Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Polyphon is back!

One of Fairlynch Museum’s best-known artefacts is home again after a spell of thorough restoration at the hands of experts in mechanical music. The overhaul was made possible by a generous donation from a Friend of the Museum.

“A rather sedate and old-fashioned juke-box” is how the Exmouth Journal described Fairlynch’s polyphon in June 1968 when the museum had been open for only a year. Since then, its tinkly rendering of familiar tunes has entertained thousands of visitors.

Polyphon is the trade name given to disc-playing music boxes first manufactured by the Polyphon Musikwerke, located in Leipzig, Germany. Invented in 1870, full-scale production started around 1897 and continued into the early 1900s. Polyphons were exported all over the world and music was supplied for the English, French and German markets, as well as further afield.

Museum records show that Fairlynch’s instrument originally came from the King’s Arms, Otterton and give it a date of 14 November 1898.

You can listen to a sample of the Polyphon’s music online here  but better still, call at Fairlynch Museum and see it in action.

The Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 2.00-4.30pm. Admission is free but a small charge is made to operate the Polyphon.

Maggie Giraud teams up with Fairlynch Arts Centre

Maggie Giraud

Long hidden pictures in Fairlynch’s art collection are being put on display thanks to the efforts of volunteers including locally-based freelance art historian and curator Maggie Giraud.

Maggie’s talk ‘Understanding Henri Matisse’ was chosen to round off the Museum’s AGM on 29 April. It was one of many talks which she will be giving during 2015.

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Maggie lists her specialist topics as Renaissance Florence, the early 20th century period in Paris, and Dartington Hall, where she was employed as curator and archivist.  


High Cross House, Dartington Hall

Image credit: Ruth Sharville

Maggie was the founding curator of High Cross House at Dartington, designed by Swiss-American architect William Lescaze in 1932 and considered to be one of the UK's best examples of modernist architecture. On 20 May, at the Ken Stradling Collection Design Study Centre in Bristol, she will be giving a talk on the building and renovation of High Cross House.

Much closer to home, and starting in May, Maggie will be doing four ‘walk and talk’ sessions at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter around the ‘Eye to Image’, the exhibition of four decades of the work of Devon painter Benedict Rubbra. These are for members of the Art Fund and for Friends of RAMM, but if you would like to attend do contact the organizer through Maggie’s website at

Another hands-on Chairman for Museum

New Fairlynch Chairman Trevor Waddington at work on a new project. What he’s holding will be yet another story for the Museum
Friends of Fairlynch Museum approved the appointment of a new Chairman at their Annual General Meeting on Wednesday 29 April.

Trevor Waddington moved to Budleigh Salterton in 2012, retiring after a 35-year career in the Royal Navy followed by 17 years of running an antique clocks business in Bradford on Avon. 

Brought up in Peterborough, he joined the Royal Navy at the age of 15, retiring with the rank of Commander and the award of an OBE in the 1992 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.   

With a background in engineering, Trevor’s hobby of clock restoration seemed appropriate. After graduating from the West Dean College/British Antique Dealers' Association diploma course in the conservation-restoration of antique clocks he went on to become a Fellow of the British Horological Institute, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, and a member of the Antiquarian Horological Society.

Retirement opened up a range of other possibilities however.  Last year Trevor gained a History degree from the Open University. “As an 11-plus ‘failure’ of the 1950s I have been motivated to prove myself ever since,” he told the Budleigh Journal in May 2014. “The achievement of an Open University degree at the age of 71 is therefore the realisation of a life-long dream.” 

Trevor is also Treasurer of the Otter Valley Association and helps to administer its Local Heritage Assets Scheme. He’s a steward at the National Trust’s A La Ronde at Exmouth. And if that were not enough, he runs the Exeter Flotilla’s Annual Trafalgar Service at Exeter Cathedral. This is an event that draws a large congregation, normally including the Lord Lieutenant and the High Sheriff of Devon, the Lord Mayor of Exeter and other senior civic dignitaries together with senior Royal Navy and Royal Marine Officers.

It’s pretty clear that quirky little Fairlynch Museum will be maintaining the success that it has enjoyed under the previous chairmanship of Roger Sherriff. Under Trevor, some would say, it’ll be combining its quirky charm with naval efficiency, going full steam ahead and running like clockwork.    

“Daunting,” is how he views the prospect of his latest challenge.  “However there's a very good team of Trustees to guide me!” he says.  “My overall aim will be to build on the successes achieved by my predecessor.  In particular, the Sir Walter Ralegh exhibition has set a gold standard of presentation.  Fairlynch's professionalism and reputation can be enhanced still further by bringing the Museum's other exhibitions up to the same high standard.” 

Monday, 27 April 2015

South West Museum visitor numbers up

Visits to museums helped contribute £195,113,005 to the South West’s economy in 2013/14… 1.8 million of the visitors were children… donations to SW museums totaled £2,281,067… 

These are just some of the eye-opening statistics from this page published in the South West Museum Development Programme’s Annual Report for 2013/14.

We are confident that Fairlynch Museum played a full part in contributing to this bright picture.  

To find out more about the South West Museum Development Programme click here

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Facing up to Sir Walter

The face of a hero as created by Vivien Mallock FRBS

One of the eye-catching exhibits in Fairlynch Museum’s ‘Beyond the Boyhood’ display in the newly refurbished Sir Walter Ralegh Room is the Budleigh Salterton Venture Art Club’s version of the famous Millais painting. As a work in progress it was featured elsewhere on this site. 

Another rather special artefact in the exhibition is a life-size bronze face created by sculptress Vivien Mallock when she was working on the statue of Sir Walter now standing in East Budleigh.

Vivien Mallock’s Raleigh statue being unveiled on 7 February 2006 by (l-r):  HRH The Duke of Kent, Steve Baker, who was chairman of East Budleigh Parish Council, Hugo Swire MP, sculptress Vivien Mallock  

The statue was unveiled by HRH the Duke of Kent in 2006 and occupies a focal point in the village near All Saints Church. Its origin was not without controversy.

East Budleigh residents had hoped that an earlier statue of Sir Walter originally sited on Whitehall Green would be relocated to their village, and were disappointed when it was moved instead to the former Royal Naval College in Greenwich.


As the local MP, Hugo Swire played a part in obtaining the Sir Walter Ralegh statue for East Budleigh

Then local MP Hugo Swire stepped in to secure £30,000 in funding from British American Tobacco to ensure that the village would have its own statue.

There were strong objections from some locals to the source of the cash, given the growth of the anti-smoking lobby in recent times.

But the MP was unabashed. "If there are any objections to this from people who think we shouldn’t do this because its sponsored by British American Tobacco, I think I shall emigrate,” he was reported as saying.

"I cannot believe that there can be people around who would be so churlish and politically correct to assume because we’ve got sponsorship from a major international company we should somehow turn it down. I just would despair at that point. We want the statue, they’ve been hugely generous - thank you, thank you, thank you."

Tobacco was the least of the negative issues associated with East Devon’s best known historical figure, born at Hayes Barton just outside East Budleigh at some time between 1552 and 1554.

Ralegh, as portrayed by a contemporary, the Exeter-born painter Nicholas Hillard

By many accounts he was a deeply unpopular figure at various times in English political life on account of his extravagance and his arrogant and violent behaviour. “I have heard rawley of thee,” King James I is supposed to have said when he first met Sir Walter – a witticism which tells us how Raleigh’s surname was pronounced at the time.     

And however it is pronounced, the name of Raleigh is not one which is held with affection in Ireland, where the English have often behaved abominably.


Sir Walter Ralegh's statue acknowledges Independence Day 

And yet Sir Walter has been seen over the centuries as one of the most important figures in the creation of the Anglo-American ‘Special Relationship.’ For many in the USA, he has been a cult figure, paradoxically seen as a supporter of republicanism and as one of the founders of the British Empire. 

The seal of the American state of New Hampshire shows the USS Raleigh

During the American War of Independence one of the 13 ships in the Patriots’ Navy was named the USS Raleigh, a move which must have riled the British government.  

Hayes Barton Baptist Church

The city of Raleigh in North Carolina even has an up-market district named Hayes Barton, though I’ve not yet understood how this came about.   

Polymath, poet, courtier, royal favourite, explorer… Sir Walter continues to fascinate us with so many vivid aspects of his character and with his eventful life.


Ralegh's execution as depicted in a 19th century print

He reached a heroic grandeur on the scaffold with his witticism in the face of death.  

“’Tis a sharp remedy'', he is reported to have said having felt the edge of the axe, “but a sure one for all ills.”


Spooky shot: the East Devon hero who lost his head

I’ll let his ghost have the last laugh. If you look carefully at the photo I took of his East Budleigh statue at a chance moment you’ll see something remarkable about its shadow.