Museum celebrates 75th anniversary as season draws to a close

Honiton Museum. Picture: Terry Ife

Honiton Allhallows Museum - Credit: Archant

Last week the Allhallows Museum volunteers celebrated a remarkable achievement – the start of the museum’s 75th year.

After World War Two, Esme Nicoll, Eleanore Norman and John Murch worked tirelessly to obtain donations, grants, and guarantors so that the old Allhallows school chapel and adjoining hall could be purchased to create a museum for Honiton. We wonder if they would recognise the museum if they could visit it today. The Mayor Juanita Phillips declared the museum open at a ceremony on November 13, 1946. The following year the County Library opened in the hall and paid £75 a year rent.

The entrance fee for visitors at that time was sixpence. The museum used to be open all year round until 1954 when the trustees decided to close during the winter months. In 1965 the annual report stated that all of the museum collection was exhibited in eleven display cases in one gallery. Three of those displays were full of stuffed birds. That year the library moved out and so plenty of space was available for the newly found hippo bones from the by-pass excavations to be displayed.

Storage and display space became an increasing problem as the collection grew. In 1993, the cottage at the rear of the building came up for sale. Using the reserves and with help from Mary Yallop and others we were able to purchase it. The cottage is now named the Yallop Wing. We now have an attic for storage, two administration rooms and a study room. After inspection, a surveyor told us that the cottage roof was held together by the woodworm holding hands, so after a successful Heritage Lottery application the roof was replaced.

Today we have 30 display cases in the three galleries named in honour of the founders - Murch, Norman and Nicoll. In 2011, the museum’s 65th year, admission charges were abandoned and so entry is free for everyone.

The museum is accredited and a registered charity. It is run entirely by volunteers. The seven trustees are supported by a fantastic team of hardworking and dedicated people who work for thousands of hours each year.

Around two thirds of the displays are changed (and all the hippos are moved) during the winter closure so even if you have visited before there will always be something different to see or to learn about.

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If you are looking for unique gifts, the museum shop is open between 10am and 2pm on Tuesdays and Saturdays during November and December and Christmas Eve. We look forward to seeing you when the museum reopens for the 2022 season on March 14.