Local history

RAMM’s local history collection contains objects from the social and industrial history of Exeter and the surrounding area. The varied collection of objects and paper documents reflect everyday life for local residents. You can browse some of the collection on our Collections Explorer website.

Architectural fragments

Many architectural fragments of historical interest have been collected by RAMM over the last 150 years. They include an important collection of fragments from Tudor buildings in Exeter, and the nationally-important Hems collection of medieval woodwork.

Highlights of the architectural fragments collection

  • The Hems Collection of woodwork. An outstanding collection of nearly 500 pieces of medieval woodwork, collected by the Exeter master sculptor Harry Hems. The pieces were originally displayed in Hems’ workshop to inspire his craftsmen in their world-renowned work. These items now form one of the best collections of Medieval woodwork in Britain.
  • Fragments from historic buildings in Exeter. Many of these items were salvaged during renovation or demolition of historic buildings in the post-war redevelopment of the city. The collection includes fragments of woodwork and plasterwork from the city’s Tudor houses, and fragments and casts of stonework from the Cathedral and the Guildhall.

Magic lantern slides

RAMM’s collection of glass lantern slides contains around 4,500 items and provides a fascinating insight into Edwardian life. Produced before the days of cinema these decorative and colourful slides were presented at public lectures for the education, entertainment and moral enlightenment of the audience. You can explore RAMM’s entire magic lantern slide collection on the Lucerna website, and we are regularly adding more slides from the collection to our Collections Explorer website.

Many of RAMM’s slides were bought and used by the Albert Memorial Institute for education of local residents and contain hand-drawn images of plants and biology. Other slides reflect the hobbies and interests of local people, and their travels around the world during the First World War and early 20th century.  Other slides are colourful children stories, biblical tales, and advertisements for food and drink.

Highlights of the lantern slide collection

  • Hand-drawn images of plants and microscopic organisms
  • Alfred Rowden’s First World War tour of duty in Mesopotamia
  • Weaver Baker’s photographic record of Exeter Cathedral in the early 20th century

Social history

RAMM’s social history collection tells the stories of the people who have lived and worked in Exeter since the 17th century. Our collection is very varied, and includes over 7,500 objects from domestic, industrial and social life.

Highlights of the social history collection

  • Armour and weapons from the Rougemont Castle Armoury: designed for soldiers to defend Exeter from invasion. Most of these pieces come from the two ‘great panics’ in Exeter’s history: the threat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and the Civil War in the 1640s.
  • ‘The Hedgeland Model of Exeter in 1769’. Local builder Caleb Hedgeland built this fascinating and detailed model showing the city, as he remembered it from his childhood.
  • An 18th century fire engine and firefighting equipment
  • Tillet blocks and cloth seals associated with Exeter’s trade of woollen cloth.
  • Cog patterns from Bodley’s and Garton & King iron foundries.
Museum Assistant Ben Clapp talks about his favourite object, the Hedgeland model of Exeter