Showing posts from December, 2014

A limerick: June 1782, Exmouth Bight

This picture of Exmouth Bight
Shows two ships which have just had a fight.
The English crew won,
But it wasn’t much fun.
Indeed, ‘twas an ‘orrible sight.

© Michael Downes 2014

This painting by Devon artist Peter Goodhall is part of Fairlynch Museum’s art collection. It is entitled ‘The Dutch Privateer Zeuse Brought as a Prize into Exmouth by the Defiance after a Two Hour Action in the Bay, June 1782.  A fuller commentary on the work will be published in due course.

“Very good quality” Museum’s help from Town Council

Fairlynch will benefit from a £500 grant from Budleigh Salterton Town Council following Councillors’ agreement to contribute towards the cost of inclusion in the 2015 Devon Museums brochure.

The Devon Museums Group publishes annually a guide to the county’s museums, which currently number 77.

Reporting on the good news, the Budleigh Journal quoted Councillor Tom Wright, pictured above. “Fairlynch Museum runs a very good quality operation, of interest to all sorts of people,” he said.
More information about the Devon Museums Group can be found at

Roger’s Christmas Day swim at Budleigh beach

The Chairman of Budleigh’s Fairlynch From a challenge he never did flinch. With his son-in-law Mark, He swam for a lark, Then told us it was “just a cinch.”

Congratulations to Fairlynch Museum Chairman Roger Sherriff, seen left, with daughter Karen and her husband Mark. Roger is probably the first-ever Fairlynch Museum Chairman to take part in Budleigh's Christmas Day swim

A Brewster bird and some medieval history

A beautiful visitor to Budleigh's sister-town of Brewster on Cape Cod.  We have kingfishers of course!
Photo credit: Ryan Bushby
I do take an interest in the wonderful wildlife of Devon, and sometimes I blog about plants and creatures that I’ve photographed. But really I’m a bit of a dunce in such things: not observant enough about detail, and happy to enjoy them at a superficial level.
But every so often my eye is caught by a flash of unexpected colour or an exotic-sounding name.

Like the Glossy Ibis, a flock of which turned up at Budleigh’s Cricket Club some four years ago and which I wrote about at
And these things are worth recording on my ‘museum in cyberspace’. After all, Fairlynch’s Priscilla Carter Room does have a display area devoted to the wildlife of the Lower Otter Valley.
So I took special note of a recent Google news alert telling me that a rufous hummingbird had been “attendin…

A picture perfect project

With so many artists, both professional and amateur, attracted by the picturesque East Devon landscape, it's no surprise that Fairlynch boasts a fine collection of works of art.
The Museum's Disposal and Acquisitions Committee has estimated that Fairlynch has around 400 sketches, drawings, original paintings and prints of local significance or by local artists.
Some of these paintings can now be viewed online thanks to a partnership between the Public Catalogue Foundation and the BBC. 
200,000 publicly owned oil paintings are held in institutions ranging from museums large and small to town halls, universities, hospitals and even fire stations.
However, four in five of these paintings are not on view. Over the last few years the PCF has been working closely with collections up and down the country to photograph such works of art and collate information about each painting. The Foundation launched the project in summer 2011 with approximately 60,000 paintings. There are now over 210…

A Hotelier's memories, by Iris Ansell: 2. On the sherry

Friend of Fairlynch Iris Ansell, who helps in the Museum’s Costume Department, recalls some memorable moments from her time as proprietor of Southlands Hotel in Budleigh Salterton
Like most hotels of a certain size, to elongate the season, those of us that could, took a coachload of pensioners, early and late season.
As we were newcomers to the hotel life, we employed a cook for the season. She was a treasure and stayed with us for many years. She did however enjoy a glass of sherry while waiting for everyone to be seated for dinner. (Pensioners who came on very reduced rates had fixed meals and times, so everyone arrived at the same time and took a while to be seated). 
Peg, as she was called, enjoyed her sherry, stirring her lovely home-made soup and waiting.
My husband bought sherry by the box, putting it on a shelf above the hatch where Peg was waiting with her soup. Unfortunately the tap came unattached and the sherry poured into the soup below. Peg calmly carried on stirring, and …

A History of the Longcase Clock by Trevor Waddington Part 1

Lantern clock by William Bowyer c. 1630 © Trustees of the British Museum
The British longcase or grandfather clock, as it became known after the popular song ‘My Grandfather’s Clock’ written by the American Henry C. Work in 1876, has its origins in the mid-17th century.
The first domestic clocks to be housed in long cases were brass lantern clocks. Initially lantern clocks were hung high on the wall with the driving weights and ropes hanging down to the floor, the disadvantage of this being that children and domestic animals could interfere with the workings of the clock.The solution to this problem was to house the clock in a long wooden case with a hood to access the dial and a lockable trunk door to give access to the weights.The introduction of the anchor escapement and 39-inch (1-second beat) pendulum in 1671 made the need for a longcase even more necessary.

