Tag Archives: volunteers

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.


Monday, Monday…


…is the day when the Museum is closed to visitors and much work is done behind the scenes.

Our happy band of volunteers continues to refurbish and research with much happening, amid great excitement, on the days we have the Museum to ourselves. Our handymen (with Louise Cresswell giving orders, sorry, sorry, styling the scene) are making excellent progress with the Brixham Shops.




The 1950’s Cobbler’s Shop, which was run from the tradesman’s domestic premises, now has authentic wallpaper in place, a 1950’s radio on the shelf above the boots, a cobbler’s bench (special thanks to Otto Schneider for his hard work on this item) and the finishing touch – a piece de résistance – will be a Coronation mug next to the tools on the table. The Cobbler’s name board is in place above the display – W. Elliott, Boot Maker – known as ‘Welly’, perhaps?

Newman’s Chemist has been revamped to provide space to properly view the intriguing pharmaceutical items (not as scary as the instruments in our Medical Display) and the handymen have managed with sleight of hand to light the glass name plate from behind…OK, OK, they’re not magicians, but have cleverly incorporated two light boxes to do the trick…such ingenuity!

The General Store (don’t we have a lot of Oxo tins???) is also being restyled and, at last, we have a place for the original sign from the George Hotel. Louise is researching this establishment and some text with a photograph will appear below the sign to enlighten you, in due course.

Ooooh La La! We have received a letter from France in answer to our enquiry about the provenance of the stick purporting to belong to Napoleon…but, unfortunately, we are no further forward in our investigations. It may be that the stick was carved by prisoners-of-war on St. Helena, or it may have no connection and instead be the work of an Irish craftsman, as similar sticks have been discovered in the Emerald Isle. No matter, there is sure to be a fascinating story attached to it, one way or another.

Anyone out there found John Smart’s bottle?


Behind the Scenes at the Museum


Have you ever wondered just what happens when the Museum is closed to the public? Abandon thoughts of silent corridors, darkened displays and an eerie atmosphere…the Museum is full of life and laughter, as our staff and volunteers descend on the building to create and improve exhibitions and engage in fascinating research projects – there are a few of us here who would never go home, given the opportunity!




At the moment, a team of dedicated and extremely talented handymen are working to refresh the Victorian Arcade, specifically the Cobbler’s Shop, based on a real business in Brixham inside the craftsman’s home. The Street Scene is fascinating as it depicts local industry other than the fishery. It has been quite a task to deter our Museum Co-ordinator from putting up Cath Kidston wallpaper in the background…no, no, we must be authentic. We quite like the wallpaper covered with a repetition of cowboys on horseback with flying lassoes… you can get the pattern on a mug, too…where were we? Oh yes, this renovation will be a big improvement…do come and see it for yourselves.




Our Curator, Dr. Philip Armitage, has been researching the provenance of a hand fashioned walking stick, recently donated to the Museum and reputed to be the work of Napoleon, who arrived at Brixham on HMS Bellerophon exactly 200 years ago. Louise Cresswell is assisting him. They have discovered that similar sticks were constructed by prisoners of war on St. Helena, where Napoleon famously spent his last days in exile, so there may be a connection. They have written to the Societe Napoleonien in Paris (translation courtesy of our Writer in Residence’s husband, Edwin Day, M.A. (Oxon) with slight assistance from the Writer herself, who are both looking forward to translating the reply back into English)…watch this space for the response and see if we can uncover the mystery of the walking stick.

Stalwart Louise Lilli is spending hours looking at our database of photographs and cross referencing them with other sources to ensure that they are all accurately dated. She has so far checked over 1,000 of them and deserves commendation for her tenacity, especially when we interrupt her to admire an unusual view of Brixham or comment on some interesting picture from days gone by. Never mind, Louise, only another 5,000 or so to go…

Much is happening at the Museum as part of commemorations for the Great War – we will all be at a loss in 2019 when these come to an end. Several projects are being researched by Louise Cresswell and Writer in Residence Samantha Little, who are having a wonderful time looking through contemporary newspapers and correspondence from soldiers at the Front. Both freely admit to sitting up into the small hours in their respective homes continuing the search for information and photographs online; they hope to publish two books resulting from their research. We will promote them through social media in 2016…so don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Congratulations Viv!


viv run 001


In January 2015, we told you about Viv Mifsud and about her plans to run a double marathon in order to raise money for the museum. We are now happy to report that Viv has successfully completed both her marathons. She crossed the finishing line of the London marathon with a time of four hours and forty four minutes, having completed the Malta marathon barely a month before.


viv medal 001


She has raised over £2000 for the museum. Thank you Viv!

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.

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.”



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.”

More Pieces of Brixham Life






More Pieces of Brixham Life — A Selection of Short Stories By Howard Binham

The Museum has arranged to republish Howard Binham’s engaging ‘Pieces of Brixham Life’, short musings on Brixham life and landscape interspersed with delicious descriptions of local walks taken with his dog. It’s a fascinating set of writings, including rather nice poems, which captures Brixham exceedingly well. This gentle work has been too long out of print but can now be purchased from the Museum shop.

Our volunteer, Mrs Mona Stock, has produced the revised edition of the book of ‘Short Stories’ that Howard wrote in 2001 – a wonderful tour of the area — with a literary slant! She has aided Howard in the revision, converted the text to an electronic version, and paid for the first 20 copies to be printed. They are selling like hot cakes!

Latest Archaeological Discoveries on Berry Head


Talk at Brixham Heritage Museum, by Philip Armitage, 5th November 2012



On Monday 5th November, Brixham Heritage Museum’s Curator Dr Philip Armitage gave his annual update on the latest archaeological discoveries at Berry Head, to an overflowing crowd.

He said that this had been an exciting year which saved the very best discovery until the very end of this year’s “digging season”.

Despite the often atrocious weather during the summer, there have been family digs and also “MiniMuseum” digs (for preschoolers) to involve others in what the Museum’s Field Research Team do all year, enabling participants an opportunity of hands-on experience of an actual archaeological dig. The digging area on the edge of Berry Head Common was the site of demolished Victorian cottages but also has produced evidence of prehistoric (Mesolithic) flint-tool manufacture and a very nice leaf-shaped Neolithic arrowhead. In total over 1,360 flints were recovered.

The most amazing finds only came when Gerry and Heather Perkins (two of our volunteer archaeologists) were asked to investigate a new area. They found a padlock and a pistol bullet mould, which encouraged further digging by Steve Soper and Gill Bedford (two other members of the archaeological team) leading to the discovery of a pit entirely filled with virtually complete tableware, possibly from clearance of the officers’ mess on the site when the mess was moved into the northern fort circa 1805. Perhaps they discarded the old crockery when new was supplied. Although found in broken pieces, the archaeologists have worked their jigsaw magic and re-assembled complete plates, wine bottles, drinking glasses, and even a large bowl possibly used in making beer. There is also a very splendid English Delftware charger dating from c.1780s but the overall date for the assemblage is around the 1790s. Food debris (beef, sheep and fish bones) recovered from the pit will reveal the diet of the soldiers. The whole contents of this pit will be of great interest nationally, when the post-excavation work is completed and the recovered items published. But where can we display all these wonderful finds in the already packed out Museum?