North Devon in 100 Objects

After a very long gap, during which we have opened our extension, and then closed several times due to the COVID pandemic, I am restarting this blog. The reason is because we are about to open a new exhibition, entitled “North Devon in 100 Objects”. This blog contains the articles about each object which are too long to display in the galleries. The full guidebook will be available for sale very soon.


The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon opened in 1989, but our collections have a long history.  The museum combines the collections of the old Barnstaple Town museum in St Anne’s Chapel (established in 1923) with the museum parts of the North Devon Athenaeum (1889), which was itself the successor to the Barnstaple Literary and Scientific Institution opened in 1845. 

Like most 19th century museums, our early collections include objects from all over the world, intended to educate local people at a time when few could afford to travel.  We also have important geology, botanical and archaeology collections made by Victorian amateur enthusiasts like vicars and doctors.  More recently we have focused on collecting things made in North Devon, as an inspiration to today’s creators, and gathering the everyday items that tell stories about our changing everyday lives.

The North Devon in 100 Objects project is an exhibition (from July to December 2021) and a guidebook. Not everything shown is always on display, but you will find many of these objects as you look around the museum.  We are following unashamedly in the footsteps of Neil McGregor, who drew on the collections of the British Museum to create the book and radio series A History of the World in 100 Objects.  But we have a more modest ambition: to use some of the finest and the oddest items in our collections to tell some of the stories of our museum, our people and our beautiful region.


Following up a suggestion from North Devon Archaeological Society member John Bradbeer, the ‘North Devon in 100 Objects’ project was set in motion by the Barnstaple and North Devon Museum Development Trust in 2016. Museum volunteers and others were encouraged to select an object from the museum’s collections, research its history and write up to 500 words about it. With the North Devon Journal on board, the purpose was to raise local awareness of the museum, its collections and the stories attached to them in advance of the long Bridge Wing Extension Project.  From 2016 to 2019, when Covid intervened, illustrated pieces appeared in the Journal as the Hundred Objects series. The first to be published – and the first to be read here – was the account of a prayer book that stopped a bullet, written by the late David Butt. It clearly illustrates the significance of ‘objects’ within the narratives of our lives.  The varied collection of stories in this book owes its completion to our volunteers and to the editorial staff of the North Devon Journal, all of whom we wish to thank most sincerely.

Terry Green, Chair, Barnstaple and North Devon Museum Development Trust


Abbie HockinJohn BradbeerRichard Fogaty
Adam MurrayJoy CannRob Palmer
Alison MillsLinda BlanchardSadie Green
Anna StopesMark ElsonSamantha Bevan
Daisy BarkerMichael & Sue ElliottSarah Hotchkiss
David ButtMichael BromleySimon Taylor
David IfoldMike PooleySophie Jay
Gwyneth FayeNaomi AyreSteve Pitcher
Helen BlackmanPhil BelcherTerry Green

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