Enjoy your day out at the Elizabethan House & Museum in Totnes!

A Great Day out in Totnes


You enter the Museum through the reception in what would have been the Elizabethan merchant's shop. If you wander through to the rear, you will enter the courtyard and herb garden where we grow lavender, sage, thyme and rosemary amongst other herbs. You may buy a bunch of herbs with our ancient recipe leaflet to try your medieval culinary skills out at home!  

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" but we will leave it up to you to whether to tell them about our resident ghost or not!


Once you through reception you will arrive at the Bennett Room...
Have a browse through the history of Totnes. We have a very special display of the Lee Ring, which has a twin in the V&A in London; and there are early coins minted in the town over a thousand years ago. Including one from the reign of King Canute of turning back the waves fame!
To get to the other floors you climb a Devon Pole Staircase — wooden winding stairs around a central pole which runs from ground
floor to roof.


We think this pole had previously been the mast of a man of war!



Going Back in Time


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. By the fireplace is a baby and an explanation of swaddling – Elizabethan nappies!  

Talking of nappies, lets move on to The Pharmacy.


What does B.C. stand for? Is it "Before Calpol!" take a look at the interesting collection of original bottles that would have contained Victorian pills and potions  - with an interactive display of smells.





Dressing Up!

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, which is now 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, with archaeological items including flint tools from local hut circle excavations at Scad Brook and Hazard Hill - and the remains of a Stone Age body! 


Medieval Cooking

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 looked like. A rare treat!


Up the Devon staircase again and you find, first of all, the Mitchell Room where we have a display ‘Made – and Trade – in Totnes’ showing important details and items –  through the wool trade, clock making, and the timber yard and our Tailors shop window. Hopefully the temperature of the room does not drop significantly, as this is where our resident ghost is meant to observe you!



Charles Babbage

At the top of the museum we 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 that 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 and he produced the first coloured lighting installation for use on a theatre stage. 

Next came the prototype of the submarine, now used in naval warfare; a safety device, we call the cow-catcher – famous on American trains – was his idea; 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.


Totnes Elizabethan House Museum

70 Fore Street



TQ9  5RU

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