The Kent Kingdon bequest

Kent Kingdon’s Bequest for the Royal Albert Museum and Free Library

Registered charity, no. 306641
A charity for Exeter’s heritage

The purpose of the trust

The Kent Kingdon Trust exists to purchase books for the Westcountry Studies Library and works of art for the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter.

Some historical background

The Trust was established under the Will of Kent Kingdon, an Exeter cabinet maker who died on 2 April 1889. The Will laid down detailed instructions for the administration of his generous bequest. The Trustees were to meet on his birthday, 24 April, to select books for the Library. Every third year no books were to be selected but “a good work of art” was to be chosen for the Museum. Kent Kingdon had fixed ideas on what he preferred: “if a painting I prefer a good landscape”, and as far as books were concerned “no theological works or works of fiction of any sort or kind”. In the early part of the twentieth century the funds facilitated the purchase of many items but over the years they were eroded by inflation. From the 1970s the fund became dormant but in 1994 the Trust was revived and the income which had accrued over the previous twenty years reinvested. Some of the earlier stipulations of the Will have been dropped, for example the limitation of Trustees to “gentlemen” and the requirement that every seven years the interior of the Museum be decorated in “grey and black but no gilding as I consider that exhibition rooms should be kept in very quiet good taste”. Nevertheless the intention of the present Trustees is to continue the spirit of Kent Kingdon’s wishes and the Trust is now once more able to assist the Library and Museum with purchases, although on a much more modest scale than at the start of the century.

Examples of grants

Since the re-establishment of the Trust grants have included assistance in the purchase of the following items:

For the Museum:

  • Etchings of birds by Katrina Cook
  • A collection of Melanesian dance masks
  • Contemporary prints by Ronald Salmond, Howard Phipps and Monica Poole
  • Totem pole commissioned from Tim Paul of British Columbia
  • Landscape no. 440, by John Virtue
  • Portrait of James Northcote by James Ramsay
  • Two medieval stained glass panels in the style of the master of the east window of Exeter Cathedral
  • Ten silver pennies by Exeter moneyers c991-1086
  • Painting by Alan Richards
  • Sculptures by Peter Thursby
  • Elizabethan panelling from 229 High Street, Exeter
  • Watercolour by Thomas Rowlandson
  • Watercolour by Francis Towne
  • Fairey & Adams architectural drawings of Exeter
  • William Nation volume of Caricatures
  • Portrait of Thomas Medland Kingdon, father of Kent Kingdon
  • Dartmouth from Saint Petrox, by Henry William Dawson (1852)
  • Archdeacon of Barnstaple’s seal
  • Watercolour by Burlison and Grylls showing the proposed design for the Tanner Memorial Window of 1872 for Exeter Cathedral

For the Library:

  • A proclamation of … pardon to the inhabitants … of Exceter (1643)
  • War illustrated (an almost complete set of this unusual World War 2 illustrated periodical)
  • The Batten and Bennett collection of 160 county maps of Devon
  • A late 16th century manuscript armorial
  • The old lawes and statutes of the stannaries (1574)
  • Totnes charters, manuscript copies
  • Practical observations on ectropium, by Sir William Adams (1814)
  • The ship of fools, translated by Alexander Barclay (1570)
  • Map book of the Calmady Estates, 1788/89
  • Masonic miscellanies volume

Earlier grants have assisted in the purchase of the following:

For the Museum:

  • Stanhope Forbes (1857-1948) “22nd January 1901” (the announcement of the death of Queen Victoria)
  • Sir Herbert E.P.Hughes-Stanton (1870-1937) “Cader Idris” (1918)
  • Lucy Kemp Welch (1869-1958) “In sight: Lord Dundonald’s last dash on Ladysmith” (1901)
  • James Northcote (1746-1831) “Portrait of the artist”

For the Library:

  • John Gendall. “Exeter Cathedral monumentarium” (Manuscript, 1835)
  • Wilfred Drake. Cartoon history of Devon (1906)
  • John Dyer. The fleece: a poem (1757)

These are only examples of many purchases over the years. It is hoped to draw up a fuller list to recognise the great contribution of Kent Kingdon’s bequest to Exeter’s heritage over more than a century.

The Trust also holds a sum of money made over to it by the Devon Dialect Society when it disbanded. This is available to assist in the promotion of Devon dialect studies, particularly for providing access to a corpus of dialect texts or recordings through the Public Library in Exeter.

The illustration below is taken from The ship of fools, translated by Alexander Barclay (second edition, 1570). Alexander Barclay of Ottery St. Mary was the first Devon writer to appear in print when his translation was originally published in 1509. By making a grant of ninety per cent of the purchase price in 1999 the Trust was able to ensure that this important item was acquired for the Westcountry Studies Library in Exeter.

How you can help the Trust

Libraries and museums aim to preserve the written and visual heritage of their community and region, but funds are not always available for them to acquire everything that is desirable to carry out this duty comprehensively. By making a donation to the charity you will be recognising and assisting the work of the museum and libraries in this field. All items proposed for purchase are considered by the Trustees to ensure that they are appropriate to the collecting policy of the institutions and fit with the spirit of Kent Kingdon’s wishes.

If you wish to make a donation, please make a cheque payable to the Kent Kingdon Bequest and forward it to:

Claire Bailey, Development Officer

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Queen Street, Exeter EX4 3RX

All donations received will be acknowledged and noted in the annual report to the Trustees. Acquisitions for the Library will bear a special Kent Kingdon bookplate.

How to apply for a grant

Email Claire Bailey, Development Officer

[email protected]

Please note the Kent Kingdon Trust exists to purchase books for the Westcountry Studies Library and works of art for the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter.