Sunday, 30 August 2015

Of cups and plate, Pt 1

This is the story behind the recent acquisition by Fairlynch Museum of the beautiful replica of a 16th century communion cup from which Sir Walter Ralegh may have drunk.   It is hoped to exhibit the original silver chalice and paten, currently in storage, at Exeter Cathedral. Crafted by one of the city’s celebrated goldsmiths, they are among the treasures of All Saints Church, East Budleigh, birthplace of Queen Elizabeth I’s favourite courtier.  In 2018 we will be marking the 400th anniversary of his wrongful trial and execution. 

Promotional poster of 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade' by artist Drew Struzan 
Image credit: Paramount Pictures via Wikipedia

“You have chosen wisely,” the Grail knight tells the hero in the film 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.'  Terrible things befall those who choose poorly and drink from the wrong communion cup.

And so it was during the turbulent years of religious wars brought about by the Reformation in Europe. 

A chalice with the inscription: 'My blood truly is a libation', made in 1549 for the church of St John the Baptist in Salinas, Spain.  © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This chalice, held at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, USA,  is decorated with images of saints and scenes from the life of Christ,  Its stem and cup were probably made in Germany c.1500 and are later than the base, which has been attributed to Bohemia or Austria and dated c.1400. The enamels contain an image of the apostle Andrew (holding the X-shaped cross on which he died), to whom the church where the chalice was used was probably dedicated. Around it are the Annunciation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension (with Christ disappearing in the clouds). The last scene shows St. Martin (316-97), bishop of Tours (France), celebrating mass as divine flames descend upon an altar with a chalice upon it

Countries which embraced Protestantism rejected the decorative, sometimes bejewelled chalices which were characteristic of the Roman Catholic tradition.

The name of Exeter's Goldsmith Street in the city's main shopping centre stands as a reminder of its traditional crafts

In the West Country, up to and including the 16th century, silversmiths relied heavily upon the Church for business. Two notable Exeter goldsmiths of the 16th century were John Jones and Richard Hilliard, father of Nicholas the famous miniaturist. 

St Petrock's Church, Exeter   Image credit: Robert Cutts

One of the most productive goldsmiths of his age, John Jones (d.1583-84) was a Bailiff of the city in 1567 and Churchwarden at St. Petrock's in 1570.

The goldsmiths  benefited enormously  from changes brought about by English Reformation.  Much church treasure was confiscated by Henry VIII, with plate being melted down and reworked to conform to the new Protestant liturgy.  The process was even more marked in the 1550s, which saw the seizure of most church gold and silver ornaments by officials of Edward VI’s government.  

'The murder of Zwingli' by the 19th century Swiss artist Karl Jauslin   Image credit: Wikipedia

In Europe, the most extreme example of the tendency to reject such Catholic practices was seen as early as April 1525 when the reformer Ulrich Zwingli celebrated Maundy Thursday with wooden rather than silver cups. 

Was such Protestant extremism seen in English parishes? “It is hard to be sure what was happening, especially since there was such variation on the ground,” says Dr Laura Sangha, of the University of Exeter’s Department of History. 

“We do know from churchwarden accounts that many parishes either sold their communion chalices during Edward VI's reign, or they had them confiscated by the authorities. There is also evidence that some parishes bought wooden cups at around the same time, so certainly they were in use in some places.”

Queen Elizabeth I, by the Exeter artist Nicholas Hilliard

The brief period of Mary Tudor’s reign saw a return to Catholic practices. But by 1559 when her half-sister Elizabeth ascended the throne England was ready to ready to accept compromises in matters of religion.

The young Walter Ralegh had seen at first-hand a country torn apart by sectarianism while fighting as a teenager for the Huguenots in the French Wars of Religion between 1569 and 1572. “The greatest and most grievous calamity that can come to any state is civil war,” he would later conclude in his  History of the World.   

The new queen evidently shared his view. “Away with those torches, for we see very well,” she is supposed to have exclaimed at her coronation, when greeted by the Abbot of Westminster and his monks. 

Elizabeth’s apparent rejection of the Catholic practice of lighted candles, a relic from the previous reign, would have been interpreted by Protestants as a sign of her reformist tendencies.

Equally, the queen wanted to reassure Catholics that she respected elements of the old tradition. “The coronation was a typical Elizabethan compromise with something to confuse and offend everyone,” concludes Professor Richard McCoy in his study of the ceremony, keenly watched by contemporaries for hints of the government’s religious policy in the new reign.

The paten of the original 16th century silver chalice made by John Jones

The Elizabethan Settlement deliberately encompassed a range of preferences when it came to religious worship, and this included more decoration and ceremonial that would have been tolerated during the Edwardian regime, writes Laura Sangha.  

A close-up showing detail, carefully copied in the pewter replica

Fairlynch Museum’s recently commissioned copy of the 1570s chalice made by John Jones is a perfect example. More than a hundred of the Exeter goldsmith’s communion cups have survived. They made his fortune; churchwarden accounts of St Petrock’s church in Exeter show that Jones was paid £1 15s 5d in 1572 for ‘converting’ a communion cup to make it suitable for Protestant worship, melting down its medieval predecessor in the process. 

