Annual Conference, Exeter 2023

Our 2023 Annual Conference took place at The Mint Methodist Centre, Exeter on Friday 8th and Saturday 9th September.

In the Conference leaflet printed for the event, Dr Sue Andrew, Chair of the Executive Committee, wrote:

Dr Sue Andrew, Executive Committee Chair

Exeter is, without doubt, one of the most historically interesting cities in the land and we are privileged to hold our 2023 Annual Conference and AGM here. Its distinctiveness, across its many facets, was brilliantly described by each of our DA Sections in the Spring issue of DA News. Finding a suitable hotel-based venue for the conference has, however, proved difficult and so we are based mainly at the Mint Methodist Centre for our formal events, with members free to arrange their own accommodation. Come for the day, or stay in the city for the weekend, we can guarantee that there will be the same welcoming atmosphere as in previous years, with a lively, enjoyable and stimulating programme on offer.

Camilla Hampshire, Museums Manager and Cultural Lead at Exeter City Council, gives our Public Lecture on ‘New Collecting: connecting, creating and challenge’ and there is an opportunity to join a guided tour and evening reception at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum.

Presentation of papers to be published in this year’s Transactions is always an illuminating affair, with plenty of time for discussion at lunch thereafter.

Our incoming President, Jenny Pery delivers her Presidential Address ‘Art Matters: A Pride of Painters’ and there will be opportunity to visit a wide range of Exeter’s great buildings, as the conference weekend coincides with Heritage Open Days.

Particularly exciting are the new developments at Exeter Cathedral where changes will enhance understanding and enjoyment of this superb edifice. Important changes are on the horizon for The Devonshire Association too, and we invite you most warmly to attend our AGM and contribute to the future of our esteemed organization.

As ever, we very much look forward to seeing you!


The Mint Methodist Centre, Fore St.

Friday 8th September

  • 14:30 Meet at the Mint Methodist Centre, Fore Street, Exeter
  • 15:00 Guided walks in Exeter’s West Quarter with John Allan and Exeter’s Redcoats
  • 16:30 President’s Devonshire Tea hosted by Professor John Mather
  • 18:00 Public Lecture. Guest speaker Camilla Hampshire (RAMM) “New Collecting: connecting, creating and challenge”

Saturday 9th September

  • 09:30 Registration at the Mint Methodist Centre, Fore Street, Exeter
  • 10:00 Presentation of papers chaired by Professor Malcolm Hart
  • 11:15 Coffee and biscuits
  • 11:45 Presentation of papers (continued)
  • 12:30 Buffet lunch
  • 13:45 Annual General Meeting chaired by Professor John Mather
  • 14:30 Installation of new President Jenny Pery followed by Presidential Address. “Art Matters: A pride of painters”
  • 15:30 Close of meeting followed by tea and biscuits

As the Conference coincided with one of the national Heritage Open Weekends, all delegates were encouraged to explore the many and varied buildings and spaces that were open in Exeter and across Devon during the Conference weekend. Details can be found at

Summary report

A full report will appear in this year’s volume, no 155, of our Report and Transactions.

Friday 8 September

Our 161st annual conference coincided with the start of Heritage Open Weekends and Devon Open Studios over two days in early September. It was held at the Mint Methodist Church Centre in Exeter. Although the church building itself is modern, the historical significance of the location was noted as it was the site of the second Mint Meeting House built in 1813 that would have been well known to the DA’s first President, Sir John Bowring.

On Friday afternoon, attendees had the opportunity to explore the West Quarter of Exeter, guided by local experts. They visited notable sites such as the Cathedral, Chapter House, Devon & Exeter Institution and St. Olave’s Church and various buildings in and around Fore Street. This was followed by a Devonshire Tea hosted by outgoing President, Professor John Mather.

Camilla Hampshire, Museum Manager at Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum, gave the public lecture entitled New Collecting: connecting, creating and challenge. She described the evolution of RAMM since its founding in the 1860s and outlined some of the early sources of artefacts and their collectors. Although over one million objects are in RAMM’s care, only a tiny fraction of them are on display at any one time and Ms Hampshire described some of the recent exhibitions held at the museum. An informed Q&A session chaired by John Mather followed and the guest speaker was thanked for her contribution to the cultural heritage of the city.

