Tag Archives: display

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.


Unveiling of Historic Plaque

A plaque commemorating the stoicism of the Brixham people in adversity has been unveiled at Brixham Museum.



At the time of the Second World War the museum was the local police station and the few officers there had to police a town containing a torpedo shipyard, a refuelling installation and 4,000,000 gallon underground aviation fuel storage tank.

Sergeant Alfred Mock, who had fought in the First World War, was in charge of the station during this time. Members of Sergeant Mock’s family, including his son Frank who provided the plaque, will be on hand to see it unveiled.



There is a display in the museum based around Sgt Mock which details the esteem he had for the people of Brixham, who largely policed themselves in a period of reduced manpower, increased risk and deprivation. He watched, saluted many troops and wished them luck as they were unloaded outside the station house to march down to the harbour to embark.



The museum curator, Dr Phil Armitage, welcomed the plaque being added to the front of the museum and said, ‘This goes to show what respect the people of Brixham were held in by those who manned this police station and also commemorates a long serving officer, who was based here from 1933 through the depression and the war until 1945.”

Chairman of Brixham Town Council , Councillor Martyn Hodge, said  “It is pleasing that members of Sergeant Mock’s family feel strongly enough about Brixham to have had this plaque erected. The words show that it is not just about Sergeant Mock but also the people of Brixham. It is entirely fitting that it is placed in such a prominent location on the front of the old Police Station in New Road and re affirms this building’s importance as part of the heritage of our town.”


Opening of the Bone Caverns Display

By Philip L. Armitage

During the Victorian period Brixham’s three principal fossil “bone” caverns (Windmill Hill Cavern, Ash Hole Cavern and Bench Cavern) attracted much scientific attention, but are now largely forgotten, especially since the closure of the Windmill Hill Cavern in 1977 (a very popular show cave with locals and visitors alike). The Museum exhibition therefore aims to “reinstate” the importance of the caverns, explaining the circumstances of how each cavern was discovered, explored and how the fossil discoveries made in them contributed to our knowledge of extinct prehistoric animals that once roamed Brixham during the last ice age.

It was during pioneering scientific excavations at Windmill Hill Cavern (also known as The Brixham Bone Cavern and Philp’s Cavern) carried out by the eminent palaeontologist William Pengelly in 1858 that irrefutable evidence was uncovered proving the great antiquity of man, a contentious question in Victorian times.

The display comprises ice age fossil mammal teeth (dating from 56,000 years ago) donated by the Thyer family. In 1945 a young teenager Dennis Thyer lived with his family in the house above the Windmill Hill Cavern (Mount Pleasant Road) and although the cavern was officially closed to the public he managed to find an alternative “entrance” in the nearby quarry. Exploring the cavern system he discovered and collected fossil teeth which have been recently identified by Dr. Armitage, Curator of Brixham Heritage Museum as teeth of spotted hyaena, woolly rhinoceros, brown bear, reindeer and wild horse. Dennis carefully wrapped the fossils in tissue paper inside a Jacob’s Cream Cracker tin. Sometime after his death, Dennis’s sons and daughters decided to return the fossils to Brixham and allowed the Museum to research these specimens and place them on display. A scientific article on these fossils written by the Museum Curator will be published next year in “Studies in Speleology”.

Other material on display includes prehistoric pottery and a stone axe head collected by Museum volunteer Graham Head during his exploration of Ash Hole Cavern in the 1960s. There are also four explanatory panels and a full-size cut out of a female cave bear created by Museum volunteer Louise Cresswell. We are inviting children to suggest a name for this bear.


Opening of the Bone Cavern Display

Opening of the Bone Cavern Display


The display was officially opened by Mrs. Yvonne Hunt and Mrs. Yvette Stock, Dennis Thyer’s daughters. Brixham Town Council members were in attendance as was the Former Torbay Mayor Mr. Nick Bye. The Museum Curator presented Mrs. Hunt and Mrs. Stock with flowers and commemorative mugs printed with a colourful scene of ice age animals that once roamed Brixham – the work of local artist Rose Coulton who also produced illustrations featured in the display panels. A special presentation of an engraved plate was also made to Graham Head for his contributions to the Museum’s archaeological researches.