Thursday, 26 November 2015

Christmas Late Night Shopping in Budleigh Salterton: Friday 4 December 2015

Looking forward to wearing that top hat again when Fairlynch volunteers take part in the big procession starting at 5.45pm outside the Public Hall on Friday 4 December.  A warm welcome awaits you at the Museum for Late Night Shopping. 

The founder of the Bicton Countryside Museum

It’s good to see in the new Bicton Countryside Museum guidebook a few pages about its founder N.D.G. James. The story of the James Collection, as it’s now known, is really worth telling. 

The Fordson tractor, built by the Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan, USA, dates from 1917 and is probably one of the oldest in the UK. You may recognise the scarecrow driver

Farming and agriculture make up so much of the Lower Otter Valley, stretching from Budleigh Salterton to Newton Poppleford, that it’s only right that they should have their place in any local museum. 

The threshing machine would definitely not fit into Fairlynch. Built by Marshall Sons & Co Ltd, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire and delivered to the now defunct Exeter-based mechanical engineering firm of Taylor & Bodley on 18 August 1890

Sadly, Fairlynch simply does not have the space for a display on the scale of the Bicton Countryside Museum.

The wheelwright's workshop

But maybe ‘Jimmy’ James would have discussed the possibility of a farming section at Fairlynch with its founders back in those early days nearly half a century ago when our Museum had only just been launched.

The smithy, with scarecrow smith provided by East Budleigh 

On 8 March 1968 at 7.30 pm in Budleigh Salterton’s Masonic Hall, Mr James gave an illustrated talk entitled ‘Trees of the South-West’ presented by Fairlynch Museum. The speaker was billed as a Past President of the Royal Forestry Society of England, Wales and Northern Ireland and admission was 3/6 (3 shillings and six pence) for adults and 1/- (one shilling) for schoolchildren.

The dairy: how it was in the past

Originally from Monmouthshire, ‘Jimmy’ James (1912-93) OBE, MC, TD, MA, FRICS, FICFor, was educated at Haileybury and Oxford University.  He joined the Society of Foresters of Great Britain as a young land agent but was also a member of the Honourable Artillery Company, where his appointment as Second Lieutenant was announced in the London Gazette of 29 December 1933.

After distinguished service with the Royal Artillery during World War Two, for which he was awarded the Military Cross, he left the Army with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  For a time he lived at Nuneham Courtenay in Oxfordshire, where he was Churchwarden of All Saints Church. He was Churchwarden of St Mary’s Church, Bicton, from 1967 until his death in 1993, having settled in East Devon as Land Agent to Lord Clinton.

He made an active contribution to the development of the teaching of Arboriculture, setting up the examinations of the Royal Forestry Society and becoming its President as well as President of the Chartered Land Agents Society.  

Some of this machinery brought back childhood memories of working on my family's market garden 

He was awarded the OBE for services to forestry in 1964, and was widely known in forestry circles for his books on the subject. They included The Forester's Companion (1955), A Pictorial Guide to Bicton Gardens (1970), A History of English Forestry (1981), and A Forestry Centenary: the history of the Royal Forestry Society of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland (1982)

He was also a writer on military history, publishing Plain Soldiering. A history of the armed forces on Salisbury Plain (1987).

A beautifully displayed set of woodworking tools

During his time as Land Agent, as the Bicton Countryside Museum guidebook tells us, he took on the task of visiting the several hundred tenanted estate farms to search out redundant and surplus everyday items. He collected tools, household items, farm machinery and the paraphernalia of rural trades and businesses.

I remember this six-ton steam roller. It bears a plaque with the name of W.W. Buncombe, Highbridge, in Somerset, a few miles from where I was brought up 

“Everything from the mundane to the magnificent was the subject of James’s quest to document more than a century of rural life and, as word spread, it was not long before he was being offered items from further afield. Nothing, it seems, was declined, and although the majority of the collection is founded on locally sourced exhibits, others have found their way to Bicton from across the UK, including the Home Counties, East Anglia, Scotland and Ireland.”

‘Jimmy’ James is remembered at Bicton not just in the Bicton Countryside Museum guidebook but also in the excellent film about the Museum which visitors can see. 

In St Mary’s Church, just a few minutes from the Museum, is the fine stained glass window set up as a memorial to his wife Laura Cecilia, who was only 45 when she died, and their second son Alastair Rupert Clifford who died on 15 September 1960 aged only six. 

Mr James himself is remembered in the adjacent wooden tablet erected by his surviving sons and his daughters-in-law.  

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Fairlynch Museum and Arts Centre to include pebble art in 2016

Budleigh’s ‘buns’ or pebbles are what make its beach special and pebble artist Simon Wood over the last few years has made it even more of a talking-point with his creations.

They don’t last for ever of course. The winter storms have taken away these pebble pictures that he created but the photos remain. 

Apart from the pleasure they give, the pictures have benefited the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) for which Simon set up a website at   


Simon has been kind enough to agree working with Fairlynch on a project connected with the Reg Varney centenary exhibition which will take place between Easter and the end of September.


You should be able to guess a likely subject of Simon’s pebble art for 2016. Meanwhile I’ll leave you with these pictures.  

Trial by Jury – wickedly updated in Budleigh on 5 December

Fairlynch Museum's 2016 exhibition 'Our Little Clown' is a a centenary tribute to Reg Varney, former Budleigh resident and a much-loved figure among past British entertainers.

Imperial Productions, as locals will know, has been in the business of entertaining audiences in the area for many years.

They are delighted to return to Budleigh Salterton this Christmas with a whacky, wicked and wonderful update of Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic court-room comedy, ‘Trial by Jury’.  

Simon Jones as Mr. Justice Soxon

This hilarious adaptation - by prize-winning composer/lyricist Alaric Barrie - started life as a charity show in the Guildhall School of Law Courtroom and has since been produced at the Inns of Court in London and as part of the New Wimbledon Theatre ‘Fresh Ideas’ season, where it was their most successful studio production ever.

Robert Felstead and Rebekah Engeler as the litigants - Eddie Gilbert and Angie Sullivan

The show tells the tale of Eddie Gilbert – a Chelsea football player – who is being sued by his ex-girlfriend, cleaner Angie Sullivan, for not going ahead with her planned celebrity wedding. 

Tom Ward and Alicia Kearns as Jean-Bernard and Cheryl Fernandez-Versini

She calls on her old school-friends and potential bridesmaids Victoria Beckham and Cheryl Fernandez-Versini for support – both of whom know what it is to be a WAG – and flirts shamelessly with the judge in order to get herself a massive portion of Eddie’s considerable fortune. 

Robert Felstead and Rebekah Engeler 

Eddie, meanwhile, has hired Cherie Booth QC as his brief - a decision he may come to regret.

As well as lovingly updating the original libretto, Alaric has added parodies of many other Gilbert and Sullivan classics, so listen out for tunes from The Mikado, The Gondoliers, HMS Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance et al.!

Robert Felstead and Rebekah Engeler 

To open the show in Budleigh Salterton, there is the added bonus of a glorious concert of classic love songs from the golden age of stage and screen, with hits by such brilliant writers as Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern. 

Kirsty Bennett and Philip W. Errington battle it out as Cherie Booth QC (Counsel for the Defendant) and John Masefield QC (Counsel for the Claimant)

Titled simply “True Love”, the concert will lift your romantic spirits to prepare you for the roller-coaster farce that is ‘Trial by Jury’. In the course of a couple of hours, you will literally be taken from the sublime to the ridiculous – and hopefully love every minute of it!

The show plays for one day only – December 5th – at 2.30 and 7.30 in the Public Hall, Station Road, Budleigh Salterton. Tickets are now available at just £12 from the Budleigh Salterton Tourist Centre, 01395 445275.

Budleigh Salterton Male Voice Choir 2015 Christmas Concert

Our Friends in the Budleigh Salterton Male Voice Choir will be singing a selection of Christmas songs and other songs from its extensive repertoire.  They will also welcome local soprano Val Howels as their guest artist, which will be the 21st year she has sung with the choir. 

The Choir has a policy of supporting good causes. Five years ago a concert in Budleigh raised an  impressive £1,350.00 for Fairlynch Museum.

Earlier this year, Budleigh Salterton Male Voice Choir celebrated success in a prestigious competition. It received third prize in the large choir category at the Cornwall International Male Voice Festival – the first time it had achieved a top three finish.

The Christmas 2015 concert will be at Temple Methodist Church on Friday 11 December at 7.30pm, as shown on the above poster which gives details of ticket prices and sales outlets.

A Doll for December

Dear little Lithuanian
I do adore your dress.
Your eyelashes are charming
And excite me, I confess.
But when I read your history,
And learnt from whence you came,
It filled me both with sadness
And a little bit of shame.

A new month is approaching and I intend to keep to my self-imposed promise that I would display each month an image relating to Fairlynch Museum.

Not just on my blog, but on our smart new noticeboard, kindly provided by Honiton-based firm Duralife Windows. Just as I was scratching my head about what to choose next, Sue Morgan, our Toys, Dolls and Bears expert at Fairlynch kindly gave me some information about a Lithuanian doll in the Museum’s collection.

I thought the story behind it was so sad that I was moved to write the above poem – well, my friend Annie calls my efforts doggerel – so, OK – ‘verse.’

Here’s the story, based on information given by the donor, Miss Barbara Blathwayt, of Sunny Bank, East Terrace in Budleigh Salterton.

“It was given to me by a Lithuanian woman when I was serving with the Relief team in Germany in 1945-46,” wrote Miss Blathwayt.

“The displaced people who we worked with in the transit camp made dolls etc which they kindly gave to us. The doll was made from munition bags which they washed and dyed presumably, and embroidered.”

“They were all extremely patriotic and keen to preserve their identity.”

And no wonder I thought, reflecting on how at the moment of my birth, Europe was in turmoil after WW2 with floods of refugees pouring this way and that.

Like Poland, Lithuania has had a raw deal in its history, being occupied at various times by more powerful neighbours.  Grabbed by the Soviet Union in 1940, it was then taken over by Nazi Germany before being reoccupied by the Russians.  Presumably the Lithuanian woman who made the doll was never able to return to her homeland.

But on 11 March 1990, it became the first Soviet republic to declare itself independent, resulting in the restoration of an independent State of Lithuania.  

Long may it remain free, with its own flag and coat of arms which I found on the excellent Wikipedia site. (Must remember to make my usual donation to help keep this incredible facility going).

Barbara Blathwayt, incidentally, lived with her sister Jean (1918*-1999) the children's book author. They're both buried in St Peter's Burial Ground in Budleigh Salterton. 

Their aunt Joyce Dennys (1893-1991) was already settled in Budleigh as the wife of the town’s GP when Jean and her sister moved here in 1953. Their father the Revd Francis Linley Blathwayt was a parson-naturalist who held the living of Melbury Osmund in Dorset from 1916 to 1929. Twenty-two volumes of his diaries are held by Dorset County Museum. He and his wife eventually settled at Dyrham Rectory in Gloucestershire.

Jean Blathwayt wrote a total of 15 books for children with titles like Jo’s Neighbours, Peter’s Adventure and Lucy’s Last Brownie Challenge. Some of them have recognisable links with the Budleigh area.

Maybe among her papers was the manuscript of a children’s book about the Lithuanian doll. What would she have called it?

Any Lithuanians out there? What name should Fairlynch Museum give to its Lithuanian doll?

*  Uh, uh… Another birth centenary for the Museum to mark! 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Thanks! Card Shop Too and TIC

Plenty more copies of The Museum’s newly re-edited publication The Budleigh Salterton Railway have now arrived in local shops.

At 40 pages, in a slightly larger font size and in full colour, the new edition has been welcomed by railway experts, including author Alan Young who kindly contributed technical advice. “It looks good,” he commented. “I hope it flies off the shelves.”

The original text, easily understood by the general reader, has been retained but some additional images have been used, including some which are not in Fairlynch Museum’s collection.

On sale here, on Budleigh High Street 

The Budleigh Salterton Railway makes a brilliant Christmas present for anyone interested in the area’s past as well as railway enthusiasts.


And here, at the Tourist Information Centre on Fore Street

It retails at £4.50 in the shops. Fairlynch is most grateful to Budleigh Salterton Tourist Information Centre and to The Card Shop Too for enabling sales to benefit significantly  the Museum. Grab your copy now!