Category Archives: Heritage

MINEHEAD’S NORTH HILL ON THE RADAR

A convoy of military vehicles will depart from Minehead this Saturday (8 September) at 10.30am en route to the Second World War tank training grounds and Radar Station on North Hill, as part of a celebration of wartime heritage hosted by Exmoor National Park and the National Trust for Heritage Open Days.

During the war, North Hill was closed to civilians and brought under military control. It became one of country’s five new tank training ranges for British, American and Canadian troops. Tucked down the coastal slopes lay a top-secret Radar Station, one of 244 across the country and part of a coastal defensive chain to identify shipping and low-flying aircraft. The stations were ‘manned’ 24 hours a day and operators at Radar Stations were often women from the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF).

The top-secret radar stations were often stationed by women (photo sourced by Gwen Arnold).

The convoy will parade along Minehead seafront via Blenheim Gardens, before heading to North Hill where spectators can discover more about this incredible time through displays at the Radar Station and guided walks of the training grounds across to Bossington Hill. There will also be a chance to learn about the earlier archaeological landscape, from the Iron Age settlement at Bury Castle to the ruined medieval Burgundy Chapel.

The event is suitable for all ages and free to attend, but donations are welcome to CareMoor for Exmoor, which fundraises towards the upkeep of the National Park.

Shirley Blaylock, Historic Environment Conservation Officer at Exmoor National Park, said: “This is a fantastic chance for people to discover a slice of history from the National Park that is often overlooked. North Hill was an important military complex during the Second World War and it’s great to be able to bring to life the role that it played in maintaining national security at this critical time.”

For more information about the event visit: www.heritageopendays.org.uk/visiting/event/castles-in-the-sky-the-wwii-radar-station-on-north-hill

HALSWAY MANOR OPENS ITS DOORS FOR HERITAGE DAYS

At the foot of the Quantock hills, not far from Crowcombe, lies an extraordinary historic building many do not realise is there. Now is your chance to discover this hidden gem, as Halsway Manor will be open to the public as part of Heritage Open Days 2018, on Friday 7 and Friday 14 September.

On a day-to-day basis Halsway Manor operates as the National Centre for Folk Arts, offering residential courses in traditional music, dance, song, crafts and more, welcoming artists and guests from all over the UK, Europe and beyond.

As part of Heritage Open Days, the charity is offering members of the public the opportunity to visit this beautiful Grade 2* listed manor and access rooms normally closed to the public. Through newly installed interpretation, visitors will learn about the manor’s fascinating history from the Domesday Book, to the current building’s origins in the fifteenth century, from eccentric past residents, to its current status full of interesting creative goings on. Families are welcome and there will be special souvenir story and activity packs for children. There are six acres of beautiful gardens and grounds that visitors are also welcome to explore.

Alice Maddicott is the Creative Lead for an ongoing Heritage Lottery Funded ‘Future Halsway’ project, and has been instrumental in the creation of new interpretation materials at the Manor. She says,”We’re really excited to be able to welcome new visitors to discover Halsway and the fascinating history of this beautiful house and area. We really hope people enjoy exploring the house – including the library, great hall and grounds, plus one or two of the more interesting bedrooms too!”

The house will be open to visitors from 10.30am to 3pm, with free parking available onsite. Refreshments will not be available, but visitors are welcome to bring their own – why not bring a picnic lunch to eat on the lawn?

For more information please contact: creative@halswaymanor.org.uk Fancy making a day of it? Other Heritage Open Days properties in the Quantock / West Somerset area include: Halswell House, Dunster Castle, North Hill on the Radar, St John the Baptist church, Carhampton. For more information visit www.heritageopendays.org.uk.

Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts, has been established as a Charity since 1965. Nestling at the foot of the Quantock Hills Halsway Manor provides a year-round programme of events and activities in traditional folk music, dance, song, storytelling, folklore and related arts and crafts.

WANTED: 100 PEOPLE, 100 STORIES

To celebrate the new Long Bridge Extension and complement the museum’s current project ‘North Devon in 100 objects’, the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon is setting a challenge to find 100 local people to contribute their stories of life in North Devon to be preserved in 100 one-minute documentary films.

The extension, which is currently being built, will house a new social history gallery.  An exciting feature of the gallery will be the installation of a campervan cinema.  This micro cinema will be created from a vintage VW campervan and will house an interactive screen and comfortable seating where visitors can select and view short films mirroring the themes of the social history gallery.

The 100 mini documentaries will be created by staff and volunteers at the Museum but first they need… YOU!

Amanda McCormack from North Devon Moving Image, the project partner, says “People often think that their stories are insignificant.  They think they would not be interesting to others, but think of all the stories you might have heard your grandparents and parents tell you about their earlier lives.  Those gems of stories could be lost in the passage of time but these short snapshot films will create a valuable and entertaining archive.”

North Devon Council’s Executive member for Parks, Leisure and Culture, Councillor Dick Jones, says:  “Creating a social history of North Devon and its residents is a wonderful way to preserve memories.  This project is similar to a visual time capsule which can be enjoyed for many years to come.  Please do get in touch with the museum if you would like to share your stories and pass them down to future generations to help them understand what living in North Devon was like in the earl-twenty-first century.”

What the Museum is looking for are anecdotes about life in North Devon and because these will be told on film they need a visual element to the story.  So, do you know a local ‘character’ who might like to be interviewed, who represents life in North Devon?  Do you have memories you would like to share or stories passed down through generations?  Have you kept your old school reports and maybe your school uniform?  Do you have a collection of artefacts you can show to the camera and talk about – maybe locally made toys, clothing, machinery or household objects?

If you or someone you know would be ideal for the 100 mini documentaries please get in touch with the museum team on 01271 346747 or email museum@northdevon.gov.uk.

PHOTO: Daisy Tucker of Combrew Farm, Bickington, delivering milk in Draceana Avenue, Sticklepath, to Mrs Teape and her daughter Sandra in 1946. This image was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Exmoor Magazine, in an article about memories of milk rounds in and around Barnstaple, written by Avril Stone.

MUSEUM’S BIG BUILD HAS FINALLY BEGUN!

The big day has finally arrived and the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon is beginning its transformation.

Devon Contractors start work today – Monday 25 June – on the museum’s eagerly anticipated £2m Long Bridge Wing extension, which will increase the building’s footprint by 70%, making space for a new social history gallery, larger shop, café and improved education space. The project, supported by nearly £870,000 of National Lottery funding, is expected to take 12 months to complete, with the museum reopening fully in summer 2019.

The current museum was provided to the town by William Frederick Rock in 1888 as the home of the North Devon Athenaeum. Originally there was another building between it and the Long Bridge, but this was demolished in 1963 when the bridge was widened. The extension will be built on the site of the old building using brick and slate as the main building materials, in keeping with the existing museum building. Terracotta details, reflecting the work of Brannams and copper (which was used extensively by Shapland and Petter in their furniture) will be blended to create interest and soften the impact of the brick.

North Devon Council’s Executive member for Parks, Leisure and Culture, Councillor Dick Jones, says: “This project has been three years in the making, so it will be really exciting to see the scaffolding go up and the builders on site. The museum has remained unchanged for many years, so this is a momentous occasion in the history of this iconic building. The improvements we are making will give the museum the space it needs and deserves to showcase the history of North Devon to the many visitors we welcome through its doors each year.”

Museum Manager, Alison Mills, says: “We’ve already started work behind the scenes, moving collections into storage and clearing parts of the museum that will be affected by the building work. This has revealed features that haven’t been seen in years and hidden treasures we didn’t know were there, including a locked safe behind the underwater world display – we’re still looking for a key that fits! We are all really excited to be part of the museum’s transformation and can’t wait for the building work to get started!”

A temporary front of house is available at the ‘Pop-up museum’, across the road in Bridge Chambers, which is also the base for collecting stories and objects for the new Social History Gallery, so pop in and see how you can get involved.

For behind-the-scenes updates and progress of the build, follow the Museum Manager’s blog at barnstaplemuseumblog.wordpress.com. You can still contact the museum on 01271 346747, museum@northdevon.gov.uk or get in touch on the museum Facebook page.

The Long Bridge Wing Extension project is funded by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the Coastal Communities Fund and North Devon Council, with additional contributions from the Arts Council Ready to Borrow scheme, Devon County Council and the Barnstaple and North Devon Museum Development Trust (MBND), which has secured significant contributions from the Garfield Weston Foundation, Fullabrook Windfarm CIC, Foyle Foundation and a host of local businesses, charitable trusts and individuals.  A full list of the MBND funders is available on their website mbndtrust.org.

PHOTO: Museum manager Alison Mills and Cllr Dick Jones with the chosen bricks for the museum extension.

TOWN AND COUNTRY MEMORIES WANTED BY POP-UP MUSEUM

A temporary museum has popped up at Bridge Chambers on The Strand in Barnstaple, as the main museum building is closed while works are carried out for the £1.8m Long Bridge Wing extension project.

The museum is calling for locals to share their stories and memories with them, centred around five main themes:

– ‘Hatched, Matched, Dispatched’

– ‘World of Work’

– ‘Town and Country’

– ‘High days and Holidays’

– ‘House and Home’

The museum is interested in collecting stories and memories around the current theme of “Town and Country”, to help gather information for the new social history gallery display and to get information about some of the objects in their collection. These include maps and driving guides, bicycles, an Elliott’s Ralli car, Pannier market basket, Bromleys café photographs, signs and signposts.

The Town and Country theme is all about the relationship between Barnstaple and North Devon’s surrounding communities, including cafés, shops and markets like Bromleys and the Swiss Café – as well as the Pannier Market, cattle market and Butcher’s Row. Museum staff are also looking for stories about newspapers, printing and other media.

The theme includes public transport, roads, getting about, buses and trains, and in particular life before and after the Link Road and how communities have changed. They would also love to hear from people working in the police force, emergency services, local government and the utilities – gas, water and electricity.

Sadie Green, Activity plan co-ordinator, says, “We are having a fascinating time listening to locals coming in and sharing their stories with us. We would love to hear from anyone who can tell us about life before and after the Link Road and how things have changed. We also have a special Bromley’s café memories day on June 26th at the pop-up museum between 10am and 12pm and would love to hear stories about working, eating and attending functions there! If there are any ex-bus or train drivers out there who remember the old passenger and goods stations on the Strand and farmers, butchers and locals who recall the buzz of the cattle and Pannier Market and old shops, please come in and see us!”

Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing, Councillor Brian Moores, says: “The Pop-Up is always looking for community experts – everyone is welcome to visit, especially if you have lots of knowledge about any of the topics or if you used to work for one of the companies mentioned and are happy to spend time with them so that your stories and memories can be recorded for posterity.”

The “Pop-Up” museum is now open at Bridge Chambers on The Strand, Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. For more information follow and like the Pop up FB page @Popupbarnstaple to follow their progress, see events, photos and stories.

PHOTO: Bromleys, The Strand

NEW INVESTIGATION INTO DUNSTER’S BUILDINGS

A new project to record and date Dunster’s medieval buildings in one of Exmoor National Park’s oldest settlements launches this week. It was kick-started after a number of buildings were found to have arch-braced roofs and true cruck frames, indicating they dated back to the 14th and 15th centuries.

A free event for people to learn more about the two-year project is being held at Tithe Barn in Dunster on Sunday 3  June from 1.30 – 5.30pm, with historical talks including Richard Parker from the Time Team Dig Village Project, who have been researching Dunster’s history and archaeology over the last few years.

There will be an array of historic maps on show with experts on hand to help residents try and locate their house on maps from different time periods, plus guidance on how to estimate a building’s age. People are also being asked to bring along old photos of Dunster that might help provide clues to the history of the village, and there will be some fun family activities too.

Mary Ewing from Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society (SANHS), which is leading the project in association with Exmoor National Park and Dunster Museum, with sponsorship from Historic England, said: “There’s been a lot of interest in uncovering Dunster’s past recently and it’s great to see so many members of the community getting behind this exciting project.

“We’re delighted to now be furthering this work through the most thorough investigation of Dunster’s historic buildings to date. We hope to be able to give as many residents as possible the chance to find out the history of their house using cutting-edge techniques such as dendrochronology, which uses tree rings from the building’s timbers to pinpoint the exact year they were formed.”

Shirley Blaylock, historic environment conservation officer at Exmoor National Park, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for today’s residents to get a glimpse into Dunster’s past and contribute to important research. We look forward to seeing how the story unfolds.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about the project should contact Mary Ewing via the SANHS office on 01823 272429 or info@sanhs.org

PHOTO: Dunster’s High House, now called The Nunnery (but which was never a convent), photographed by Julia Amies-Green for our Winter 2016 issue article by Mary Siraut – ‘Medieval Origins’. The article was all about medieval buildings on Exmoor. The magazine is available as a back issue here.

CHANCE TO HELP MAKE BARNSTAPLE MUSEUM’S NEW EXTENSION AN INSPIRATION FOR THE TOWN

Can you help local artist Taz Pollard create inspiring ceramic work to decorate the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon’s new Long Bridge Wing extension?

The museum is calling for former workers from Brannams Pottery and Shapland & Petter to help with the design of a panel of terracotta tiles, which will adorn the outside of the new building.  A creative workshop is being held at the Pop-Up museum on Friday 1 June with Taz Pollard, who has been chosen to create the work.

The museum has been awarded £14,800 from the Arts Council towards the £25k project, which will include a frieze of tiles around the top of the building inspired by the significant work of the town’s potters and furniture makers, particularly during the Arts and Crafts period.

Taz Pollard runs a studio in South Molton and has carried out extensive research in North Devon potteries. Taz says: “I’m really excited about this project as I will be able to revisit my research into Barnstaple pottery and delve deeper into the designs of Shapland and Petter furniture and C.H. Brannam pottery by working closely with former workers on the designs. It will be a challenge to create something contemporary but which reflects the designs and rich heritage of Barnstaple’s past.”

North Devon Council’s Executive Member for Parks, Leisure and Culture, Councillor Dick Jones, says: “Part of the planning conditions for the new building call for the extension to reflect the artisan trades of Barnstaple and Taz Pollard seems the perfect artist to help achieve this. Taz is a talented and experienced artist who is used to working with children and local communities and I look forward to seeing her weave the traditions of the past into the future of the building.”

Later in the year Taz will also be running practical workshops for children from local schools, other local artists and pottery students to help develop the designs of more terracotta tiles, which will flank the outside walls of the new gift shop.

If you worked for Brannams or Shapland & Petter and would like to help inspire Taz’s designs please contact the museum on 01271 346747. The workshop will be held from 11am to 1pm on Friday 1 June.

PHOTO: C.H. Brannam, Litchdon pottery.

VOLUNTEERS FLOCK TO HELP REVAMP HISTORIC EXMOOR SIGNPOSTS

Volunteers from across Exmoor and West Somerset have succeeded in restoring over 60 of the region’s iconic fingerpost signs, as part of a project led by Exmoor National Park Authority to record, refurbish and uncover their story.

Now, one year into the two-year project, support has been pouring in from local communities keen to ensure these iconic landmarks aren’t lost and over 100 volunteers have been recruited.

The project, which has funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Exmoor National Park Authority and Somerset County Council, was kick-started when local communities and parish councillors expressed concern to Exmoor National Park over the future of their signposts.

Volunteers undertake health and safety training before getting on with the job of cleaning and painting the signposts. Local contractors have been brought in to make repairs that are more complicated and refurbish those close to busy roads.

Exmoor National Park’s Charlotte Thomas, who is leading the project, said: “The interest we’ve had from local communities has been just fantastic. We have teams of volunteers all over the project area who are helping out. There is even a group in Minehead who are a roving team and have helped refurbish signposts in neighbouring parishes. Others have kindly let me know when they have found broken fingers and we have been able to use local contractors to fix them. It just goes to show the important role these signposts play in the personal and regional history of Exmoor.”

