Showing posts with label Devon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Devon. Show all posts

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Newton Abbot Museum

I'd been waiting to visit Newton Abbot Museum for a while. Waiting until we next went to Devon, to see my mum in the Easter holidays, as quite a few local museums in Devon are closed for the winter. 

It didn't bode well at first when, after we'd parked very close by, we asked someone where it was and they "didn't even know Newton Abbot had a museum".

It was so well worth the wait.
It was one of those museums that gives you a tingly feeling, a sense of excitement as it draws you in.
We were given the warmest welcome, in the smallest room, with the largest fire surround.

This is the Sandford Orleigh overmantle. Made in the sixteenth century from over twenty carved oak panels. It has been recently restored through the Heart of Oak project.  
We were invited to see if we could work out which wooden figures were new and which were original. You could sort of work it out. This didn't detract from the wonder of it. We just gained great admiration for the craftsman who re-carved the missing parts. 

In Newton Abbot Museum there have been other craftsmen at work, making things from wood. This time an eighteenth century replica diving machine, designed to be used to recover valuable cargoe from sunken ships.

John Lethbridge, a pretty unsuccessful local wool merchant, designed and used the original machine, becoming a successful salvage diver in his forties.

 This automation helps you get the picture.

However it could go down to depths of 22 metres.
"Apparently people died because of the pressure they experienced on their arms."

Not as far as a Sperm Whale,

and a military submarine knocks spots off that, at 3000 metres.

Fortunately you don't have to go to any depth for the obligitory museum selfie.

Absorbed in John Lethbridge's story, I lost the kids but I could hear bells, train signals.
I followed the sound to the most amazing room.

 Under the watchful eye of an encouraging volunteer, signals were being pulled...

...and bells rung.

There weren't any tracks to move but, spot the difference,

the signal moved.

I loved this signal. Undeterred by having to fit a full-size train signal into a downstairs room of, what was effectively, a large town house, they just dug down to get it to fit in.

We had such fun in this room with civil engineer dad sharing his stories of times
on the tracks.
"I've pulled those levers for real, in a signal box in Sussex. You have to put your weight behind them and pull really hard. They even use a tea-towel in an actual signal box, to protect your hands."

"I used one of those horns, working on the tracks, you have to blow really hard. When you hear the horn 'blow up' you stand clear, there's a train coming. Site wardens are trained to 'blow up', to keep look-out. Site wardens are a 'walking, talking fence'". Yes really.
That's the horn on the left. 

Dad's can be quite boring and they're more impressed with the Brunel hat!

The GWR room is jam packed with social history and stories of the impact the railway had on the local area.
My mum and I loved this book.

These photographs, the volunteer told us, were the views from both sides of the railway, so it sort of makes sense to have one view upside down.

Of course, we had to find Teignmouth. Still recogniseable today.
"There's the Ness and Shaldon Bridge."

A train spotters paradise. Even photos in 3D.

They really did look three dimensional, but not digitally photograph-able.

Then there's Newton Abbot's history of the First World War.

And the 'Noteable Newtonians', of which there are many.

What a tour, from sixteenth century wood carvings to the bottom of the ocean
to Brunel's Great Western Railway.
I would like this post to be widely read, not so much for the benefit of my blog, but for the benefit of this most lovely museum, telling genuinely local stories of achievement and history. Staffed by volunteers with such energy and enthusiasm. It does regional museums and Newton Abbot proud.

Check out the Newton Abbot Town & G.W.R. museum website, here, for opening times
as well as a wealth of information about what they've been up to.
Open mid-March until October.
And if you bump into a local who, "didn't even know Newton Abbot had a museum",
take them with you, they should know about it.  

Saturday, 13 September 2014

'Cabinets of Wonder': Royal Albert Memorial Museum

'Cabinets of Wonder'

Perhaps you were wondering,
"where did this museum thing begin?"
If so, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, RAMM, in Exeter
has answers for you. 

Around 500 years ago,
'rulers and nobles', wanting to 'possess the wonders of the world',
collected unusual and exotic objects,
creating 'Cabinets of Wonder'.

A couple of centuries on, collectors began to be more systematic,
focussing on types of objects.
Their collections were often donated to public museums,
to contribute to scientific knowledge,
as objects for earnest learning.
Museums were serious business,
promoting proper learning and self improvement.

