Monday, 30 April 2012

AGM for Town's Museum

Fairlynch's AGM this month is a good chance for people to find out more about volunteering at Budleigh Salterton's Museum.

The Annual General Meeting on Monday 14 May at 7.00 pm in the Peter Hall in Budleigh will be an occasion to hear Trustees describe recent achievements and developments at the Museum. 

As well as being a forum for local residents to air their views about museum issues it will be an opportunity for Friends of Fairlynch to develop a strategy for matters such as fund-raising.    

Museum Chairman Roger Sherriff said: "We've had some highly successful events and exhibitions at Fairlynch in recent years and it was good to hear that the Museum was given a mention at the Scott service in St Paul's this year. As an Arts Centre we're keen to continue our support for local artists.

"We're always in need of more stewards of course. And we're keen to hear views from Friends of Fairlynch and indeed from anyone else at the AGM about topics such as museum admission fees, winter talk subjects, items for sale at our shop and links with other local groups. Everyone is welcome."

Many visitors to Fairlynch are impressed by the way in which the Museum has recorded the fascinating story of how life in the Lower Otter Valley has evolved since prehistoric times.

"Fairlynch plays such a valuable role in showing how Budleigh Salterton and the villages have developed over the centuries," says Roger. "It's a real privilege to be able to contribute to such an important part of the community."    

Budleigh's archiving artist

A familiar figure in Budleigh Salterton since he moved here in 1988, Ken Walker is well-known for his much admired watercolour paintings of the town’s buildings.  

Brought up in Boxmoor, Herts, he worked in graphic design for Ashridge Management College before going on to run a photographic business.  It was a valuable experience.  “Photography has helped me so much in looking at things and with getting the best perspective," says Ken.

He'd been visiting Budleigh for many years with his wife Audrey on holiday. With his retirement and  their move to the town in 1988 things really took off.  His first picture was of the house in Victoria Place where the couple still live.  Then came his grand scheme of painting all the shops in the town centre when he realised how Budleigh was changing so rapidly.

Local traders were quick to commission pieces by him as a record of their businesses, and his work is now recognised as an important archive of Budleigh's architectural heritage. Working first on paper in pencil he then goes on to produce a version in watercolour.  He also paints private houses.

Asked which building he's most enjoyed painting, Ken is clear about the answer. "I've no favourites," he insists. "Some are nightmares to draw because of the detail. Buildings decked out in bunting are a real challenge.  But whatever I paint I always enjoy it." 

Fairlynch Museum will be selling a selection of his prints during the year. To enquire about commissions, please telephone 01395 445106.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Colaton Raleigh's artistic commune

Judging by this website you'd be easily forgiven for thinking that Fairlynch Museum and Budleigh Salterton are the most happening places in East Devon. And by contrast you might well be wondering what people get up to in the quiet Devon villages surrounding us.

Well, take a closer look, suggests villager Laura Boyd. Her own community of Colaton Raleigh, a few miles north-east of Budleigh, is, among other things, surprisingly full of artists.

Proud artists of Colaton Raleigh

"You probably know about our most distinguished painter Alan Cotton," says Laura. He's the most eminent of a virtual commune of artists. Seven of the others, amateur and professional, including Friend of Fairlynch Rowan Turnbull, have come together to show 'Village Art', an exhibition of painting, photography and ceramics."

"The common threads of their work are a love of Devon, their need to express their reactions to this special part of the world and their wish to share it all with you," Laura explains.

And yes... a Budleigh Salterton scene is featured in the Colaton Raleigh Art Exhibition

"Colaton Raleigh is a varied, thriving village with wonderful countryside and walks, the River Otter, farms and livestock, a shop and a pub.  It also boasts a magnificent Village Hall, formerly the village school next to the church.  Here ‘Village Art’ will be on show from Friday evening 11 May till Sunday evening 13 May. Alan Cotton has very kindly agreed to open the exhibition at 6.30pm on the Friday." 

"Members of the group will be there to demonstrate their work, and delicious home- made refreshments will be available throughout. In this village cooking is another celebrated skill!" adds Laura.

So do go and see what happens in Colaton Raleigh, enjoy the work of Laura Boyd, Cynthia Boult, Penny Silverthorne, Lis McGill, Simon Bramble, Chris Ferguson and Rowan Turnbull.  Explore their village, see ‘Village Art’ and enjoy some local food.

