People in Brixham may have noticed that we now have panels on our first floor windows. These were designed by Rose Coulton and funded by a Brixham Town Council grant as part of an overall plan to improve the facade of the Museum and to encourage visitors.
They depict various aspects of our displays within the Museum from the Ice Age to more modern times and we are hoping that people will realise how much material is housed within our ‘Tardis’.
In January 1958, a nearly complete skeleton (now displayed in the museum) was discovered during road works for a new sewer in King Street. The press dubbed the skeleton ‘Kate’ based on identification of this skeleton as that of a female, by a local physician.
The discovery caused widespread public interest due to the positioning of the bones, apparently resembling a Kist Bronze Age Crouched burial. These observations led to the bones being regarded as ‘ancient’ and consequently the Home Office ruled that no inquest was required.
Following the ruling, the bones were presented to the newly formed Brixham Museum and History Society, with the intention of undertaking scientific examination and eventual display.
In 2012, the museum’s curator, Dr Philip Armitage, re-examined the skeleton and identified the remains as those of a male between the ages of 17 and 25 years old and 1.64m in height. Radiocarbon dating undertaken by the British Museum indicated a date for the skeleton as being between 1670 and 1780 AD.
The location and date of the King Street skeleton fit in with the pre 1808 practice of shoreline burials of those cast ashore. Historically, fishing and merchant seafaring were the most dangerous of all professions and each year many fishermen, mariners and ships’ passengers lost their lives at sea and were washed ashore.
Uncertainty over the religious faith of those washed ashore, the considerable financial burden of burial placed upon the parishes and the fishing communities’ pragmatic response to these losses, resulted in the widespread practice of shoreline burials in all coastal communities. The ‘Burial of Drowned Persons Act’ introduced in 1808 ended shoreline burials, requiring parishes to bury those washed ashore in consecrated ground.