Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Mulled wine, mince pies and magic at the Museum

Fairlynch will be open from  6.00 pm on Friday 5 December, which is Late Night Shopping in Budleigh.

Among the attractions will be a magician!  

Hunting hats

Young Fairlynch visitor Amelia enjoyed trying out different hats from the Museum’s dressing-up box. But we could do with many more for visitors, young and old, to play with.  So I composed a little plea:

Hunting hats

In Fairlynch Museum we’ve loads of old clothes,

With buttons and ribbons and collars and bows.

We’ve dresses, and trousers and many cravats,

But we’ve noticed a definite shortage of hats.

You can try on old jackets, occasional smocks,

And even wear things like your grandmother’s frocks.

But of kepis and topees and bonnets and such,

We have to admit that there’s not very much.

Of fedoras I fear the museum has none,

And sombreros are rare: I doubt we have one.

Of beanies I’m sure that I’ve never seen any.

And clearly of fezzes there aren’t very many.

Of Stetsons and homburgs it’s thought they are rare;

Of deerstalker hats there are none we can spare.

A couple of panama hats would be nice,

And a mortarboard...? Great! Just one would suffice.

Of bowlers and boaters we do have a few,

But visitors love to try out something new.

So if you’ve a top hat, a trilby or cap

Just bring it to Fairlynch. You don’t need a map.  

Our website will tell you where we are located.

Of Devon’s museums we’re most highly rated.  

We’re only a few hundred yards from the sea

In Budleigh, the town where we’d all like to be.  

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Fairlynch considers digital engagement


Check out the old fossils on the Jurassic Coast Partnership's website at http://jurassiccoast.org/fossilfinder

I mentioned ‘digital’ elsewhere a couple of years ago on this blog in relation to local businesses and their use of the internet. 

Since then, more and more Budleigh people seem to be ‘digitally engaged’, and using social media like Facebook and Twitter.


Fairlynch Museum's Nick Speare 
Image credit: Mo Sandford FRPS

For museums, digital engagement can mean something pretty broad and quite radical, including the sensible way in which visitors on the other side of the world are able to admire Fairlynch’s artefacts.   Many museums are making much more use of the internet to make their collections and catalogues available to the public and this is the direction Fairlynch should be following,” says the Museum’s Treasurer Nick Speare.

A start was made in October 2013 with the arrival of the Jurassic Coast Partnership team in Budleigh, as I reported at http://budleighbrewsterunited.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/fascinated-by-fairlynchs-old-fossils.html


A total of 35 fossils in Fairlynch’s collection have now been databased and classified as seen above, and are viewable online in the Fossil Finder here  

There’s even an ancient fossil root which can be admired from every angle thanks to the 360-degree photographic techniques used by the Jurassic Coast Partnership. It was discovered at High Peak between Budleigh and Sidmouth, and is 225 million years old.

More and more items in Fairlynch’s collection will be seen in this way.

Do you have a favourite item in our Museum that you would like the world to admire?  Drop me a line at mr.downes@gmail.com and I’ll see what we can do.

Museum’s Corporate Friends hopeful on car park issue

Car parking will be free for the time being at Budleigh Salterton's Upper Station Road car park
Although I write mostly about Fairlynch Museum matters I was happy to oblige when asked to mention Budleigh Salterton Music Festival events.

As I’ve written elsewhere, more festivals means more visitors to the town, which means more visitors to its museum...

But of course more visitors are good for Budleigh businesses generally.   

So it’s excellent news, as reported in a recent edition of the Budleigh Journal, that East Devon District Council and Clinton Devon Estates have met to discuss the issue of the free car park at Upper Station Road Car Park.

Fully used: Budleigh's Upper Station Road Car Park 
Both parties, according to a joint statement made by EDDC and CDE, “understand the importance of the car park to the town and want to ensure that the facility serves the town for many years to come.”

“Consequently, the first requirement is to ensure that we fully understand the patterns of usage of the car park,” the statement goes on to say.

“Therefore the Council will monitor this over the next few months. A further meeting will be held in due course but in the meantime the car park will remain as a free car park.”
Owners of two local businesses which happen to be Corporate Friends of Fairlynch Museum have expressed satisfaction at this latest development. The Brook Gallery’s Angela Yarwood and Plume’s Mike Clarke feel that it is a very positive outcome and hope to be closely and openly involved in the monitoring process.

In fact Angela, pictured above, was so closely involved in the car park issue that she was reported in the Budleigh Journal as having resigned from her position as chairman of traders’ group Budleigh in Business. 

It was, she said, “heartbreaking” to find that the amount of voluntary time that she and others had spent on trying to establish “fair and equitable parking regimes” had been, as she put it, “negated.”  

Car users have to pay at the Lower Station Road car park. Controversial plans to install pay and display machines at the town’s free car park have been put on hold

Both Angela and Mike believe in the ultimate aim of permanently retaining the free status of what they believe is a the “valuable facility” of the Upper Station Road Car Park. The latest development in the parking issue comes following the sending of a letter by 48 local traders to Lord Clinton, whose family bequeathed the car park to Budleigh Salterton’s old urban district council.

I once confided to one of my blog readers, an elderly Budleigh resident, my hope that promoting the town might bring more visitors. He pointed out that he and his wife had moved here precisely because Budleigh “was not a tourist town, and catered rather for the residents.”  They had not been disappointed, he wrote, and “have much enjoyed its quiet atmosphere.”

Budleigh is a delightful place, notable for surviving in these tough economic times with its quiet charm. But there has to be a balance.  Few  people would relish the thought of living in a community so moribund that even the charity shops have closed down. 

Monday, 3 November 2014

Music Festival tunes up for tenth anniversary


Image credit: www.voces8.com

Talking of music, which I do here Budleigh Salterton’s Music Festival will be celebrating ten years of staging highly successful concerts by performers from all over the world in 2015.

The Festival, described recently by Richard Morrison in the Times as a “nine-day wonder”, started in July 2005 with Friend of Fairlynch Museum Roger Bowen as its first Chairman.

The main Festival takes place in the summer, but other exciting events are staged at other times in the year.

A ‘Carols by Candlelight’ concert will take place in St Peter’s Church on 9 December. It will be sung by Voces8, seen above, an internationally acclaimed group who were a great success at the Festival in 2013. They will sing a new carol, composed by the winner of the Budleigh Carol Competition for which there were 79 entries. The winner will be announced shortly and will receive the prize, plus being invited to hear the first public performance of the carol sung by Voces8 on 9 December.

You can find the details here at http://budleighmusicfestival.co.uk and at

The Festival organisers have also just announced the line-up for the evening concerts for the Festival from 10–18 July 2015. Among those coming to perform in Budleigh are the baritone, Roderick Williams, who sang at the Last Night of the Proms just a few weeks ago, and whom you can listen to  here

The lunchtime concerts for next July are close to being finalised and will appear on the website soon.

Further Tenth Anniversary events will include a Choral Day, with singers coming together for the day, to celebrate John Tavener. There will also be a period instrument performance of Messiah to be sung by Convivium.

People from the past 10: Valerie Dwerryhouse (1933-2010)

Valerie Dwerryhouse: admired by colleagues for her work behind the scenes at Fairlynch Museum 

Over the years Fairlynch has been fortunate in finding many volunteers with a professional background in research, enabling the Museum to maintain high standards normally found in much bigger institutions. The good scientist’s ability to think critically is of special value and Dr Valerie Dwerryhouse, a highly respected immunologist and Fairlynch volunteer for many years, was certainly distinguished in that respect.

She was born Valerie Stacey on 17 September 1933. Brought up in the village of Holsworthy, in north-west Devon, she studied Microbiology at Imperial College after graduating in Household and Social Science at London University’s Queen Elizabeth College. Some of the inspiration and motivation for her studies came from the family doctor in Holsworthy, Stuart Craddock, who had been a research assistant to Sir Alexander Fleming at the time of the discovery of penicillin. It was Dr Craddock who through his contacts assisted her in securing her first job as a bacteriologist at the Burroughs Wellcome research centre in Beckenham, Kent.

This was followed by posts at the Low Temperature Research Station in Cambridge and at Bayer Pharmaceuticals in Newmarket. She then spent three years from 1959 as a Research Assistant in Immunology in King’s College Hospital Medical School before submitting her doctoral thesis entitled ‘The immunological response to exogenous insulin.’  A further two years were spent as a Research Fellow of Harvard University, working at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston USA. 

Returning to the UK she worked from 1965 to 1971 for the Medical Research Council at the National Institute for Medical Research in Mill Hill, London, going on to the MRC’s Clinical Research Centre at Northwick Park, Harrow; here she worked with the Nobel Prize winner Sir Peter Medawar, who had discovered the immunological basis of the rejection of skin and organ transplants.

A gravid adult female Nippostrongylus brasiliensis worm, collected from the small intestine of an infected laboratory-bred mouse and photographed with a Nikon light microscope and mounted digital camera. The picture shows a hooked anterior end containing eggs. 
Image credit: J. Claire Hoving

The results of her research appeared under her married name of Valerie Jones in numerous studies published over the years in various scientific journals. From 1967 she collaborated with the Australian-born scientist Bridget Ogilvie on a series of academic papers, mostly based on study of the parasitic worm  Nippostrongylus brasiliensis found in the gut of rats and mice. The two women had first met as postgraduate students at the Veterinary Science School in Cambridge. Their joint research led to important conclusions about the role of such parasites in stimulating immune response, including a greater understanding of human allergies. 

Dame Bridget Ogilvie FRS as she is known today would go on to become internationally renowned as a scientist, involved in projects such as sequencing the human genome as well as the research into veterinary and medical parasitology on which she collaborated with Valerie. For her, as she would later recall, Valerie was a skilful and careful bench worker as well as excellent company and a cherished friend.

Dame Bridget amusingly wrote of how she and Valerie worked at the National Institute for Medical Research under Dr Frank Hawking, head of their Department and father of the famous Cambridge physicist Professor Stephen Hawking.

“Dr Hawking Senior was a rather eccentric and awkward man and very old fashioned,” she recalled. “He called all the men by their surnames without using their titles. In the case of the women graduates he would call the medics Dr, but the others were addressed as Miss or Mrs and he never called them Dr, even if they had a PhD. Valerie confused him in this desire, as he knew she had been divorced and did not know whether the surname Jones, that she used at that time, was her married or maiden name. She didn’t enlighten him so he finally gave it and much to our amusement, called her Valerie. This helped the atmosphere in the whole department.”

Valerie’s long friendship with Dame Bridget was recognised when she was invited to participate at the celebrations marking the latter’s 1999 Festschrift at the Wellcome Building in London. By then, she had been living in Devon for more than 20 years, having moved to Fountain Hill in Budleigh Salterton.  Her return to the West Country had came in 1976 when she took up the post of Research Fellow at the Postgraduate Medical School, Exeter University. Initially she worked with Dr Harry Hall, who had introduced renal dialysis at Exeter in 1967 and been one of the founding consultants of the Exeter Kidney Unit set up at Dean Clarke House in Southernhay.  While developing the renal service, he pursued his interest in diabetic care and rheumatology, supervising the introduction of corticosteroids for rheumatoid arthritis.

It was in the latter area that Valerie specialised at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, running a small but happy team of workers with the aim of investigating the genetic and immunological basis of rheumatoid arthritis, having obtained research grants from the Arthritis and Rheumatism Council to study some aspects of the immune system in rheumatoid arthritis. In particular she and her fellow-researchers looked at a virus which has been shown to produce inflammatory arthritis and studied some of the genetic factors that predispose people to develop arthritis. 

