Somerset people, told through their own memories and voices.  The recordings give details of past occupations, pastimes, customs and events. Somerset’s horsehair weaving, basket-making, willow industry, peat-digging, wassailing, farming and cider-making are all described.

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