18: Looking back to 1963

Now that the building is taking shape, I thought it would be interesting to remind you all of the history of our site.  When we were applying for planning permission for the extension, we had to discuss the options with Historic England and our Conservation Officer, because we were not only affecting a Grade II Listed Building but also going to have a big impact on the Grade 1 Listed Long Bridge and Barnstaple’s Conservation Area.

Historic England at first said that our building had always stood alone on the Square, and should remain so.  We knew this wasn’t the case, and we managed to find some great photographs of Bridge End House, which was designed by the great Barnstaple architect R.D.Gould to sit opposite his imposing Bridge Chambers across the road.building next to museum

This building was here until 1963, when the Long Bridge was widened to cope with increasing road traffic.  The demolition and widening must have been very disruptive, but we struggled to find any records of the work, although there are some photos around of the cranes in the river when it froze that winter.

frozen river

Recently we spotted some photos uploaded by Terry Hatton to the Barnstaple History Facebook page which have filled the gap – so here is the record showing the works in progress.  It looks as if the old building came down just as quickly as our new one is going up!

Taw Bridge widening 1963 Terry Hatton (6)Taw Bridge widening 1963 Terry Hatton (5)Taw Bridge widening 1963 Terry Hatton (4)Taw Bridge widening 1963 Terry Hatton (3)

The scar from the first floor glass house is still visible on the museum wall, though the wall below it was rebuilt.  The new extension looks quite small in comparison with the previous building, though it will have the same truncated corner to allow smooth pedestrian access to the Long Bridge.


Many thanks to Terry for having the presence of mind to take these photos in 1963, and for letting us use them.  Do please get in touch with us if you have any more!

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