Thirty years on, noted one of her colleagues from those early days at the RD&E, we can see how the work undertaken by her and her team has contributed to our understanding of rheumatoid arthritis, which afflicts 2% of the population. Many of the small pieces of the jigsaw have been assembled to give a greater understanding of the disease. Valerie’s contribution to that jigsaw was recognised when she was awarded a prestigious Doctorate of Science from London University. This is only awarded to scientists on a portfolio of outstanding work. 

Two years before her arrival In Budleigh she had remarried, following her divorce. With her second husband, Michael Dwerryhouse, she had 35 years of happy married life. Both shared a love of music and theatre and regularly attended Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra concerts in Exeter. 

Scientific colleagues like Dame Bridget Ogilvie remembered Valerie for her charm as well as for her intelligence, and this quality made her much loved by her family.  “I was aware early on that Valerie wasn’t like other grannies. She certainly didn’t fit the grey hair stereotypes. Valerie was young and stylish and fun,” recalled one of her step-grandchildren.

Following her retirement from scientific research she took up various part-time voluntary posts. She worked for a number of years as an adviser at the Citizens Advice Bureau in Exeter, and was also involved in the work of the Exeter Housing Society, a housing association of which she subsequently became chairman. 

Fairlynch co-founder Priscilla Hull remembered admiringly the work that Valerie did in the early 2000s behind the scenes at the Museum. By this stage she had moved from Fountain Hill to Marine Court, conveniently placed for her visits to Fairlynch. For six years, right up until her final illness, she helped to catalogue the collections, transferring information to the computer; her colleagues on the Museum’s documentation team found her always good-humoured and meticulous in her approach to work.
Valerie Dwerryhouse died on 11 January 2010, aged 76. Her husband Michael died six months later.   

Museum scores a precious find for Budleigh’s musical past

A 1957 Budleigh Salterton Drama Club production for which Joan Bennett wrote the music

Rare compositions of music from more than half a century ago have found their way back to Budleigh thanks to a Friend of Fairlynch Museum who revisited the town recently. 

They give an insight into the background of one of the most successful and versatile composers of our times who was brought up in the area.

 Local jazz enthusiasts are among those who know of Budleigh’s association with the late Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, creator not only of jazz and classical pieces but also of film scores for box-office hits like Far from the Madding Crowd (1967) Nicholas and Alexandra (1971), Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and Four Weddings and a Funeral. 

The Bennett family in the garden of Lace Acre, in Budleigh Salterton's Boucher Road 

Sir Richard’s father, the children’s author Rodney Bennett had come to know Joyce Dennys the artist and wife of a Budleigh GP. She had provided illustrations for Rodney Bennett’s books and it was at her suggestion that  the Bennett family moved to the town in 1939.  Their famous musician son lived there until 1961 before moving to London.

He found life in the capital rather different from Budleigh Salterton. But the quiet little coastal town remained, as he said, a place “which I still love and won't have a word said against.” He was delighted to be Patron of the Budleigh Jazz Festival and a year before he died was reflecting on his childhood here.

I was thinking and thinking about Budleigh,” Sir Richard wrote in December 2012. “I re-read The Book of Budleigh. I even went online and Googled it. Wikipedia is a mine of information, including Notable Residents.”

There was, however, a glaring omission which really ought to be corrected. He noted that the celebrities include Sue Lawley, “my excellent sister, M.R. Peacocke”, the puppeteer of Muffin the Mule and Belinda Lee, “a film starlet with whom I was at Miss Bannister's Kindergarten and who had a toy accordion of which I was extremely jealous.”

Sir Richard ended with the mock-serious reflection: “But I haven't made it yet. Sigh.”

Less well known as a musician is his mother, born Joan Esther Spink, shown above.  At least she does get a mention in Wikipedia as a former pupil of the composer Gustav Holst and as a singer in the first 1918 performance of 'The Planets'.


Gustav Holst by Herbert Lambert; photogravure, circa 1921  NPG Ax7745
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Holst had a high opinion of her musical talent and advised her to join the Royal College of Music. When she failed to win a scholarship there, he comforted her by writing “Failure is a most important part of an artist’s training.” His support encouraged her to enter the RCM in the following year; she became one of his composition students and even won a composition prize. 

