New season at Allhallows Museum

Admission free for a second year.

Visitors to Allhallows Museum are in for a feast of treats this year.

Not only is admission free, following a successful trial to mark the museum’s 65th anniversary last year, it is packed with new displays and artefacts.

But one of the most stunning additions is actually the gateway to the museum - its doors.

Brand new and expertly crafted in English oak, they have been attracting admiring glances - and even strokes - from passers-by.

They have been made by Phil Goddard, of Devon Heritage Joinery, and museum trustees are delighted with them.

On display in the Norman Gallery, where exhibits have been refreshed, is a Georgian dress, described by museum archivist Margaret Lewis as “really, really rare”.

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It features delicate Honiton Lace, appliqued onto handmade net.

The stunning creation is exhibited not far from Wallis Simpson’s nightgown, which is still attracting interest more than a year after it was purchased by Allhallows.

One of the most exciting artefacts on display in the gallery is an exquisite piece of Honiton Lace.

It has been discovered that the lace was crafted by Miss Ann Ward in 1871. Miss Ward became the famous Mrs Fowler, who supplied Honiton Lace to royalty and employed a small army of cottage industry workers.

The lace was entered into the 1871 Bath and West of England Agricultural Society Honiton Show, but was deemed too high quality to originate from the UK.

When the prize was awarded retrospectively, Miss Ward refused to accept it.

The item was then placed on display at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter.

The story associated with the lace has inspired a play, which is to be performed by a youth theatre group in Stroud, Gloucestershire.

In the wider museum, visitors will be able to reacquaint themselves with memorabilia formerly housed at the Royal British Legion Club in Dowell Street, including medals.

Also available to view is a flounce made for a wedding in 1856 and an 1874 Emma Radford flounce, featuring spiders’ webs, a particular favourite with lace enthusiasts.

A new display of 17th century Italian bobbin and needle lace is also being exhibited.

To celebrate the Olympics, a display of all the programmes from the 1948 games, collected by Ken Joy, is on show.

Displays for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee are also a feature, along with a new collection of artefacts unearthed by members of East Devon Metal Detecting Club.

Visitors numbers rose by 40 per cent last year, following the introduction of free admission. Museum trustees hopes the trend will continue.

Allhallows Museum is open 9.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday, and on Saturdays from 9.30am to 1pm.