Category Archives: Heritage

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?

DW&LCT AND SOMERSET LIBRARIES SERVICE SET UP AN ACADEMIC RESOURCE IN DULVERTON LIBRARY

Dulverton Weir and Leat Conservation Trust and Somerset Libraries Service are pleased to announce that Dulverton Library is to become an Academic Associate of the Trust in its project to save Dulverton’s medieval Urban Watermill Landscape (weir & mill leat).

An academic resource section covering many aspects of the project is now available to be perused by users of the library on: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 10am–1pm and 1.30-4pm and on Saturdays 10am-12.30pm.

Philip Hull, Trustee of DWLCT, says: “A significant amount of academic research has been done on the medieval weir and leat by the Trust, its partners and academic associates. This research will continue in the future and much of this is available on our website at www.dulvertonweir.org.uk. But we wanted to present the research in written form in a suitable location. Our research is continuing and we look forward to sharing it on the internet and with Dulverton Library.”

Sara Long Library Supervisor, West Somerset Libraries, Somerset Libraries Service, says: “We are delighted to be offering the community this additional service to show a new insight into the historic weir and leat. We hope local people will take this opportunity to use this hands-on resource, which is particularly aimed at those without access to the internet.”

RE-RIDING THE OLD ROUTES

Are you going to be in Withypool on Monday morning (if so read to the end!)

As part of their new archive project, staff and volunteers at the Exmoor Society are investigating the old postal routes across Exmoor. Never the easiest place to navigate, up until 1970 post was routinely delivered on foot, by motorbike and from horseback, with walking routes of 15 miles and more. The posties were Exmoor’s main method of communication in more ways than one – as well as the post, they took with them village news, and (unofficial) deliveries of newspapers, bread, tobacco, even medicines. For farms with no road access, the postie was sometimes the only visitor in days.

Trustees of the Society are particularly interested in the old postal routes and ways of delivering mail between around 1930 and 1970. Using maps and significant material from the Society’s Dulverton Resource Centre, the Society is piecing together the history of the postal service on Exmoor.

This was a time of great change, as the telephone superseded the need to communicate by mail or telegram. No longer was the post the main method of communication as roads improved and the motor car became more common. As less post was delivered and it became quicker to get from farm to farm by car or van, walking rounds were limited to towns, and ponies and motor bikes were no longer needed.

So what was it like to walk or ride one of these routes? It’s easy enough to sit at a desk and plot them out on a map, but that doesn’t give a sense of the experience of the posties, tramping across Exmoor in all weathers, over what could be steep and difficult terrain. The Society was fortunate to be able to employ an intern during the summer, who walked some of the old routes and got an idea of how tough some of them could be. Now, the Society’s archivist Dr Helen Blackman would like to go one further and see what the ridden routes were like.

To help with this, Helen has been in touch with the Exmoor Pony Centre near Dulverton and, with the aid of a volunteer and two ridden ponies from the Centre, she will be retracing the steps (and hoofprints) of one of the last ridden rounds on Exmoor. The round started in Withypool and went out to many of the local farms, including Lanacre, Blackland and Hillway. It was ridden by local man John Blackmore, for as Exmoor writer Hope Bourne recounted in the late 1960s, “Horsemen’s country this has always been, and still is” and horses were “the simplest way of getting round the parish, from farm to farm, before the days of tarmac”.

Dr Blackman said “investigating the old postal routes has been more than an academic exercise, it is very much a social history. We cannot really understand the difficulties of communication on Exmoor, which persist to this day, without experiencing them. And as a horse rider I’m fascinated by the role horses and ponies have played in bringing news and information across the moor. This is also a wonderful opportunity to work with the Exmoor Pony Centre and highlight how hardy and useful the Exmoor ponies are.”

Helen and the Pony Centre volunteer are planning to undertake the ride on Monday 6 November, leaving Withypool village at 10am. Following the old postal route it will be around 12 miles. If you see them, give them a wave!

PHOTO: William Blackmore, mounted postman (image by kind permission of Barbara Adams).

LORNA DOONE’S EXMOOR

Initial plans are now underway to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the publication of Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore in 2019. The novel set within Exmoor was first published in 1869 and has never been out of print. Its popularity is witnessed not just in its book form, but in countless films, on television, in songs, a musical and even a Lorna Doone biscuit. The story incorporates wonderful descriptions of the most remote and rugged parts of Exmoor, real events such as The Great Winter and the Monmouth Rebellion, plus folk traditions of the notorious Doones and the highway man Tom Faggus.

The Dulverton edition of Lorna Doone, courtesy of The Exmoor Society.

The 150th anniversary year in 2019 provides an opportunity to celebrate the link between Exmoor and the novel, celebrating the culture, landscape and heritage of Exmoor.

Partners, including the Dulverton Heritage Centre, Exmoor National Park and Visit Exmoor, are considering a year-long themed festival around the Lorna Doone anniversary that can be integrated into existing events and activities, as well as being a catalyst for new initiatives. These can be aimed at a range of audiences from local communities, visitors and new audiences.

The Guildhall Heritage Centre in Dulverton is already planning a major exhibition which can act as a focal point and signpost visitors to other events and initiatives such as the development of a Doone Trail, guided walks, photography and arts events and much more.

Jennette Baxter, Development Manager for Visit Exmoor, welcomed this initiative. ‘This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our stunning landscapes and our links to this world famous story. We hope that tourist providers and attractions, local groups and communities will join us in thinking how they can be involved in these celebrations. We have many months to organise this special event but it is not too soon to bring people together to find out their ideas.’

Anyone who has ideas or who is interested in being a part of this project is invited to contact Katrina Munro on 01398 322236, kjmunro@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk in the first instance to feed into a workshop being planned for October.

PHOTO: A Lorna Doone Pageant that was held in July 1930. The Exmoor Society was given the photograph by Leonard Henderson in 1993.