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Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Social media people - a load of twits?

 Dartmouth Museum: top tweeters

"We're very worthy," says Tim Trent, volunteer at Dartmouth Museum and Devon tweeter extraordinaire. "We're a quite ordinary museum - only three rooms plus a lobby. We've been tweeting only since July last year, but for such a tiny museum we punch well above our weight in social media."

Well, when they can boast of sending out 3,569 tweets - it works out at a daily average of 15-20 tweets - it's perhaps why Dartmouth Museum has 706 followers on Twitter, and growing by the minute.  The Royal Albert Memorial Museum's current 3,015 tweet total looks measly by comparison.

"The extraordinary thing now is that we're attracting attention from a lot of heavyweights in the social media scene. It's mad really. But it's getting our museum talked about."  And Dartmouth Museum was even nominated for a couple of social media awards. They didn't win, but they never expected to, either. “It's all about brand awareness,” Tim said. “We're pleased to have had folk just hear about us. Next year they may make us part of their holiday plans.”

Fairlynch Museum is just one of the growing number of places in Budleigh where Facebook and Twitter are being used to attract visitors and customers 

Ironically, Tim's enthusiasm for Twitter is not shared by all of his museum committee. In fact some are quite sceptical about its usefulness. And that's common to museum committees generally, he thinks. "They wonder what the benefit is of using it or Facebook." But that's a good thing, in Tim's view. "It means that we don't just play with it, we think about how we ought to use it and what it might do for us. Then we play with it, too."

Tim is even happy that the Dartmouth Museum's marketing campaign which he is spearheading, largely through tweets, has not exactly had spectacular success. All that twittering has produced perhaps two extra volunteers and two extra members of the Museum.

And what sort of increase in visitor numbers? "Five," he thinks. 5%?  No, just five, perhaps. "But we don't care," insists Tim. As the Museum's website tells us at "We use Twitter for fun! No, seriously, we use Twitter for fun!  Yes, we're a museum, but who says we can't have fun?"

And that, surely, is what museums should be about? Fun, combined with commitment and passion. Open for an astonishing 362 days a year, Dartmouth Museum can hardly be accused of lacking those essential qualities for a successful enterprise, whatever its size or shape.

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Friday, 20 April 2012

Mystery of early Budleigh theatre show

Can you help solve a thespian puzzle by providing information about this drama production in Budleigh's Public Hall, dated, according to the above photo, January 1926? 

A local antiquarian book collector has suggested that a show which became a West End hit in the 1930s may have had its origins in a much earlier Budleigh Salterton amateur production. 

For lovers of crime mysteries Victor Clinton-Baddeley is known as the creator of the amateur detective Dr R.V. Davie in a series of five novels written between 1967 and 1970, the year he died.

But Budleigh-born Clinton-Baddeley had his first success as an author at the age of 25 with his travel book entitled simply Devon.  A second edition appeared in 1928.

 He went on to write various light-hearted dramas and pantomimes in the 1930s. The first of his comic operettas for which he wrote the libretto was The Pride of the Regiment, or Cashiered for His Country, with music by Walter Leigh.

Published in 1932, as noted in a folder in Fairlynch Museum's Local History Room, the operetta was staged at the Public Hall in April 1935, with Clinton-Baddeley himself as producer.  The characters were played by local drama enthusiasts, including Joyce Dennys as Miss Adelaide, her husband Dr Tom Evans as Captain Rudolph de Vavasour and Charles Jewel as Launcelot Brown, as seen in this photo from Fairlynch archives.

But local antiquarian book and print collector Tony Jones has a different photo of the same operetta, obviously performed at the Public Hall, which bears the much earlier date of January 1926. The photographer was Miss L.M. Horton,  who ran a photographic business in Budleigh's High Street.

"I've no reason to think it's a mistake," says Tony, a former resident of  Knowle who has been collecting and dealing in books and prints relevant to East Devon for 15 years.

Amateur dramatics were thriving in the 1920s and 30s at Budleigh, reaching a landmark in 1936 when the town's Drama Club was founded. Collaboration between Clinton-Baddeley, who had been actively involved in Cambridge University's Amateur Dramatic Club, and the local doctor's wife with a talent for writing and painting and a love of theatre was inevitable.

In 1927 the young Clinton-Baddeley, fresh from his success with the publication of his book Devon, collaborated with Joyce Dennys in writing a one-act comedy, The Cup that Cheers. With six characters, including three children, their parents and the daily help, it was probably Joyce Dennys's first play, as Dr Anita Jennings comments in her notes on the future author of Henrietta's War in the Museum's Local History Room.

Among other achievements Clinton-Baddeley became a well-known voice at the BBC, celebrated for his readings of classic authors.  This photo from a 1937 edition of the Radio Times shows him outside a studio where he had just finished giving a television reading from A.A. Milne. Unluckily for him the BBC fireman was patrolling the studio corridors just at that moment, enforcing the 'No-Smoking ' rule.

Tony is keen to meet any local residents who had relatives involved with the Public Hall production of The Pride of the Regiment. "It would be really fascinating to know whether the earlier date is correct. It could prove that Clinton-Baddeley was much more active in local amateur dramatics than was previously thought, and that Budleigh Salterton was the initial springboard for West End hits."  

If you can help with any information to confirm the date of Tony Jones' photo please phone 01395 446407.  

Saturday, 7 April 2012

A round trip from Budleigh Salterton


A la Ronde, the sixteen-sided house located just outside Exmouth, is probably the only other building open to the public in East Devon that bears comparison with Fairlynch for quirkiness. 

It's a lot bigger of course and the National Trust has done a wonderful job in conserving its unique features such as the interior decoration which includes this feather frieze, gathered from native game birds and chickens, and laboriously stuck down with isinglass.  Another must-see is the fragile shell-encrusted gallery, said to contain nearly 25,000 shells.

Built for two spinster cousins, Jane and Mary Parminter, on their return from a grand tour of Europe in the late 18th century it's said to have been inspired by the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. You can read all about it at

Unique though it is, A la Ronde shares other features with Fairlynch apart from its quirkiness. Both can boast of having a square piano on display to visitors, though it was decided long ago that the one in A La Ronde could never be played as steward Maureen Cook explained. 

Above: The Dining Room at A La Ronde

Outside the building there's this primitive high-backed garden chair which might well have inspired the one at Fairlynch, or vice versa.


Like Fairlynch, this extraordinary building and its contents are in constant need of maintenance and the National Trust has to work hard at fund-raising. The second-hand books room has obviously been a successful initiative.

A trip to A La Ronde can be recommended as a great day out for the family, with plenty of thoughtful entertainments laid on for children. One simple but successful idea has been the wooden model of the building which comes to pieces as a puzzle.


Then there's the activities room, obviously inspired by what the Misses Parminter achieved as interior decorators, with its collections of shells and paper cut-outs specially provided to encourage creativity.

And of course there's the garden, all 15 acres of it with more activities including the Easter Saturday egg scrambling that was a hit with the kids today.  And dominating everything, that amazing view over the River Exe which you can enjoy with your picnic, unless you decide to choose from the varied menu in the tea-room.   

Friday, 6 April 2012

Friday Lacemaking at Fairlynch

Did you like the photo at of our two lace enthusiasts Sue Morgan and Margaret Williams? If so pop along to the Museum on a Friday afternoon.

This is traditionally the time when lacemaker Margaret Leese, from Exmouth, pictured above, is at Fairlynch together with Pat Lorton, from Budleigh.


Demonstrating the centuries-old skill which has made East Devon famous, the pair can be seen at work on intricate pieces of delicate work which never fail to impress visitors.  Above is a copy of the Fairlynch door knocker in Honiton lace by Margaret Leese.

This year the Lace Guild is holding its Annual Convention at Exeter Racecourse from 13 to 15 April. Its members will be most welcome if they feel like making a short hop to Budleigh to admire Fairlynch's lace collection.

Margaret Williams gives a preview:

"As you enter the Lace Room the first case on the upper left has a selection of black  lace, Honiton, Tape, embroidered net and sprigs of Honiton lace made by a family of sisters in Otterton in the 1850s. Below the upper case are examples made by Fairlynch volunteers."


Above: A pair of lappets in Point de Gaze lace

"The next two cases show Buckingham lace, often used for babies' wear and underwear. The embroidery is 18th century and shows a  bonnet back and other embroidery to go on a baby's gown. On one of the bonnets is Hollie Point - embroidery frequently worked by nuns in the 17th and 18th centuries."

The pillow under the window has Buckingham lace, a continuously worked lace which is wound onto a roller as it is made.

Following round the room the upper and lower cases have examples of Continental laces, Brussels - mixed bobbin and needle - also Point de Gaze which is a needle lace. The Flounce in the bottom case is seven yards long and would be gathered around the bottom of a wide skirt."

The special items in the two cases next to the door in the Lace Room consist of machine lace donated by the family of William Arthur Stevenson (1892-1990) who worked as a machine lace designer before he retired to Budleigh.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Fairlynch tweets!

Yes, we've joined the select group of Devon museums who are using social media to spread the word about why they're worth a visit. Not just Twitter, but also Facebook.

It all started when the Museum's press officer Michael Downes learned how such things can help somewhere like Fairlynch when last Friday he attended an excellent training session given by Andy Chapman from internet consultancy 1010 Media

1010 Media, with bases in London and Exeter, has worked with a large range of businesses and organisations including Devon Museums and Exeter Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Commenting on Friday's training session, Andy said:  "There was lots to cram into a short space of time, and, due to the structure being very 'off the cuff' because of each museum's differing situation, it was slightly tricky to prepare for!"

The session also included topics such as domain names for museums, email, Flikr and the use of PayPal. 

"There's no obligation to engage in any of these things but if you do I'm sure you will very quickly start to reap the benefits!" promised Andy.

Within days of signing up, Fairlynch had started tweeting about topics as diverse as 19th century educationalists with South African-based journalist Mandy de Waal and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee exhibition at its Canadian partner-museum in Simcoe, Ontario.  

So if you're curious, not just about what goes on at Fairlynch but how Facebook and Twitter could work for you, just look for Fairlynch in the search box when you've logged in at or click on!/1811Fairlynch  

Happy tweeting!

Nick puts his stamp on Fairlynch-inspired artwork

"One of the most photographed and painted houses in East Devon" claimed the Western Morning News in its description of the century-old thatched cottage orné that is Budleigh's own museum.

No surprise then, to find Woodbury-based artist Nick Watton backing up the newspaper's claim with his own contribution in this charming watercolour of Fairlynch which he painted last month.

Budleigh is among the coastal spots that often inspire him, as seen in these sketches of our pebble beach and the fishing gear that usually decorates it.  

Brought up in Cornwall, Nick has always been inspired by the scenery of wild and remote places including the coast, the sea and the ships past and present that sail upon her.

So in this year of centenaries and special events that have inspired Fairlynch Museum,  including those of Scott of the Antarctic, the birthday of East Devon author R.F. Delderfield, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics, he's keen to remind us that 2012 is also the Year of the Titanic with his new set of Postage Stamps for Guernsey Post Ltd, one of which is reproduced here. 

Nick's website is at

Stamp images courtesy of Guernsey Post Ltd.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Ten years on, Budleigh gets an 'honourable mention'

On the South West Coast Path,
just a few miles west of Budleigh Salterton

Ten or so years after being described as "the last retreat of Britain's chronologically challenged" and a "grey icon" noted for becoming less and less tourist-friendly, Budleigh Salterton has been ranked with Bath in a survey of best places to visit in the South West of England.

Travel writer Simon Heptinstall, who was brought up in the nearby village of Woodbury, succeeded in ruffling a few feathers when in a Telegraph article still online at he described in Budleigh a town that takes pleasure in not inviting you, and which, after dark "slips into an Ovaltine-induced coma" having successfully repelled the tourist invasion.  

But in a recent article based on his independent selection of the ten best days out in England's South West - including Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall - he places Budleigh on a par with St Ives, Burgh Island and many other noted tourist hotspots including Lands End and Bath. All gain what he calls 'honourable mentions.'

The town may rise even higher in the Heptinstall ratings in future, given its location on the South West Coast Path. The 650 "memorably scenic miles along the seashore between Minehead and Poole" which he describes in the article as "simply one of the best things in the world" came top in his survey. 

And it may be that when he next visits Fairlynch he'll discover more than the "delightfully eclectic mix of locally donated period costumes, radioactive pebbles and natural history (ie, stuffed seabirds)" on which he commented back in 2001.

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