Opened in 1967, Fairlynch Museum and Arts Centre is an educational charity administered by Trustees. The Museum aims to display imaginatively archaeological and geological objects, documents, photographs, art works and other information relating to the history of the town of Budleigh Salterton and the parishes of the Lower Otter Valley as far as Newton Poppleford and Harpford.
Typical of a ‘marine cottage orné,’ the house was originally named Primrose Cottage. It was built in about 1811 for ship owner Matthew Lee Yeates. This is reputedly his silhouette:
A few years later the Exmouth and General Devon Bank which he had started with partner William Good failed, and both men were declared bankrupt in 1813.
The thatched turret or belvedere is said to have been built so that Yeates could see his ships out in the bay.
The building is Grade II Listed; an unusual feature is the double-wing staircase.
Our President Miss Joy Gawne is the last surviving member of the quartet who founded Fairlynch Museum. Together with her two sisters, Elizabeth and Aalish, and their friend Priscilla Hull the group bought the thatched house on Fore Street which has become one of Budleigh’s best known landmarks. The group’s decision to buy Fairlynch came about partly because it was felt that the Gawne family home at Cramalt Lodge on Cricketfield Lane could not cope any longer with the growing collection of costumes, Victoriana and other antique knick-knacks which seemed to be bursting out of every cupboard.
But a small private collection of very different artefacts had already been built up by Priscilla Hull’s father, the amateur archaeologist George Carter during his excavations of Bronze Age burial sites. Described by Professor Chris Tilley as ‘the pioneer and founding figure in the archaeology of the east Devon Pebblebeds’ George Carter carried out extensive research in the area from the early 1920s into the late 1960s. He was most active during the twenties and thirties before the outbreak of World War Two, carrying out many excavations of pebbled mounds on Woodbury and Aylesbeare Commons and elsewhere.
‘He did not have much time or patience with establishment archaeological ideas and positions and fell out with some of the leading archaeologists of his day who did not appreciate the value of his work’, comments Professor Tilley. ‘Sadly he is now a forgotten figure in British archaeology. He was a man with ideas and interpretative approaches well ahead of his time.’
You can read about Professor Tilley’s research into the Bronze Age pebbled mounds on nearby Woodbury Common at the East Devon Pebblebeds Project website: www.pebblebedsproject.org.uk
Over the last 50 years many other items, like this Polyphon, have been added to our collections to illustrate the history of the area.
Coinciding with the start of the museum in 1967 came the closure of the Budleigh Salterton railway line and station following the Beeching Report. Various items were rescued by Fairlynch volunteers and now form a display which is particularly popular with the many railway enthusiasts among our visitors.
The Museum is proud of the high standard of its exhibitions. One of its early successes shortly after its opening was a display of the original painting ‘The Boyhood of Raleigh’ by Sir John Everett Millais. The Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece, on loan from the Tate Gallery, was displayed on a second occasion in 2000.
Fairlynch now displays a version created in 2015 by the local Venture Art Group.
In 2012 the Museum took a major step forward when it allowed free admission, in line with most East Devon museums. It is costly to maintain. Visitors are only too happy to make donations to support this special and beautiful building.
Exmouth Town Crier Roger Bourgein proclaims the news of free admission