20th Century Changes

Topsham was transformed during the 20th century.

For much of the century it was considered a poor place made worse by two World Wars and a 1960’s planning passion to demolish and build anew.

Yet by the end of the century it had become a popular – indeed, fashionable – place to live, awash with renovated homes, popular pubs and a burgeoning tourist trade.

The sail loft shows a model of the town as it was in 1900 with its fields and market gardens, long before the recent decades of volume house-building.

The museum founder, Miss Dorothy Holman, moved to 25 Strand in 1939 but it was in the 1960s that she made the sail loft into a small museum – the rest, as they say, is history.

We show this century of transformation with memories and photographs including the early 1900s’ records of market gardens, the development of the town’s schools, the creation of local roads including Holman Way along the route of the railway branch line which closed in 1957.

Model of the town in 1900

The period house reflects the social life and typical furniture from this century, plus a fascinating kitchen set in the 1940s. Examples of working and pleasure boats seen on the river during this century are also at the museum.

We also display a little ‘Hollywood stardust’ – memories of actress Vivien Leigh, the sister in law of the museum founder, including the nightdress she wore in ