Category Archives: Feature

A Literary Launch





At the beginning of the new season the Museum hosted the successful launch of Battling Onwards: The Brixham Fishing Fleet 1914-1918 by Samantha Little, Writer in Residence.

The book, written as part of the Museum’s Great War centenary commemorations and based on memoirs from the Museum’s archive with contemporary newspaper accounts, provides a fascinating and fast-moving narrative of life at sea and the constant danger to the fishery from German submarines, mines in the trawl and many other hazards.


bridge 001


The Museum was delighted to welcome Torbay’s Mayor, Gordon Oliver, a keen supporter of the Museum, along with Dr James Wallis, Associate Research Fellow at Exeter University; Katie Findlay from the Devon Remembers Heritage Project; Nigel Hyman, Curator of Sidmouth Museum with his wife, Aileen; Heather Roche, Deputy Curator of Teign Heritage  Centre and her colleague, Lou Bagnold.


IMG_5706 BO Mayor and SL


Samantha and her husband, Edwin Day, were also delighted to welcome family members, friends and many of the Museum’s volunteers and supporters. The Museum’s Fundraising Team provided a wonderful vintage tea with home-made cakes to rival those of Mary Berry, which greatly enhanced the book signing, socialising and general enjoyment of the occasion!

Angela Morgan, one of the Museum’s longest-serving volunteers, presented a huge bouquet of flowers to Samantha, who was also celebrating a milestone birthday!

John Risdon, local historian, author and President of the Museum, who wrote the introduction to Battling Onwards, talked about the importance of the Museum to the local community and beyond and introduced Samantha, who thanked everyone for attending and supporting her writing career. She also thanked the Mayor for his support of the Museum, including having provided a grant from the Mayor’s Fund – half the annual salary of the Mayor which is distributed to charities and communities throughout Torbay. She then spoke in depth about the Great War and signed numerous copies of Battling Onwards, which sold extremely well. The Mayor also spoke, commending the ‘impressive’ Museum on the hard work of its staff and volunteers. His attendance at the event despite a very busy diary was particularly appreciated.


8221.1_BM 161 Valerian Crew



is available from Brixham Heritage Museum and at a cost of £3.50 (plus p&p)

ISBN: 978-0-9545459-8-7

Exciting Times Ahead for Brixham Museum


Brixham Heritage Museum is celebrating recent awards from Arts Council England and Brixham Town Council! They will enable us to consolidate displays on the upper floor of the building. The refurbishment, which is currently taking place, will see redecoration of corridors and a new display about the centre of the town around Brixham Town Hall.




We are very excited about this new project, which explores heritage at the heart of Brixham. We are looking at the area from the days of the Naval Reservoir, which provided essential water to the Channel Fleet in the Napoleonic era to the development of Brixham Urban District Council in Victorian times.

The new display will also reflect the history of the Brixham Bank, which issued town banknotes and will feature information about local families, whose Coats of Arms will be part of the new visual experience. New text panels will complement photographs and artefacts.




The Museum will re-open on 26 January, when the work has been completed, but this is just the beginning of a programme of events for 2016.

We are also looking forward to the publication of a new book, ‘Battling Onwards: The Brixham Fishing Fleet 1914-1918’, by our Writer-in-Residence, Samantha Little. The book is an evocative account of the perils of the fishery, based on the memoirs of fishermen and local residents, held in the Museum’s archive.




Samantha’s book will be published in April and copies will be available to purchase from our newly-stocked shop.

We do hope that local people and visitors will pop into the Museum to see the new display and find out more about our role in the community. We welcome new volunteers and can guarantee that anyone joining us will really enjoy being part of the Museum.

We would also like to thank Brixham Town Council for their generous grant and their continuing support for Brixham Museum.


Forget John Lewis… Come and see our vintage shopping arcade!


Brixham Heritage Museum’s authentic shopping experience (well, you can’t actually buy anything, but you get the point), is complete but for a few finishing touches; in the meantime, it is well worth a visit…

Travel back in time within the cosy Arcade, to see our 1950’s Boot and Shoemaker, Leslie Lovell, in his workshop. A huge image of the cobbling craftsman is now emblazoned across two panels behind his bench, where a Coronation mug reposes among the footwear. Attached to this window you can also see ‘retro’ advertisements for other shops in the town. Do you remember Blackler Bros. (car hire), W.H. Hoskins & Son (mineral water manufacturers)




Brixham Co-operative Society, and Smardon’s Library with its original entrance? (Too young? I thought so, too, until typing this list!!) Re-live trips into town during the past, or find out afresh about the shops and firms that once supplied Brixham families.

Our Pharmacy features a unique collection of cameras from the shop of Reginald Fletcher MPS, (family and dispensing chemist, photography development and equipment). A fascinating display of first aid artefacts, medicine bottles, phials, ceramic containers, tins of lozenges and dyspepsia tablets (together with the mortar and pestle, and crushing board used to make pills before the advent of the NHS) illustrate the type of goods that Reg sold to his customers – and don’t miss the Slipper bed pan!

In the next display, rural implements remind us that Brixham also had a large farming community, which played an important part in the food supply of the neighbourhood.




None of you will recall – you really won’t, this time – items in the Victorian shop: a porcelain doll; a hairbrush; local glassware containers for ginger beer and jam; pipes; tobacco; paintbrushes and a watercolour box – all purveyed by James Williams in St. Mary’s Square (and what a lovely photo of the horse who made deliveries). Sharing this area is the Post Office display (complete with Box, but please don’t post any letters; if you love the Arcade and want to tell us after your visit, don’t pop a note in the tempting red wall slot, may I direct you to TripAdvisor, instead – thank you). Did you know the first Post Office in Brixham opened in 1795? Staggering…and in the early 1800s, the mail coach…no, I’m not going to tell you this riveting history here, you must come in and find out.

Sincere thanks are due to our wonderful ‘Monday Handymen’, whose skill and hard work is really beyond praise – you can be proud of your efforts. I should also mention that they have, for many weeks, worked to produce the creative vision of Christopher Carly-Macaulay with Louise Cresswell. Take a well-deserved bow, all of you!

We are extremely grateful to the Rotary Club of Brixham for their kind donation to support refreshment of these displays and to our Chairman, John Read, who sponsored the sound effects, which add wonderful atmosphere.


Dr Brooking of Brixham

Following recent interest from the Brooking Society, our Curator and Writer-in-Residence have been researching the life of a Victorian physician and surgeon.

Dr. Charles Henry Brooking was a native of Brixham, who took a prominent interest in the local affairs and development of the area, and played a leading part in the Volunteer Artillery.

Born in 1822, he trained at Guy’s Hospital and the College of Surgeons in London, returning to the port to assist his father in practice, qualifying as MD on his retirement and taking over the surgery, where he provided patients with medical attention for a further 30 years. On his own retirement, he spent two years in Italy and then purchased a property in Paignton, the Brixham practice passing to Dr. George Clement Searle.

In 1859, he had ‘succeeded where others failed’ and raised a group of men to form No. 2 Company (Brixham) of the Devonshire (1st) Royal Garrison Artillery, initially commanding them. The Battery used guns ‘that had seen service in the Napoleonic wars’; Captain William Murche later led the Company, his duties passing in time to Captain Lord Churston. Dr. Brooking’s colleague, Dr. Christopher Green, also participated, while Rev. Elrington, Vicar of All Saints’ Church, performed the duties of Chaplain.


artillery band


By 1861, the unit had two 24-pounder guns, while drills took place at the Market Hall, Bolton Cross and outdoors at Berry Head. They also formed a band, marching to Lord Churston’s seat at Lupton, to play ‘a favourite air of the Yarde-Buller family’. During the same year, Dr. Brooking was present at the occasion of the extension of the railway from Paignton to Brixham Road (later Churston Station), stepping forward amidst the crowds on the platform to read a congratulatory address to those arriving on the new stretch of line.

Seven years later, he attended the further extension of the line to Furzeham Common, the Artillery Band one of three performing at the opening ceremony. Local entrepreneur, Richard Walter Wolston, had personally financed the new track; many people were waiting to see his party’s carriage pull in to Brixham Station and cheered when they came into sight.




After Dr. Brooking left Brixham in 1870, the Volunteers continued to meet, practising their rifle shooting and arms skills. Numbers were maintained and in 1903, when new regulations led to a wave of resignations across the country, the Brixham Artillery held firm; in 1904, 86 men were drilling. The requirements paved the way for the Volunteers to be disbanded and territorial units otherwise organised in the years leading up to the Great War. The Brixham Rifle Club was formed in 1909, opening an outdoor shooting gallery at Upton Quarry, while the Urban District Council purchased the Fishcombe Battery for use as a public space in 1910.

Dr. Brooking held the record for being the oldest Volunteer in the country. As such, he was invited to a ‘levee’ at St. James’ Palace, where King George V received him. Three months after his 100th birthday in 1922, Dr. Brooking died in Paignton, where his funeral was held.

More fascinating glimpses into Dr. Brooking’s life including an interesting connection to Isambard Kingdom Brunel have been found in local newspapers – see Website section: Research Reports.


Congratulations Viv!


viv run 001


In January 2015, we told you about Viv Mifsud and about her plans to run a double marathon in order to raise money for the museum. We are now happy to report that Viv has successfully completed both her marathons. She crossed the finishing line of the London marathon with a time of four hours and forty four minutes, having completed the Malta marathon barely a month before.


viv medal 001


She has raised over £2000 for the museum. Thank you Viv!

William Hodges


william hodges


While researching the history of navigation for the museum’s new displays in our maritime room, we came across a interesting connection between the second voyage of Captain James Cook to the Pacific (1772-75) and a burial in St Marys Churchyard.

We were interested in Captain Cook’s use of navigation aids. In particular, in his scientific testing of Harrison’s chronometer (ship’s clock) and in how this invention revolutionised the ability of ships to safely navigate by pinpointing their longitude.




Cook’s voyage was illustrated by the artist William Hodges. His work was intended to record and document the discovery of new lands and cultures and to commemorate the voyage. Hodges also used his sketches, made on the voyage, to create imaginative artistic works, leaving us with a legacy of work which brings Cook’s second voyage vividly to life.




William continued to have a successful career up until 1794, when his exhibition in London was deemed to be to “radical” and was closed down after a visit by the Duke of York. The exhibition contained two large allegorical paintings, entitled “The Effects of Peace” and “The Consequences of War” and was seemingly a comment on the war with France.




William gave up painting and retired to Devon. Different sources report him as living in either Dartmouth or Brixham. What is certain is that upon his death in 1797 he was buried in St Mary’s Churchyard in Brixham.

Rumours of suicide surrounded William’s death, mainly prompted by his apparent near bankruptcy due to the collapse of his banking investments, but these suspicious have never been substantiated.

Louise Cresswell


Horse Power!



Mauritz Elmar


You may have read about the Berry Head Signalling Mast in the Special Projects section of our website.

Felled logs for the mast were moved from the woods to the beach with the heavy work being done by Mauritz Elmar (otherwise known as ‘Mo’!).  Mauritz Elmar is a Norwegian Noriker  and belongs to Dan and John Fisher of Noriker Horse Logging.














New Look Reception Area





Have you visited the museum since we re-opened after the Christmas break?

If so, you will have had an opportunity to admire our newly refurbished reception area. The refurbishment was undertaken by the museum volunteer team of Roy Wilkins, Jim Lambourne, Otto Schneider,Louise Cresswell and Christopher Macauly.  Dave Ham sorted out the re-wiring, PA, telephone and computer.

Christopher has dedicated the last few months to designing and planning the work and he has also worked closely with local carpenter/builder Keith Gardner. The volunteers have stripped the area and repainted, added new shop fittings, carpets and advertising panels.

A big thank you to the team, in particular Christopher, for turning a small budget from the Arts Council into a smart and welcoming area that hopefully gives our visitors an appropriate introduction to our lovely museum.

Here are Roy, Otto and Christopher enjoying a well deserved break…




…and you can see how hard they’ve been working!














A double marathon to support the Musem


Vivien Mifsud



My name is Vivien Mifsud and I am a local runner. I have also been a volunteer at Brixham Museum for many years.

Brixham Museum lives on tenterhooks each year, wondering if it will receive its modest grant from Torbay Council. As this grant steadily diminishes, the Museum will find it increasingly difficult to survive, relying almost totally on its volunteers.

I want to help the Museum and have committed to running not just the Malta Marathon in February but also the London Marathon in April. I have never run two marathons in a year before, let alone within 7 weeks of each other!

Please give me the boost I need by sponsoring me. As I am a former Abbey National (Santander) member of staff, I can get match funding which will double any donations I receive.

Please help me to keep this unique and special place where it belongs – in Brixham for Brixham people.

Here are just a few of the comments written in the Museum’s Visitors’ Book over the last Summer:

  • Passionate people who make it enjoyable (Northampton)
  • Brilliant – could have spent all day here (U.S.A.)
  • Worth every penny (Bristol)
  • This is the way to keep the grandchildren happy (Bristol)
  • Fabulous – friendly staff, even entertained my 11 and 12 year olds (Bristol)
  • A super morning’s fun – a veritable ‘Tardis’
  • So much to see in a small space – wonderful displays of the history of Brixham (Basingstoke)
  • Fantastic place – all age groups would enjoy this Museum (Minehead)
  • Fantastic visit – found family history from 1881. Great value for money (Warwickshire)
  • A very interesting little Museum – do not close such an important facility (Hertford)
  • Very informative and enjoyable – a ‘must see’ on Brixham history (Norwich)
  • Great to see my great-grandfather’s photo and information on the 1914-1918 display. Thank you.

Please support the museum by sponsoring Viv. We have sponsorship forms at the museum. Donations should be made payable to the museum.

She came, she saw, she conquered



I shared a desk with Cathy Craig for a good part of her 13 years as clerical secretary at Brixham Heritage Museum. I discovered that she was all – and more – of the wonderful things that Dr Randall of Astra Zeneca said of her. By the way, this is NOT an obituary, Cathy Craig is alive and kicking, but…Cathy has retired!




At the Museum, it was a case of ‘Help!!!! What????’ The shock waves reverberated throughout the building. What shall we do without her? Cathy WAS Brixham Museum! She ran the place! Everyone depended on her, especially me, even after I retired. It was always: ‘Ask Cathy!’ She knew the answer and, if she didn’t, she’d make it her business to find out. Her thoughts were with everyone, especially at coffee time!! Very often Cathy gave up her own time to help at events and also used her shorthand skills to take the minutes at Executive meetings and AGMs, again in her own time. I often rang from home and dictated letters and Newsletter articles. She became very adept at deciphering certain handwriting, mine and….Philip’s!




She was also a mind reader: ‘Cathy, do such-and-such.’ The answer would be, ‘I’ve done it.’ Such a gem. She is kind, thoughtful, dependable and highly organised. She can even type without looking at the keyboard – there’s clever! What a pity I don’t need a secretary.

Happy Retirement, Cathy… (when you do), with love and memories.

Patsy Britten