An architectural longcase clock by Ahasuerus Fromanteel, c.1665.  © Trustees of the British Museum

Makers such as Edward East,…

A limerick: ‘Rainy Day’

There is a fine picture of rain
That I look at again and again.
For the artist, I’ve found,
Was a hero renowned
For a courage you could call insane.

© Michael Downes 2015

This painting by  George Ellis Carpenter MC is part of Fairlynch Museum’s art collection. It shows Budleigh Salterton High Street and is entitled ‘Rainy Day.'  

 You can read about the artist at


Happy Christmas to Everyone from Fairlynch Museum


Party time at Bowmers for Fairlynch volunteers

Fairlynch volunteers enjoyed an excellent evening at Bowmers in Budleigh High Street. A popular event at a great venue which is sure to be repeated. Here are some pics of the revellers.

Not forgetting Claire Bowmer and her helpers:

Claire, second left, heads a friendly and welcoming team 
You can read news about Bowmers here

Mob caps and top hats on parade

Volunteers from Fairlynch added a vintage note to Budleigh’s Late Night Christmas Shopping event on Friday 5 December as they paraded along the High Street in 19th century costume.

“We decided that we'd be dressing up in long skirts, high-necked blouses, shawls, mob caps, aprons, mittens and baskets in our interpretation of Victorian street sellers,” said the Museum’s Christine Bailey. “Some of our trustees were in frock coats and top hats to complete the picture.”
Fairlynch is noted for its fine collection of costumes from past centuries, but only a few of its garments are available for dressing-up events and these are kept separately, being mostly in poor condition.

“We would welcome any donation of vintage costumes which might be suitable for wear by volunteers or visitors for dressing up,” said Christine.  

You can read about the Museum's need for hats here

Oriental mystery at Fairlynch

Cataloguing all the artefacts at Fairlynch is a time-consuming but fascinating activity, especially when there’s a story attached to a particular acquisition. But it’s frustrating for our volunteers when there seems to be no hint of when an item turned up in the Museum, or indeed where it came from.

Some recent examples are the finely woven silk pieces shown here, one of them being identified as 20th century Indian embroidery. However two others caught the eye of our Antiquities Consultant Piers Motley-Nash, who tells us that they are Chinese and probably 19th century or even earlier.

The above panel showing a bird in flight, facing the sun, is typical of the embroidered Rank Badges made for civil officials during the Qing dynasty which ruled China from 1644 to 1911.  Such panels, with their intricately worked embroidery full of symbolic detail, are collectors’ items.

The Museum is keen to discover the source of these three items, as there is no indication of the identity of the donor. …

A Jolly Nigger Bank speaks out

Poetry inspired by museum artefacts is nothing new. Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn is probably the bext known example, and I read recently about Cambridge University's Thresholds project in the Museums Association Journal
However nobody seems to have been inspired by the Muse to write about any of the items in what my friend Simon Heptinstall called Fairlynch Museum's "delightfully eclectic mix of locally donated period costumes, radioactive pebbles and natural history (ie, stuffed seabirds)" in his amusing 2001 Daily Telegrapharticle
There are some pretty odd things at Fairlynch, but that's possibly what a museum is all about.  
Anyway, here is what I was inspired to write about one of them:
I’ve got the most enormous mouth, my tongue is round and red.
My eyes are blue, my face is dark, my origin’s unsaid.
Cos I’m a Jolly Nigger Bank,
I sit here every day.
Some people think I’m curious,
And others look away.

I’ve got a hand, I hold it out for people to put in
A penny lar…

Magic at the Museum

The mince pies and mulled wine went down well during Late Night Shopping at Fairlynch, but it was for Professor Bumble’s tricks that the event will be remembered by the children.
The Sidmouth-based professional entertainer has been running Circus Workshops for over 20 years, teaching skills such as unicycling, stilts, tightwire walking and juggling.
You can contact him via his website at

Antarctica in the news again

Author Meredith Hooper presents a copy of her book The Longest Winter: Scott's Other Heroes to Fairlynch Museum Secretary Iris Cooper
The great age of Britain’s polar heroes lives on thanks to the organisers of centenary events like Fairlynch’s much-praised‘Survival!’ exhibition of 2012-13.
Antarctic expert Meredith Hooper followed up her visit to the Museum’s exhibition with an appearance as one of the guest authors at Budleigh Salterton’s 2012 Literary Festival.Her book The Longest Winter: Scott's Other Heroes highlighted the heroism of those members of Robert Falcon Scott’s Northern Party, which included former Budleigh resident Murray Levick.
The book was praised by Brian Schofield in The Sunday Times as “an authoritative and insightful chronicle” of the group’s harrowing experience during Scott’s fatal Terra Nova Expedition of 1910-13.
It was, he wrote, a vivid reconstruction which displays “the true grit and peculiar Englishness of the six explorers who survived half a yea…