Monthly Archives: November 2015

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)

 

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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.

 

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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.

SAMANTHA LITTLE

Curator’s Fascinating Focus on… Napoleonic Archaeology and Signalling at Berry Head

 

Our Curator, Dr. Philip L. Armitage, whose photograph has previously appeared on this blog revealing his unforgettable taste in woollen headgear, has recently given a new talk to the social group of St. Matthias’ Church in Torquay.

Enthusiastically setting the scene for his main theme, Philip vividly portrayed life on the wild promontory of Berry Head from early times to the Victorian era, his lively descriptions illustrated with superb slides, while the audience had the opportunity to handle ancient flints and a variety of artefacts discovered by the Museum’s ‘Time Team’ during excavations at the headland’s cottages over a number of years.

Philip then revealed that our celebrated ‘Pit Group’, which has been digging among the remains of the Headquarters of the engineers who built the Napoleon-era fortifications, has uncovered a plethora of domestic detritus, including wine bottles and tea bowls, which provides rare insight into the daily lives and routines of those engaged in the building of the crucial defences. As Philip emphasised, this is truly ‘a unique collection of items of one historic event’.

The group was interested to hear about the creation and journey of the Signalling Mast, a project collaboration between Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust and Brixham Heritage Museum, to mark 200 years since the arrival of the captive Napoleon Bonaparte in Tor Bay on 24 July 1815. Central to the project were the use of traditional methods and local craftsmen to construct and install such a mast as the one depicted in the famous painting of H.M.S. Bellerophon off Berry Head by Thomas Luny.

Felled from larches at Churston, the wood was horse-logged from the nearby Cove to Galmpton aboard the Optimist via Brixham Harbour, where trawler mast makers carved the 36-foot high replica, which was taken to Berry Head and erected at the Southern Fort, complete with a red flag and black balls, unique to the Brixham signal station. Signalling demonstrations took place throughout the summer, keeping alive important nautical knowledge and skills.

A full description of this remarkable project with an update and photographs is available on this website under ‘Special Projects’. Don’t miss it!

SAMANTHA LITTLE