About Us

Topsham Museum was established in 1967 by Dorothy Holman. It started in the sail loft attached to the original merchant’s house. The displays initially showed aspects of her family’s shipbuilding background. The collection grew as people donated items of local interest.

On her death in 1983, Dorothy Holman left her property to Exeter City Council to be used as a Museum for Topsham. The Museum reopened in 1986, run by the Topsham Museum Society, a group of local volunteers. Expansion and development have been funded by a Heritage Grant, grants from Exeter City Council, donations from the Museum Society, and other donations. Entry to the Museum is free and running costs are met by the proceeds of our excellent tea room and gift shop, donations from visitors and from fund-raising events run by our numerous dedicated volunteers.

The museum is run entirely by some 200 volunteers, who in 2023 put in an estimated 15,000 unpaid hours. The museum works closely with Exeter City Council, Visit Exeter, local businesses, schools, community groups, and individuals engaged in academic and cultural research. Outreach includes monthly public lectures held in central Topsham, school visits and joint activities with community organisations, particularly tailored to children.

The Museum is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, overseen by a Board of Trustees.

Our patron is Charles Courtenay, Earl of Devon.

The trustees are: Roger Ascough; Will Atkinson; John Claxton (treasurer); Jenny Ellis (chair); Heather Kay; Emma Laws; Jan Lawson; Gill McLean (secretary); Jeff Nicholls; Graham Norwood (vice-chair). This page gives more information about them.

Topsham Museum’s president is Rachel Nichols and the trustees are advised by Tom Cadbury, assistant curator of Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum.

More about the Museum

Topsham Museum’s purpose is to provide an accessible local museum, including a typical merchant’s house of 1680-1750, that encourages visitors to explore the history of Topsham and surrounding area. You can read more about our mission here.

The Museum building is owned by Exeter City Council. Its interior maintenance, gardens, contents, activities and services are provided and supported by volunteers, members and gifts. Entrance is free of charge. We always welcome new supporters, as members, volunteers, friends and donors. You can read more about these aspects of the Museum here.

The Museum can also accept material donations: documents, works of art and other artefacts. However, space is limited and any additions to the collections must be approved by the Acquisitions Committee.

Details of Museum policies may be found here.