Category Archives: Behind the scenes at the museum

Monday, Monday…


…is the day when the Museum is closed to visitors and much work is done behind the scenes.

Our happy band of volunteers continues to refurbish and research with much happening, amid great excitement, on the days we have the Museum to ourselves. Our handymen (with Louise Cresswell giving orders, sorry, sorry, styling the scene) are making excellent progress with the Brixham Shops.




The 1950’s Cobbler’s Shop, which was run from the tradesman’s domestic premises, now has authentic wallpaper in place, a 1950’s radio on the shelf above the boots, a cobbler’s bench (special thanks to Otto Schneider for his hard work on this item) and the finishing touch – a piece de résistance – will be a Coronation mug next to the tools on the table. The Cobbler’s name board is in place above the display – W. Elliott, Boot Maker – known as ‘Welly’, perhaps?

Newman’s Chemist has been revamped to provide space to properly view the intriguing pharmaceutical items (not as scary as the instruments in our Medical Display) and the handymen have managed with sleight of hand to light the glass name plate from behind…OK, OK, they’re not magicians, but have cleverly incorporated two light boxes to do the trick…such ingenuity!

The General Store (don’t we have a lot of Oxo tins???) is also being restyled and, at last, we have a place for the original sign from the George Hotel. Louise is researching this establishment and some text with a photograph will appear below the sign to enlighten you, in due course.

Ooooh La La! We have received a letter from France in answer to our enquiry about the provenance of the stick purporting to belong to Napoleon…but, unfortunately, we are no further forward in our investigations. It may be that the stick was carved by prisoners-of-war on St. Helena, or it may have no connection and instead be the work of an Irish craftsman, as similar sticks have been discovered in the Emerald Isle. No matter, there is sure to be a fascinating story attached to it, one way or another.

Anyone out there found John Smart’s bottle?


Behind the Scenes at the Museum


Have you ever wondered just what happens when the Museum is closed to the public? Abandon thoughts of silent corridors, darkened displays and an eerie atmosphere…the Museum is full of life and laughter, as our staff and volunteers descend on the building to create and improve exhibitions and engage in fascinating research projects – there are a few of us here who would never go home, given the opportunity!




At the moment, a team of dedicated and extremely talented handymen are working to refresh the Victorian Arcade, specifically the Cobbler’s Shop, based on a real business in Brixham inside the craftsman’s home. The Street Scene is fascinating as it depicts local industry other than the fishery. It has been quite a task to deter our Museum Co-ordinator from putting up Cath Kidston wallpaper in the background…no, no, we must be authentic. We quite like the wallpaper covered with a repetition of cowboys on horseback with flying lassoes… you can get the pattern on a mug, too…where were we? Oh yes, this renovation will be a big improvement…do come and see it for yourselves.




Our Curator, Dr. Philip Armitage, has been researching the provenance of a hand fashioned walking stick, recently donated to the Museum and reputed to be the work of Napoleon, who arrived at Brixham on HMS Bellerophon exactly 200 years ago. Louise Cresswell is assisting him. They have discovered that similar sticks were constructed by prisoners of war on St. Helena, where Napoleon famously spent his last days in exile, so there may be a connection. They have written to the Societe Napoleonien in Paris (translation courtesy of our Writer in Residence’s husband, Edwin Day, M.A. (Oxon) with slight assistance from the Writer herself, who are both looking forward to translating the reply back into English)…watch this space for the response and see if we can uncover the mystery of the walking stick.

Stalwart Louise Lilli is spending hours looking at our database of photographs and cross referencing them with other sources to ensure that they are all accurately dated. She has so far checked over 1,000 of them and deserves commendation for her tenacity, especially when we interrupt her to admire an unusual view of Brixham or comment on some interesting picture from days gone by. Never mind, Louise, only another 5,000 or so to go…

Much is happening at the Museum as part of commemorations for the Great War – we will all be at a loss in 2019 when these come to an end. Several projects are being researched by Louise Cresswell and Writer in Residence Samantha Little, who are having a wonderful time looking through contemporary newspapers and correspondence from soldiers at the Front. Both freely admit to sitting up into the small hours in their respective homes continuing the search for information and photographs online; they hope to publish two books resulting from their research. We will promote them through social media in 2016…so don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter!