The Museum holds a large collection of lace, both hand and machine made and of local and continental origin, with a collection of lace making artefacts. There are also quilts and embroidery items. In past centuries many women in East Devon villages like Otterton and East Budleigh found that lacemaking provided an important source of income. By 1841 at least 240 of them in Otterton were engaged in the delicate work. A Mr and Mrs Lawrence opened a lace shop in Otterton in 1823, and another later in Sidmouth. By the end of the 19th century there were 230 lacemakers in East Budleigh alone.
Our resident lacemaker Sue Morgan explains the finer points of her craft to visitor Elizabeth Bloxham from Wimborne Minster in Dorset. Lace demonstrations are usually on Friday afternoons in August.
The 2012 lace display included embroidered net and sprigs of Honiton lace made by a family of sisters in the nearby village of Otterton in the 1850s. There was also Buckingham lace, often used for babies' wear and underwear. One of the bonnets on display had Hollie Point - embroidery frequently worked by nuns in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Flounce in one of the display cases was seven yards long and would be gathered around the bottom of a wide skirt. Also shown was machine lace donated by the family of William Arthur Stevenson (1892-1990) who worked as a machine lace designer before he retired to Budleigh.
Featured in the 2013 exhibition was the Honiton Alphabet worked by Mrs Wellman, along with various types of lace and lace-makers’ equipment. Fairlynch’s volunteer lacemakers make regular appearances at the museum, intriguing visitors with demonstrations of their intricate and beautiful work. One example on display was this lace version of the museum’s doorknocker, created by volunteer Margaret Leese. It took 400 hours to make.
In the 2015 exhibition the adjoining brand-new Lace Room showed various types of lace and lace-makers’ equipment. There were two new items of East Devon lace, seen here, along with two very special pieces from Flanders.
The Joyce Dennys theme in the Costume Room was continued in the 2016 Lace exhibition, with items donated by the artist and author on display. Pictured here are the front and armbands for a baby dress in Honiton lace, created in 1885 by a grateful Branscombe patient of Dr T.G.C. Evans, Joyce Dennys’ father-in-law.
A notable item in the 2014 exhibition was a locally made piece of lace which found its way back across the Atlantic. The lacemaker, a Miss Winifred Vincent, of Armitage Road, Budleigh Salterton, gave the lace to her niece Georgina Beare, who used in her wedding bouquet when she married in the late 1960s, subsequently moving to the USA.
Some of the items donated by Joyce Dennys are accompanied by her own illustrations from her books.
Also on display are items of Maltese lace.