plymouth proprietary library

Plymouth Proprietary Library founded 1810

  • Annual Membership £60
  • Junior Membership £30 (Members under the age of 25)


The Proprietary Library is one of Plymouth's oldest historic institutions, founded in 1810. It was originally situated in a John Foulston-designed building at the centre of the City in Cornwall Street, but was bombed in World War Two and moved to its present location at the top of North Hill after the war.

It is a Registered Charity run by a Committee of Trustees elected by the members (who are known as Subscribers) at each Annual General Meeting. It has a regular income from investments and this supplements the subscriptions to cover the running expenses of the Library and for the purchase of new fiction and non-fiction books.


The collection consists of 20,000 volumes ranging from 18th century literature to contemporary fiction and non-fiction. Also biographies, diaries and letters, travel, maps, local history and the Windham Collection of Royal Naval historical papers. The Cottonian Collection, presented in 1853 by William Cotton, is currently housed in Plymouth Museum and administered by Trustees of Plymouth City Council, Cottonian descendants and Plymouth Proprietary Library.


Housed in a pleasant mid-Victorian house since 1942.

Contact information

Ms Chloe Adams, Mr. John Horton, Library Assistants
Alton Terrace, 111 North Hill, Plymouth, Devon PL4 8JY
tel: 01752 660 515 / email:

Open Monday 10.30-19.00, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday 10.00-12.30; closed Wednesday & Sunday

Visitor enquiries welcome; research facilities by prior appointment

On street pay & display parking available and good local bus service.



Registered charity no. 1015700