Friday, 12 August 2011

Another link across the pond

A transatlantic partner for Budleigh Salterton's Fairlynch Museum

Most Devon people know about Sir Walter Raleigh as a pioneer of transatlantic links between their county and the US.

Fewer know about the 18th century army officer brought up in Exeter, owning a holiday home in Budleigh Salterton, who spent only a few years of his life in Canada but became one of the country's national heroes. There's even a Canadian town named after him.

A portrait of Simcoe by the French Candian painter George Theodore Berthon

Such is the veneration in which John Graves Simcoe (1752-1806) is held across the Atlantic that Wolford Chapel, his last resting place on the family estate outside Honiton is now officially part of Canadian territory, having been donated to the people of Ontario in 1966.

As Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada for five years from 1791 Simcoe, founded what is now the city of Toronto and was instrumental in ending slavery. He also introduced institutions such as the courts, trial by jury, English common law and freehold land tenure.

The Eva Brook Museum in Simcoe. Photo by Robert Whitside

A recent visit to Budleigh by some Canadian visitors has resulted in the creation of a friendship link between Fairlynch Museum and the Eva Brook Donly Museum in Simcoe.

Simcoe, the principal town of the County of Norfolk in Ontario, with a population of about 15,000 is in the middle of a large agricultural area just a few kilometres from the north shore of Lake Erie and about 120 kilometres west of Niagara Falls.

Ruth and Arthur Loughton who live in Vittoria just outside Simcoe have family connections in Budleigh and know the town well. "We have often visited the Fairlynch Museum and are impressed by its contents and also its volunteers," they explained. "On our recent trips we have delved into the Budleigh connections to the Simcoe name."

The pair felt that the Eva Brook Donly Museum in Simcoe, with its real interest in things associated with the Simcoe family, would be an ideal partner for Fairlynch. The Canadian museum is operated by the Norfolk Historical Society of which Ruth Loughton was President a few years ago.

The historic interest of Simcoe House was recently recognised with this blue plaque erected by the Royal Over-Seas League

Along with Ruth Loughton's sister Joyce and her husband Norman Rhodes the foursome visited Wolford Chapel and during their recent trip in June were fortunate enough to get a special guided tour with Jane Crosse, owner of Simcoe House in Budleigh. The building on the town's Fore Street Hill was the summer residence of the Simcoe family in the early 1800s when the former Lieutenant Governor returned from Canada to take part in the Napoleonic wars.

"It is truly a beautiful house and we are so pleased that Jane and her family appreciate the historical significance of it," said Ruth Loughton. "She was delighted to learn of our connections to Simcoe."

Scott Gillies, curator and manager of the Eva Brook Donly Museum, is looking forward to developing the relationship not just with Fairlynch but with the town of Budleigh Salterton and believes that this new transatlantic link can offer mutual interest to both sides.

"I look forward to discussing how we can work together to the benefit of Budleigh people, our historical society members, and the local residents of Simcoe and surrounding Norfolk County," he said.

Click on for information about Fairlynch Museum's new partner.

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