Great Torrington Heritage Museum

Great Torrington Heritage Museum

The history and heritage centre of Torrington

Past Exhibits of the Week


English pot helmet, 1640 (c)

This helmet has a hinged visor, cheek pieces and a fixed ‘lobster’ tail to protect the neck. It would have been worn by a harquebusier (light cavalryman) of the English Civil War. The common belief is that Royalist ‘Cavaliers’ all wore large floppy hats with feathers, while Parliamentary ‘Roundheads’ wore what the Victorians called ‘lobster pot helmets’. This is a nineteenth century myth. Both sides in the war would have looked very similar and the quality of any item of dress would depend on the status of the wearer, not his allegiance. (Text from National Army Museum)


Rev Keble Martin – Letter from Buckingham Palace, 1963

Having spent 60 years researching, sketching, painting, travelling and cataloguing the flowers of Britain, the Reverend wanted to find a publisher to create a book of his life’s work, this proved very difficult. All the publishers approached thought the project would be too niche and too expensive to produce. As a final throw of the dice his son sent the appeal to Buckingham Palace. The letter came to the attention of the Duke of Edinburgh, who at once realised the unique quality, authority and potential of the book and asked to be sent specimens of the artwork. The Duke, having seen the specimen plates asked his Equerry, Squadron-Leader David Checketts to find a publisher for the book. As a result one of the greatest, most popular books on British flowers was published. This is one of the letters from The Palace to the Martins.


Commemorative Harvest Jug by Harry Juniper

After a very successful and enjoyable evening with the potter Harry Juniper, it seems fitting for our next exhibit to be his Commemorative Harvest Jug of the Civil War, 1646, Battle of Torrington, which we keep on show here at the museum.

To me, the harvest jug tradition would seem to be the forerunner of the Grayson Perry vases, both forms telling stories and commenting on everyday life.


Singer sewing machine 46K54

Leather glove making in Torrington is recorded from the early 1600s. By 1800 it was the centre of England’s gloving industry. In 1850 there were 11 glove manufacturers in the town employing over 3000 women who mostly worked from home hand stitching the gloves for a pittance. Following the invention of the sewing machine many of the women worked in the factories using machines like the one illustrated. The 46K54 was used for stitching leather and fur gloves. The Museum has several more machines and pairs of gloves on display.


Fireman’s Brass Helmet worn by Fred Vodden. We are grateful to Mrs Kate Vodden for allowing us to display this helmet. You can see a picture of Fred with his colleagues in 1946 at the museum.

A British Victorian Merryweather Fire helmet: The helmet has an ornate high comb, Fire Brigade cross axe crest to front and a chin strap. The Merryweather helmets were used by British fire brigades from the Victorian era (1868) until well into the 20th Century. Leather helmets were first used by insurance fire-fighters in the 18th and 19th Century. The Merryweather was modelled after helmets worn by cuirassiers (cavalry) of the French Army, the helmets were made of brass or nickel.


This Carving was commissioned by the Commons Conservators from the sculptor John Butler to depict aspects of our Commons. Carved from part of a beech tree that had to be felled in the cemetery (once part of the Commons) has been kindly donated it to the museum.

This is our first EXHIBIT OF THE WEEK and follows Alan Crawleys wonderful talk about the river and its creatures.