19th Century Decline

With the advent of steel and steam, the local ship building industry declined.

However our collection contains reminders of highlights from the 19th century including a model of HMS Terror – the real vessel was built in a boatyard along Topsham’s Ferry Road in 1813. She went on to visit both the Arctic and Antarctic before her loss as part of the Franklin expedition, and amazing discovery in 2016.

The railway’s arrival in Topsham in 1861 helped the town thrive commercially with a branch line down to the Quay taking produce from ships moored at the port. The level crossing control wheel from the Topsham signal box forms part of our displays.

St Nicholas and St Margaret’s churches remain vital community points in the Topsham of today. In the late 1800s they had been rebuilt and showed different aspects of the town at that time. The churches served as schools, including a lace school, yet also operated soup kitchens for the many poor residents.

Our collection includes photographs and paintings of Topsham in that century, while our doll’s house – built at the end of 1800’s and modelled on the golf club in Countess Wear – remains fascinating for visitors, young and old.