Totnes Museum Statement of Purpose
We aim to celebrate the people and town of Totnes – its stories, lives, objects, history and future – and to inspire, understand and learn about our place in the world
The Ground Floor
You enter the Museum through the reception in what would have been the Elizabethan merchant's shop and is now our gift shop.
If you wander down along the side of the building through to the rear, you will enter the courtyard and herb garden where we grow lavender, sage, thyme and rosemary amongst other herbs.
If you want the museum to come alive for your children, please ask our volunteers for a quiz sheet. We have both the "Hunt the Mouse" & "Find the Artifact". We will leave it to you to tell them about our resident ghosts or not too!
Once you're through the reception you will arrive at the Bennett Room where we have a very special display of the Lee Ring, which has a twin in the V&A in
Additionally, there are early coins minted in the town over the past thousand years. Including one from the reign of King Canute!
To get upstairs to the other floors you will climb a Devon Pole Staircase, wooden winding stairs around a central pole, which runs from the ground
floor to the roof. We think this pole was once the mast of a man of war!
The First Floor
Imagine yourself in the main living room for the merchant and his family this is the Fore Hall. It now houses our collection of outstanding Jacobean furniture, including a splendid tester bed and chests.
Lets move on to The Pharmacy. Take a look at the interesting collection of original bottles that would have contained Victorian pills and potions.
Time for some dressing up in the Victorian Nursery!
Meander across the landing to what would have been The Hall or Dining Room of the house. Now it is used to display many of our items connected with childhood. There are dolls, toys, school furniture, and a variety of Victoriana, there is a rack of dressing up clothes and a colouring table, not a electronic gadget in sight!
Move on to The Gallery, where there will be displays from Totnes Image Bank.
The Elizabethan Kitchen
The Gallery leads to the back stairs and one of the highlights of the Museum, our Elizabethan Kitchen. Get up close, handle some of the reproductions and smell the herbs and spices. See what the old dishes and kitchenware looked like. A rare treat!
The Second Floor
Up the Devon staircase again and you find, the Mitchell Room where we have on display objects which illustrate the history of Totnes through industry and trade. These
include the wool trade, clock making, cider making, the town's timber yard and a reproduction of a tailors shop window.
Who knows, you may even encounter one of our resident ghosts in there too.
The Babbage Room
On the top floor of the museum we also have a room dedicated to Charles Babbage, who was, without doubt, a most outstanding and prolific inventor and the most illustrious son of Totnes.
Behind every great man there is a great woman, and Ada Lovelace is one of the very best, there is a feeling that Babbage would not have achieved all he did without the support and input of Ada.
His most important invention, designed in the 1820s and named the 'Difference Engine'; imagined as a massive machine, intended to calculate accurate figures. Unfortunately the Government of the day would not grant Babbage sufficient money to build it.
Finally it was built by the Science Museum in London – in time for the bicentenary of his birth, in 1991. It worked precisely as he had predicted! In the 1830s he designed his 'Analytical Engine' which was the true precursor of the modern computer; it was multi-functional and designed to use punched cards, as were used on early electronic computers.
He also turned his talents to investigating the Post Office and made recommendations that resulted in the world's first postage stamps.
It is thought he developed the first ophthalmoscope allowing inspection inside the eye.
He wrote a book to help consumers understand life assurance.
He developed a system for the decipherment of codes.
He also produced the first coloured lighting installation for use on a theatre stage.
Next came the prototype of the submarine, now used in naval warfare.
Then a safety device, we call the cow-catcher, famous on American trains.
He pioneered work in Operational Research which has impact on factory processes today.
Finally, his most important invention; second only to his Analytical Engine – he called it an Occulting Light – was a light that gave flashes of predetermined length and spacing between, allowing the sending of messages over great distances. From this the signalling system of the modern lighthouse was developed.