The original chalice  on which the Fairlynch replica is modelled is one of All Saints Church’s most treasured possessions. Sir Walter Ralegh himself may have drunk from it.

Beautifully crafted by Birmingham pewterers A.E. Williams – probably the oldest firm of its kind in the world -  our moderately decorated 21st century version reflects the new spirit of compromise which characterized the Virgin Queen’s reign.  Replica it may be, but the latest acquisition at the Museum  tells a fascinating story from a crucial period in British history.


For more examples of A.E. Williams' work click on

This post continues at

Friday, 28 August 2015

Hey! Fairlynch Museum is tops!

New arrival on the cultural attractions scene: the Heymuseums logo

Volunteers at Fairlynch  are cheering at the news that their museum has been judged one of the most popular in the region according to a specialist website.

Heymuseums places the Budleigh Salterton museum, located in a listed 19th century thatched building described as a “marine cottage orné” on the town’s Fore Street, as one of the leading attractions of its type in East Devon. 

The website, which calls itself the United Kingdom´s most updated site for finding museums and art galleries, puts Fairlynch near the top of its list for the area, second only to Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery. It currently boasts of guiding online visitors to 5,898 museums in the UK.  

Facebook logo. For Heymuseums, Facebook plays a key part in listing a museum’s popularity

The site’s popularity-ranking between 0 and 10 indicates how popular the museums are on Facebook. The ranking is based on visitors ("checkins"), Facebook-likes and a number of other factors, and is updated weekly!

Helpful and informative volunteers at Fairlynch have been one of the keys to its success judging by other mentions of the Museum online. “Worth a visit just to have a chat with the staff” was one of the many words of praise on TripAdvisor.

"The Fairlynch Stewards are happy to be part of the great team of volunteers  running our Museum,” said a spokesperson. “We are delighted to have been singled out for such kind comments by the visitors!"

Information about Fairlynch Museum and Arts Centre is at

Heymuseums’ listing:

RAMM 7.5
Fairlynch 6.5
Coldharbour Mill 6.4
Bill Douglas Centre 6.2
Topsham 6.2
Tiverton Museum of Mid-Devon life 5.6
A la Ronde 5.2
All Hallows Museum, Honiton 4.7
Exmouth 4.7
Sidmouth 4.7
Whimple Heritage Centre 4.7

Some recent 2015 comments on TripAdvisor

11 August "Despite having lived nearby for most of my life this was my first visit with my daughter aged 6. We loved it. The staff are very welcoming and although the museum is small there is a lot packed in with lots to capture the interest of children. There is a room dedicated to local geology, one for Sir Walter Raleigh, one for pirate history, one for the world wars and another for costumes. We spent 1-2 hours here."

29 July "A fascinating place to while away an hour. Lots of local info and historical pictures. Very knowledgeable and helpful volunteers. Free but donations welcomed."

26 July "Great small museum. We found this little museum by chance following a visit to Budleigh Salterton. It's well worth having a look round; there are lots of things to see. The volunteer room guides are very friendly and knowledgeable and clearly love what they do."

18 July  "Most interesting local museum. Good displays particularly the new Walter Raleigh room. The volunteer staff very friendly and informative. Worth a visit just to have a chat with the staff."

13 June Great place to visit on your way to the sea! Very interesting and the volunteers who man it are knowledgeable and helpful.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

New clues to the fate of Ralegh's lost American colony


Sir Walter Ralegh: the Devon hero who lost his head but helped Britain build an empire. His statue stands near All Saints Church in East Budleigh  

Exciting discoveries have been made at the site of an American colony pioneered by East Budleigh-born Sir Walter Ralegh. The finds will be of interest to the Fairlynch team which worked on this year’s exhibition to honour the great Tudor explorer and courtier.

Excavation at the Hatteras sites in 2012, where the ingot and counter was found and in 2015, where the rapier and slate were found.
Image credit: University of Bristol

Archaeologists from the University of Bristol have uncovered artefacts that they believe may help solve the long-running mystery of the fate of the first English colonists in North America. Excavations on the Island of Hatteras (North Carolina) have discovered a number of artefacts, dated to the late 16th century, which point to the possibility that the colonists assimilated into the local Native American tribe. It is hoped these early findings could solve one of America’s greatest historical mysteries.

Between 1584 and 1587, a number of expeditions were sent out from England to establish the first English colony in the New World. Under the leadership of Sir Walter Ralegh, the new lands were christened Virginia, and a permanent colony was established in 1587, that included over 100 men, women and children. An expedition to locate the colony on Roanoke Island in 1590 discovered the settlement, but found it abandoned. The only clue to their whereabouts were the initials CRO carved on a tree and CROATOAN carved on a wooden post.

With English settlement at Jamestown in 1607, there were reports that the colonists had moved inland, and some had been killed by the local Indians, but otherwise their fate remained unknown.

The University of Bristol's research, working with the local community archaeology society, has been focused on the island of Croatoan, now called Hatteras. Here a significant number of 16th and 17th century native American sites have been located.