If you’ve spotted numerous signposts along the A39 towards Minehead going white, it’s because Mike Neville and Stuart Lawrence, two volunteers from Minehead, have been busy working with others to restore them back to their former glory. Mike said: “I got involved with the project because I wanted to make a difference in my local community and I’d noticed the signs starting to look scruffy. It’s really satisfying seeing them looking all pristine by the side of the road and good to know you’ve done your bit in restoring a local heirloom. I’ve even made a few friends along the way!”

People are now being asked to submit old photographs and anecdotes of the signs to try and piece together each one’s unique history. Charlotte is working with Dr Helen Blackman from the Exmoor Society and is particularly interested in any photos of signposts that might provide clues about their true age.

Anyone interested in volunteering or finding out more can contact Charlotte at cthomas@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk or on 01398 322259.

TIVERTON MUSEUM ACQUIRES RARE POW NEWSPAPER

Staff at Tiverton Museum were intrigued to see a newspaper from Tiverton’s Prisoner of War camp come up for auction recently. The camp was located close to the site that Petroc and the High School occupy today. The weekly newspaper ‘Die Eule’ – or ‘The Owl’ – dates from September 1946 and features stories and articles, puzzles, jokes and reports of a football match between Tiverton and Silverton. Most of the paper is in German apart from a section about learning English. There was another camp near Cruwys Morchard which housed Italian prisoners of war. With a donation from a supporter, the museum was able to purchase the newspaper.

Pippa Griffith, Director of Tiverton Museum, says, “We are absolutely delighted to have acquired this very rare item; we didn’t even know that the camp had produced a newspaper. We hold very little in the museum about the camp, just a couple of photographs so this is an important acquisition for this part of Tiverton’s history. We would love to hear from anyone who has photographs of the camp or of any people who stayed there, or even more copies of this newspaper!

“We know that prisoners of war were driven out to local farms to help out, especially at busy times such as potato harvesting. We would also love to hear from anyone who knows about prisoners of war who stayed on and made Mid Devon their home, perhaps marrying a local woman.”

PHOTO: The Salvation Army band playing to prisoners of war. There are more photos on our Instagram feed: @exmoormagazine

CALLING ALL ‘SHAPPY BOYS’ AND BRANNAM’S WORKERS

WOW! The next theme for the Pop-Up Museum’s memory workshop is the ‘World of Work’. A series of targeted workshops are running during April and May at Barnstaple Pop-Up Museum in Bridge Chambers, to gather information and stories about various aspects of Barnstaple and North Devon’s trades and industries.
The museum is calling for ex-‘Shappy boys’ from Shapland and Petter and ex-Brannam’s potters and workers to come and spend some time with them and share their memories of these well-known Barnstaple firms.

Sadie Green, Activity Plan Co-ordinator at the museum, says: “On 10 April we would love to hear from people who work, or used to work, in offices, banks and finance and the public sector. We have a 1950s BT switchboard and it would be great to meet any ex-BT workers! On 17 April we want to meet ‘Shappy boys’ from Shapland and Petter, as we have lots of objects from the company. Also, on 24 April we want to hear from any ex-Brannam’s pottery workers who are willing to share their stories. If you can’t make those dates, please call in and see us any Monday or Tuesday in April and May – enjoy a cup of tea and bring your stories to write down on the day. Our volunteer story collectors look forward to welcoming you.”

Executive Member for Parks, Leisure and Culture, Councillor Dick Jones, says: “The Pop Up is always looking for community experts – everyone is welcome to visit, especially if you have lots of knowledge about any of the workshop topics or if you used to work for one of the companies mentioned and are willing to spend a bit more time with them to share your stories.”

The Pop-Up is open to the public on Mondays and Tuesdays (except public holidays) from 11am to 3pm. Please visit the Pop-Up Museum to find out more, share your story with our volunteer story collectors, or become a community expert.  Get in touch with Sadie at the museum on 01271 346747 to find out more, or visit the Facebook page at PopUpBarnstaple.
Both photos used here are from Shapland and Petter, an outing and a group shot of Shappy apprentices, although we do not have any more details – do you recognise anyone?