Saturday 9 September

On Saturday morning Honorary editor, Professor Malcolm Hart, chaired the reading of papers to be published in the upcoming volume of Transactions. The following papers were read by their authors:

  • Susan Andrew – Seeing the Light: the Agatha Christie window in Churston Ferrers Church
  • Claude Williams – Field names in Devon related to rabbits
  • Agnese Sartor – Space and Community in the Medieval Church: St Andrew in Ashburton
  • Malcolm Hart – A renewed source of ‘Heritage Stone’ in Mid-Devon

Malcolm Hart chairing the reading of papers

Professor Hart also read A new look at some Medieval Documents of Widecombe Church, authored by Roger Claxton who could not attend. Particular thanks were extended to Agnese Sartor for travelling from London specifically to attend the session and presenting her first research paper.  For authors unable to attend the meeting, their papers were read by title:

  • Andrew Jackson – Reassessing Devon’s early twentieth-century landscape art: the Camden Town Group painters
  • John Maddicott – Sir Thomas Wise and the Woman in White: A Devonshire Ghost Story
  • Nicholas Orme – The History of History at Exeter University
  • Owen Ryles – Education, Enlightenment and Entertainment: Plymouth Mechanics’ Institute 1825–1899
  • Roger E.N. Smith – Saltmarsh Grass, Parapholis strigosa in Devon and South-West England. Is it two species?

The final paper written by Malcolm Hart, Christopher Smart and Melanie Border – Geodiversity underpins Biodiversity in the English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark was also read by title due to time constraints.

After lunch the Annual General Meeting was chaired by John Mather with sixty members in attendance.  Sue Andrew presented a report of the Executive Committee and thanked Jenny Bennett who retired as Vice Chair and Conference Organiser, Colin Turner who retired after twenty years as Honorary Treasurer, John Maltby, and Honorary Secretary Ian Varndell.  Sue Andrew also thanked other members of the Executive Committee and the Branches and Sections as well as DA Registrar Bridget Gillard.

Ian Varndell presented three proposals from the Executive Committee intended to build resilience in a changing environment for membership organisations  and all three were approved:

1. expanded text for Rule 18 regarding members whose subscriptions are in default [The updated rule can be read here]

2. the amalgamation of the roles of Registrar and Honorary Secretary to create a new post of Executive Secretary to be held by the current Registrar, and

John Mather presenting life memberships to Robin Wootton and Colin Turner

3. a request for the members to support an investigation by the trustees into the pros and cons of becoming a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO).

Richard Pocock was appointed as Vice Chair and John Haslam was elected as Honorary Treasurer.  Four new trustees were elected: Professor William (Willie) Hamilton CBE, Hazel Harland, Mark Norman and Ian Varndell.  Honorary Life Memberships were awarded to Colin Turner and Robin Wootton for their long and dedicated service to The Devonshire Association. Sue Andrew thanked John Mather for his enthusiasm and energy during his year as President and presented him with a ceramic plate made by Nick Juniper of Bideford Pottery decorated by his father Harry Juniper.

Incoming President Jenny Pery with John Mather

Jenny Pery, art historian, author and celebrated practitioner of several artistic forms as well as a long-time supporter of the Association, was introduced by Sue Andrew and installed as President for 2023–24.  Jenny Pery then delivered her Presidential Address – Art Matters: A Pride of Painters to an appreciative audience.

Regrettably, a reception planned to be held at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum on Saturday evening was cancelled because of poor ticket sales and in a break with tradition, no events were arranged on the Sunday.

Ian Varndell


Grateful thanks are due to the conference organisers Jenny Bennett, Bridget Gillard and Ian Varndell as well as to the management team at the Mint Methodist Church Centre.  DA Registrar Bridget Gillard was pivotal in ensuring the smooth running of the event under difficult conditions and our thanks are extended to all those who participated in the Conference, AGM and guided walks.

Photos courtesy of Antony T. Buller, Andy Jones and John Maltby.