At one particular location, a number of dated artefacts have been uncovered that point to both the presence and the survival of descendants of the Lost Colony into the mid-17th century. Some of these artefacts were found in late 16th century levels, and include German stoneware and copper ingots.

A late 16th century Nuremberg counter.  An identical token has been found on Roanoke island, where the colonists first settled. Such counters were produced in England during the Middle Ages, but by 
the mid 16th century, the Nuremberg jeton-makers had effectively cornered the English market. 

Image credit: University of Bristol

One diagnostic find was a Nuremberg counter, of identical form to those found on Roanoke Island. Nearby, in midden levels, were found a rapier handle, a writing lead pencil and a writing slate. Excavations in the 1990s at this same site discovered an Elizabethan gold ring and a snaphaunce (musket mechanism)  from the 1580-1600 period.

These midden levels date to the mid-17th century, and suggest that some of these precious artefacts were curated over a period of time before being discarded.

Professor Mark Horton, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Bristol and the director of the excavations with the Croatoan Archaeological Society, said: “These are still just clues, we have no smoking-gun proof that the colonists survived into the 17th century, but the discovery of so many high-status objects in one place does suggest that possibility - the colonists moved into the local Native American community and became assimilated.”

Scott Dawson, the president of the Croatoan Archaeological Society, which has been sponsoring the project, said: “We have always thought that the colonists survived on Hatteras Island, and it is very exciting that the archaeological evidence is now beginning to support this idea.”

The excavation work will continue in 2016, and it is hoped that a full report on the finds and their detailed analysis will be published shortly after.   

Source: University of Bristol

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Another view of the Great War: Exmouth Museum


Visitors seeking local memories of the 1914-18 world conflict have only another six weeks to go until the main season ends at Fairlynch on Sunday 27 September. 

Our Great War exhibition can be seen again briefly when the Museum re-opens during the school half-term before finally being dismantled.  But our neighbours in Exmouth – all volunteers just as in Budleigh – staged their own Great War display and their museum remains open until the end of October.

Exmouth is just a few miles along the coast from Budleigh Salterton. So it’s no surprise to find, from a rummage in the archives, that at least a dozen men associated with the Lower Otter Valley who died on active service during World War One also had links to the larger town.

As at Fairlynch, there are photos of local men who served in the conflict. 

Among them is Private Arthur Palmer, pictured above, recorded as having died at the Battle of Loos on 25 September 1915. He’s described in Exmouth Museum’s ‘Faces of the Great War’ panel as living with his wife on Halsdon Road in the town.  Born in East Budleigh, he is listed on the war memorial in that village.  But his name appears also on Exmouth’s and Seaton’s!*

There’s a fine display of the medals won by some of these men.  

Exmouth Museum must have been delighted to be given by his widow the medal ribbons worn by the noted WW1 flying ace Douglas Carbery MC, DFC (1894-1959).   A British Artillery officer, he was credited with six aerial victories while attached to the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force.  He later returned to the artillery, and commanded an anti-aircraft brigade during World War II, retiring with the rank of brigadier.

Pride of place in the Exmouth Museum display goes to the town’s two VCs.

Featured above is Flight Sub-Lieutenant Reginald Warneford of the Royal Naval Air Service. He won his award on 7 June 1915 for destroying a German airship, but died in a flying accident ten days later. The epic tale of how he destroyed Zeppelin No 37 is well worth a read.

Two years ago, Reginald Warneford’s name was in national headlines after a government ruling that only British-born Victoria Cross recipients would be  honoured with commemorative paving stones in their home towns, and Warneford had been born in Darjeeling, India. 

Warneford's own drawing of his downing of the Zeppelin

A vigorous media campaign to reverse the ruling led to the laying of a special memorial flagstone during a VC dedication service at the Strand Gardens, Exmouth on Sunday 7 June 2015 – exactly 100 years after Warneford’s award-winning mission.  

Just as absorbing is the story of the bravery of the Royal Navy’s Lieutenant Richard Douglas Sandford, who was born in Exmouth. 

Pictured above, he won his VC for his command of submarine C3 in the daring raid on the port of Zeebrugge on the night of 23 April 1918.

There are helpfully informative notices in Exmouth Museum’s exhibition about episodes of the Great War such as the Gallipoli campaign...

... and even detailed explanations of how such hierarchies as infantry battalions were organised.

Among the wartime artefacts I noticed this tank crew mask looking like medieval chain mail.

And this vest pocket camera was one of a best-selling folding camera series made by Kodak from 1912 to 1926. Many remarkable photographs were taken by soldiers before the War Office issued its instruction banning cameras from the trenches in March 1915.

A neatly crafted example of ‘trench art’ on display is this cribbage board, made from a WW1 shell casing.

There’s a lot more to see in Exmouth’s Great War display. Don’t miss it. For more information about the Museum click on

* Others included Major Reginald Elliott, Private Arthur Lake, Private George Hooper, 2nd Lieutenant Alfred Carter, Major William Addington, Private Bertram Coates, Private Norman Pengilley,  Able Seaman Herman Hart, Boy 1st class Ernest Hewett, Able Seaman Leslie Hewett, Lance Corporal Ralph Hewett, Stoker Walter West and Seaman Thomas Troake.