the plymouth athenaeum

The Plymouth Athenaeum founded 1812

  • Annual membership fee includes full membership of the Athenaeum £55.00 (April 2017)


The Plymouth Athenaeum was founded in 1812, and since 1819 has been in its present city centre site. The 1819 building, known as 'The Athenaeum,' was destroyed in the 1941 blitz, together with the museum. library and lecture room. The current building was opened in 1961, when the name was changed from 'The Plymouth Institution and Devon and Cornwall Natural History Society' to 'The Plymouth Athenaeum'. It includes a local interest library, lecture room, large lounge and a 340 seat theatre. The theatre was closed for financial reasons in 2009, but is now operating again principally in conjunction with The Plymouth Barbican Theatre.

The Athenaeum is self supporting and self governing with income based solely on membership fees, hiring fees, investments and donations. We do not receive support from Plymouth City Council, nor from the Arts Council. The Plymouth Athenaeum is governed by a Council elected annually by members. Membership is open to all who are interested in the study and promotion of the arts, literature, science and technology.


The library has roughly 3,500 books and some archival material including complete volumes of Plymouth Institution and Plymouth Athenaeum Proceedings. There are also incomplete runs of the proceedings of Devonshire Association, Doidges Annuals, Western Antiquary and the South Devon Monthly Museum.


Built 1961 to replace the original Athenaeum destroyed by the Blitz. The library is small and has a storage balcony and a dedicated archive room.

Contact information

Mr. Richard Wilcockson, Chairman of the Library Committee
Derry's Cross, Plymouth PL1 2SW
tel: 01752 266 079 / email:

Open Monday-Friday 10.00-17.00, on application to the Library Chairman, Mr. Richard Wilcockson. Additional opening times to allow for Athenaeum activities and lettings.

Large amount of research work. Visitors allowed on request.



Private charitable status within the Athenaeum. Registered charity no. 216963