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

Musical Evening at Lupton House

On the evening of Friday 10th October supporters of Brixham Heritage Museum organised a fund-raising event, where they were treated to a wonderful musical evening in the magnificent, acoustic ballroom of Lupton House. The music ranged from classical to World War I patriotic songs and even skiffle. Donna-Marie Hughes performed some exceptional solos, demonstrating why she is universally in demand. The evening was further enhanced by the “in house” catering of Darren Drummond and his team.

Grateful thanks are given to all who performed and to those who attended. As our President, Mr Vernon Duker, pointed out, in the present state of the local economy whereby our financial support might be lost, such fundraising events become more and more essential.

Toad archaeology!


Rescue of a toad helps Museum archaeologists find missing piece of an 18th-century Delftware plate at Berry Head.




Archaeological excavations carried out by Brixham Heritage Museum in 2012, at a site on Berry Head adjacent to the air traffic control beacon, lead to the discovery of a pit filled with broken crockery, wine bottles and drinking glasses. Working their “jigsaw magic”, the Museum team managed to re-assemble complete plates, cups, wine glasses and bottles; the majority of which date from the 1790s/early 1800s and are believed to be from a clearance of the old officers’ mess and office of the Engineer (who was in charge of building the Berry Head  forts). These buildings occupied the site prior to the later construction of two Victorian cottages (demolished 1908). Excavation of the pit also produced shards of an earlier, rather splendid English Delftware charger (large plate) dating from c. 1780s (possibly a prized heirloom of either one of the officers or of the Engineer). When re-assembled it was a disappointment for the Museum team to discover that one small section was still missing from the otherwise complete plate.

Fast forward to two weeks ago this year and the same pit was the focus of further investigation. However, just as the digging out of the earth backfill to the pit started, a toad, startled by the activity, was seen to dart down its burrow inside the pit. Not wishing to cause injury to this animal, the Museum archaeologists then had to very carefully remove the earth a few centimetres at a time using a trowel rather than a spade. Whilst this caused a considerable delay in the excavation procedure the toad was finally located (uninjured) towards the bottom of the pit and, amazingly, next to the animal was the missing piece of the Delftware plate!!  Had a spade been used instead of the trowel the small piece of pottery might have been overlooked.




The missing piece has now been re-united with the rest of the plate, now complete. As for the toad, the animal was relocated to a much safer place away from the area being excavated and hopefully will dig a new burrow.




Brixham’s Untold Stories of the Great War – the birth of a new display





Visitors are often unaware of all the hard work and planning that is required to set up a new display in the museum – much of it done by our team of dedicated volunteers.

Louise Cresswell has written this short piece to give a flavour of what goes on behind the scenes before a new display can be unveiled…

Brixham’s Untold Stories of the Great War

“The idea to refurbish the existing WWI display began with our plans to commemorate the Great War. These plans developed as we uncovered new information, photos and artefacts, and we soon realized that the existing display area was not a sufficient space to house the new panels. We decided to use the space in the first corridor as we already had plans to tidy up this area, which had previously contained a rather random collection of photos of the town.”




“Christopher Macauly, our display curator, suggested the theme of “Brixham’s Untold Stories of the Great War” as we needed the display to be not only a commemoration of those who had died or served, but also an engaging display for visitors who don’t have a Brixham connection. The display also needed to reflect the different theatres of war served in and to represent the different services.”

“The research was primarily based on our archive, particularly the Brixham Western Guardian newspapers. We focused our research on the stories we wanted to tell in the panels. For example, we wanted to include a story about the Tank Corps. We found a brief mention of Captain Hawthorn from Brixham receiving an award for his service with the Tank Corps. From that, I was able to trace his family through Ancestry and with the assistance from the Bovington Tank Museum, we managed to piece together an interesting story of his experience in World War 1, discovering that he recovered the first German Tank and brought it back to the British line. The research for each individual story took a number of weeks and we had too many to fit them all in.”

“The research and design of panels are done by me and Christopher. He makes them print ready and sends them to to the printers. Christopher’s role as volunteer ensures that any budget we have is only needed for the final print cost.  This World War 1 project comes from the joint project with the library, which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. If we had to pay a designer to design and lay out the panels there is no way we could afford to do them.”



Railway book published 25 years after first edition



Twenty-five years after publishing the first edition, Brixham author Chris Potts has released a second version of his history of a local railway line. His follow-up edition of the Newton Abbot to Kingswear Railway is timed to coincide with the anniversary of the railway reaching Kingswear 150 years ago.