These collectors brought us...


...and more butterflies
very specifically from Bishopsteignton, Devon,
displayed in drawers.


and flint tools.
I've shown you these before, in a previous post, here,
about things 'lost'
in the vicinity of Exeter.

Some collections appear slightly less thematic,
a bit random
and need more than a glass cabinet or drawer in which to display them.
Such as this Italian harpsichord and Kilimanjaro Giraffe.

Nowadays, collecting is not the preserve of rulers and nobles.
The RAMM invites you to become a collector.
Anyone can start a collection,
don't be put off by Giraffes and harpsichords.

Head to the beach.

Get out and about in the countryside.

Have a dig around in your garden.

 One day your collection
might be the beginnings of a museum.

 And when you have opened that museum,
you can invite visitors to say what they think.

 They'll be interested and amazed.

And tell you what they like about your collection.

And you might find out that you've made a space for people to connect,
and spend time together,
making museums more than serious learning and self improvement.

It's amazing what inspires people to start collecting.
Some things you just have to keep, and add to,
creating your own 'Cabinets of Wonder'.

Antlers found in Scotland,
sheep's ribs found on Dartmoor,
teeny tiny shells scooped up in your hands from a beach in Brittany,
coloured shards of sandblasted glass picked up on the beach in Teignmouth,
a gecko's skull,
bottle tops, all 357 of them,
stones from the beach, that always look better wet,
and a current seasonal occupation, conkers,
all litter the shelves of our house.

Get collecting,
and perhaps take your 'nana' to see what others have collected,
to the RAMM in Exeter.
A brilliant place to spend time,
both with objects and grandparents.

Details on the RAMM website, here.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Teignmouth Museum: Wish you were here!

I genuinely didn't know where to start with this blog post about
Teignmouth Museum in Devon.

That's because it has an amazing collection,
packed full of objects
telling such varied stories
about the history of a relatively small seaside town.

I've mentioned Teignmouth before.
Click here to read the story of this prison window and the french sailors
who disappeared with a trading schooner during the Napoleonic wars.

So what to write about the museum this time?
Well during our visit to Teignmouth, we had amazing weather,
proper seaside weather,
so we did what people have done for over a hundred years when they go to the seaside...

We went on the pier,
and played on the amusement machines.

We should have needed an old penny to play The Clock,
but very kindly, the museum lets you play them for free.

The only snag is,

they don't pay any winnings.

If you haven't played the machines before,
it's OK, as these Victorian slot machines give very clear instructions.

Some machines are designed to appeal to a very specific audience,

the 'Grip Test',

testing the grip of men from a variety of different professions,
 from bankers to farmers.
I used two hands and didn't even make it to a banker.
Our resident engineer did manage to prove himself, as having the average engineer's grip!

 These machines are on loan from the current owners of the Teignmouth Pier,
which has been in the Brenner family for the last 60 years.

The pier, which opened in 1867, still had a few vintage machines until recently,
when earlier this year, storms hit the South coast, damaged the pier,
and 90% of their machines were lost, some through the floor.

We watched, and put on, a Punch & Judy show.
I say "we", I watched, eleven year olds performed.
The cocodile ate everybody, including Mr Punch.

We swam in the sea.
Yes, even me, a fair-weather swimmer,
not just the fool-hardy kids.

We had ice-creams.
The 'penny lick'.
 You can't tell from this photo, but that glass cup was smaller than an egg-cup!
They really do mean, "small ball of ice cream".

We went to the carnival on the Den
Today's programme cost £1.50.

We bought souvenirs.

We didn't pinch cutlery from local hotels.
Hopefully this was donated.

Teignmouth was developed as a resort in the mid 18th century
and seaside fun hasn't changed much,
the promenade, red sand, the Ness and the pier (a later addition in the 19th century).

'Sunny South Devon',
 and it was!

Teignmouth Museum is a great local museum with so many local stories.
It is housed in the Teign Heritage Centre,
open Tuesdays to Saturdays.
Details on their website.

It's not all fun and games on the beach.
Teignmouth has stories of war, travel, claims to fame,
Brunel and the Great Western Railway
and the longest timber bridge in England.
More to come.

Wish you were here!
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