Tag Archives: family history

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.


Brixham in the Great War



As a joint venture to commemorate “Brixham in the Great War”, Brixham Heritage Museum, in conjunction with the Friends of Brixham Library and S. Devon Players, has been awarded a Heritage Lottery Grant.

This will enable the museum to collate and interpret the archive information already held and present this to the public in the form of pamphlets, teachers’ packs, and an updated World War 1 display. In addition we will compile an edited copy of a diary written by a Brixham sailor named Lawrence Lake, in which hand painted pictures depict boats and places which he saw during his WW1 service.

In order to complete these projects, Brixham Heritage Museum would like to appeal to the people of Brixham for any photographs (which could be scanned and returned), family stories of life during that time, or donation of artefacts.


As an example of a local family’s contribution to the project, we include a photograph of Percy John Johnson, a local butcher, who served in the Coldstream Guards during World War I, together with a photograph of his service medals.

Please contact the Museum on 01803 856267 or email mail@brixhamheritage.org.uk

Sir Stephen Lakeman – the Brixham Connection



Sir Stephen Bartlett Lakeman


Some of you may remember the lecture I gave last year, entitled ‘The Lakeman Family’ and its influence in the development of Brixham’. The family owned and ran Lakeman’s Brewery where today the bus services operate. Thomas Lakeman (Senior) was Chairman of the Local Board, Director and founder of the Brixham Gas Company, Chairman of the Preventative Diseases Committee, Chairman of the Local Water Supply Company, Director of the Brixham Ice Company, Registrar of Births and Deaths and Treasurer to the Harbour Commission.
My research has moved to the next generation with surprising results. Thomas had 11 children, the youngest Stephen Charles Lakeman born in 1801 at Brixham. He named his first born Stephen Bartlett Lakeman, who was born in 1823. In 1847, aged 24, he was advising the Duke of Wellington on the advantages of the ‘Minie Rifle’ over the existing smooth bore musket rifle then used as standard issue for British troops. In 1850-2, he was permitted to recruit a private regiment of 200 men and equip them at his own expense. He was then despatched to South Africa to fight in the Xhosa wars. His troops became known as the Death Regiment due to the atrocities they committed, killing without mercy. The regiment was disbanded in 1853 at the end of the conflict. On his return, bulbs and plants collected in South Africa were sent to the family’s residence Grange Wood Hall in Leicester.  The animals, including springbox, monkeys, and leopards were found accommodation at London Zoo in Regents Park.  He was rewarded with a knighthood at the age of 30 with Queen Victoria performing the ceremony at Windsor Castle on 25th November, 1853. He became a diplomat and while in Romania met and married Princess Marie de Philippesco in 1856, inheriting a fortune, however, his influence dwindled and he died in relative obscurity in London in 1897. He was a true Victorian adventurer, warrior and diplomat with his exploits today now largely forgotten.

Sir Stephen’s father left Brixham early in his life and is next traced to London through the 1851 census. His first bankruptcy was at Dartmouth in 1826 with others in London in 1836 and 1856. The most notorious was in 1836 when, living in Regent Circus, Piccadilly, he and the chief ADC to King Louis Philippe of France, committed fraud on the London Stock Exchange in amounts in today’s values amounting to many millions of pounds. He escaped to France with a £1,000 offered for his capture. Unbelievably, he continued with his business interests, always setting up the deals and taking commission, but never becoming involved to a point where he became liable for debt or any legal consequences of the fraud. He became an embarrassment and then a disgrace to his family, who eventually disowned him. Undoubtedly, he created problems that probably limited his son, Sir Stephen’s, career prospects. He died aged 64 in his son’s house at Dawlish, leaving an estate worth less that £450. This was claimed by his wife, then living at Brighton. It is not known whether the marriage failed, but they were living apart at the time of his death.

Terry Lakeman

Telling Our Story


Discovering the lives of Victorian and early Edwardian families on Berry Head, Brixham (Torbay, Devon)


Brixham Heritage Museum celebrates £4,500 Heritage Lottery Fund grant

Brixham Heritage Museum is one of the first groups in the UK to receive a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) ALL OUR STORIES grant, it was announced today. This exciting project has been given £4,500 to tell the stories of the Victorian and early Edwardian families who lived on Berry Head, Brixham (Torbay, Devon) with special focus on the Shrives families and their close association with the Rev. Henry Francis Lyte (author of the hymn “Abide with Me”).

All Our Stories, a brand new small grant programme, launched earlier this year in support of BBC Two’s The Great British Story – has been designed as an opportunity for everyone to get involved in their heritage, With HLF funding and support, community groups will carry out activities that help people explore, share and celebrate their local heritage.

The popular series presented by historian Michael Wood and supported by a programme of BBC Learning activities and events got thousands of us asking questions about our history and inspired us to look at our history in a different way through the eyes of ordinary people.

The programme and HLF All Our Stories has proved a real hit and now Brixham Heritage Museum’s project “Discovering the lives of the Berry Head families” is one of hundreds of successful projects around the UK to receive a grant. Brixham Heritage Museum will work with young people and volunteers from the local community to help them to develop media and communication skills. Using excavated archaeological finds, census returns, historical documents, old photographs and information gleaned from talking with descendants of the
Shrives, participants in the project will aim to reconstruct the stories of the Berry Head families. Two open house excavation days in the summer of 2013 will be organised for families to participate in an actual archaeological dig at the site of the cottages on Berry Head where the Shrives and other families lived from 1841 to c.1908. Young people (including Torquay Museum Young Explorers Club members) and Brixham Museum volunteers will be involved in assisting the study of archaeological finds and historic documents, and will receive training. Presentations about the Berry Head families will be made to schools and
community groups and school children will be invited to write their own poems and stories about the lives of people who lived on Berry Head in Victorian times.

TV presenter and historian Michael Wood said “We British love our history, and no wonder: few nations in the world, if any, have such riches on their doorstep, and so much of it accessible to all of us. It is really tremendous that the people of Brixham and Torbay have been inspired to get involved to tell their own story and to dig deeper into their own past. It’s brilliant that so many people are being given the chance to get involved through All Our Stories grants. Having travelled the length and breadth of the British Isles this last year filming The Great British Story, I am certain that fascinating and moving stories will be uncovered which not only bring to life the excitement of local history, but will illuminate and
enrich every community’s connection with the national narrative”.

Dr Philip L. Armitage (Curator, Brixham Heritage Museum), commenting on the award said: “We are extremely pleased and honoured to have been awarded this grant, which will enable us to share with local people little known personal stories of ordinary families who lived on Berry Head in past times, reconstructed using archaeological and historical resources”.

Richard Bellamy, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said: Clearly the success of All Our Stories has reinforced the fact that we are indeed a nation of story tellers and that we want to explore and dig deeper into our past and discover more about what really matters to us. This is exactly what the grant will do for the Brixham Heritage Museum’s project ‘Discovering the lives of Victorian and early Edwardian families on Berry Head, Brixham (Torbay, Devon)’ as they embark on a real journey of discovery”.

For further information, images and interviews, please contact
Dr Philip L. Armitage (Curator) Brixham Heritage Museum
Telephone: 01803 856267
Email: mail@brixhamheritage.org.uk



Family History Group



Are you standing next to your long lost relative in the supermarket queue?

We currently have vacancies for new members at our Family History Group which meets on alternate Thursday evenings from 7.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m. We will work with you on a one to one basis to help you to research your family history -and you do not need to have been born locally to take advantage of our service!

We ask for a donation to the museum of £12 for each session (£10 for members).  You can find more information at


Why not join us?