Potts said the newer version includes more historical information, personal anecdotes from those who worked on the railways and an update of the 25 years after his initial publication. “We found World War Two action records, runaway balloons and bombing that went on. “In particular it’s very fascinating in Kingswear how they had problems getting water in the engines. The railways needed water to run, and in the 19th century there were great problems with water shortages.”

This isn’t the first time Potts has updated a book of his, having published the second edition of his history of the Brixham railway branch in 2000. As well as railways, he has also written on the history of Brixham’s boys’ home and the town’s museum.

Having started his career on the railways at Torquay booking office in 1962, Potts later worked in Plymouth divisional office before spending 34 years at British Railway. After retirement he returned to the West Country, living in Brixham ever since. His latest book took him four years to update, on and off.
“I’ve always taken great delight in railways and railway history, so it’s a dream come true. I’ve made a good job of this, I’m pleased with it.”

With 352 pages the latest version is longer than the original at 218 written pages plus eight blocks of photos. At a print run of 1,000, half its predecessor’s in 1989, the latest edition may not be able to sell many but has still made a good start, with Torbay Bookshop selling 13 of its first 15 copies.


Chris’ book is also available for purchase from the Museum shop – price £19.95

A volunteer’s story




Barbara Davies wrote this article about her trip to the Kids in Museums award ceremony for the Totnes County High School Reunion Association Newsletter 2014.

Barbara (second from left) is a much valued volunteer at the Museum.


Telegraph Family Friendly Museum winners 2013


“Last September I was very honoured to be asked to be one of the representatives of the Brixham Heritage Museum at the Sunday Telegraph Awards ceremony. For the second year running our museum was in the top six of their Family Friendly Museum – Kids in Museum list. We left Paignton at 5.30 a.m. on the London coach and arrived at Victoria coach station just in time for coffee. It was only a short walk to the Sunday Telegraph office, where we were greeted most warmly and were able to meet the other finalists and some previous winners of the award. When it was time for the formalities to begin, the six finalists were listed in alphabetical order and we were told that because it had been so difficult to choose, for the first time ever there were two winners. The first museum was The Horniman, in London and my heart sank! (I thought – alphabetical order – B comes before H – we’ve had it for this year.) The second winner was Brixham Heritage Museum. We had done it! We had to make acceptance speeches of course, whereupon my mind went totally blank and I think that I waffled my way through something. (Nothing new there then)! I know I was quite emotional and not just because I shook hands with Philip Mould from the Antiques Roadshow who presented the awards. After a buffet lunch we were shown round the Telegraph offices and then it was time to leave for home. Our coach left Victoria at 4.30 p.m. and due to diversions and heavy traffic, it was 6.30 p.m. before we reached Gatwick. Instead of getting home at 10.00 p.m. it was 11.15 p.m. before we could get in the car for Brixham, home and bed after a very long but enjoyable day.”

Chairman’s Message


Since I became involved in the Executive and running of Brixham Heritage Museum in 1997, seventeen years ago, there have been many changes, most for the good, but one item which has not changed is the perpetual worry of paying the bills. The bills which involve insurance of the collection, the utilities and wages, all of which increase each year.

The ‘Museum’ has been able to improve its presentation to visitors by the availability of grants, which I have said many times before can only be used for the specific reason for the application.

These types of grants were not available 17 years ago, so at that time the Museum’s “coat had to be cut according to its cloth” and it is still the same today, more so, because of the real probability of grants from Torbay Council ceasing within 3 years.

The only way to increase the income of the Museum is to raise both the membership and visitors entrance fees and this obviously will be most unpopular. But it must be done in the very near future, if Brixham Heritage Museum is to survive.

The Museum’s finances, which are difficult to handle, have been managed incredibly efficiently by several past Treasurers, none more so than the present retiring Treasurer, John Parr. Not once in the history of the Museum has the finances gone into the red and never has the Museum had to be bailed out of debt. The Museum is a well­run “business” and this is recognised by the Arts Council, who have recently become involved with the Torbay Museums.

BUT, again, as I have said many times, the Museum must become totally self­sufficient and now it has to be sooner rather than later.

It was hoped that a grant to purchase the Brixham Cavern might have been forthcoming and this would have enabled the Museum to become involved. The Brixham heritage inside those caves is of great archaeological importance, not only locally but world­wide, but a grant was not possible, so other means of income will have to be found.

The improvement of the Museum’s facilities is down to a large group of volunteers who are prepared to give up a tremendous amount of their spare time to improving the building and its displays, and again, as I’ve said before, the Museum grows on you and becomes part of your existence, as it has been to me over the last 20 years since I first became a member, starting as a “lowly” steward and finishing as Chairman.

I shall miss the Museum, but if everyone continues to pull together as they have in the past, then Brixham Heritage Museum will survive and be a credit to the town of Brixham – and Torbay.