Part of the musical setting of 'Alice in Wonderland' to accompany the entrance of the White Rabbit, by Joan Bennett

As Joan Spink, she wrote several chamber and choral works, one of which Holst included in a published collection of his pieces by his most promising students. Her work was included in a concert given in November 1922 by the Society of Women Composers at Messrs. Novello's rooms in London.  Her six Irish folk-songs arranged for voice, violin, and violoncello “well preserve the national characteristics” wrote the music critic for The Musical Times of December that year.

Joan Spink married Rodney Bennett in 1924. She seems to have put the furthering of her husband’s career ahead of any of her own aspirations as a composer. After Rodney’s death in 1948 she moved in 1952 from the family home at Lace Acre in Budleigh Salterton’s Boucher Road to Clyst Cottage in the same road. Here she ran a small madrigal group The Tudor Singers. In the 1953 Christmas holidays a concert was performed at East Budleigh church with a carol 'Jesus, Save us by thy Vertu' written by her son Richard along with another, 'Lute Book Lullaby', which he had written as a 15-year-old.

The programme for 'Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Alice through the Looking-Glass’

Joan Spink also provided musical entertainments for the local community. She was a very good accompanist. Her original compositions were part of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Alice through the Looking-Glass’ by Lewis Carroll, presented by Budleigh Salterton Drama Club from 2-5 January 1957.  Familiar names among the cast include Fairlynch Museum President Joy Gawne as the Red Queen and Joyce Evans, better known as the artist Joyce Dennys, as the White Queen.  The artist and book illustrator Cecil Elgee was one of the wardrobe mistresses.

Music by Joan Bennett to accompany the stage appearance of Tweedledum and Tweedledee

A local Women’s Institutes entertainment in the 1950s included an item performed by the East Budleigh and Bicton WI entitled ‘Jam Today’, for which she wrote the music with lyrics by  Pamela Macdonald. 

She also wrote music for a January pantomime ‘Dick Whittington’ of the same period.

All light-hearted stuff.  Yet Richard Rodney Bennett has acknowledged the musical debt that he owed his mother. According to his biographer Anthony Meredith in Richard Rodney Bennett: The Complete Musician one of the happiest memories he had of growing up in Devon was the attractive music Joan used to play - more often than not Debussy or Ravel.  In a 1995 interview with Mike Seabrook reproduced in  the biography he recalls his youthful memories.

Music by Joan Bennett for the Mock Turtle's song 'Beautiful Soup' from 'Alice in Wonderland'

“There was lots of piano and vocal music, also vocal scores, stuff my parents had reviewed, all neatly put away in cupboards, but available; and my mother would always talk to me about those glamorous early days at St Paul's and the RCM and her impressions of Vaughan Williams, Gustav and Imogen Holst, Ireland, Ferguson, Bliss, Rubbra... This was like hearing about film stars! I certainly didn't hear most of the music which we owned, particularly the stranger stuff like van Dieren. But I looked at it, and this I think has a lot to do with me being a composer. I've always been more interested in looking than necessarily hearing. It was music I saw and liked.” 

Various pieces by Joan Spink, dating from the 1950s, are contained in three manuscript books discovered by Sir Richard’s sister Meg Peacocke while she was going through his affairs at his London flat.


Meg Peacocke, in Budleigh October 2014, with a Japanese Acer Palmatum 'Osakazuki'

A distinguished poet herself, Meg came back to Budleigh to give a talk to Friends of Fairlynch and the Otter Valley Association about her memories of the town during World War Two.

Fairlynch Chairman Roger Sherriff has acknowledged her kindness in offering them to the Museum. “The scores give a valuable insight into the way in which professionally trained artists like Joan Spink and Joyce Dennys played a part in the life of the Budleigh community. We are most grateful to Meg Peacocke for thinking of us.”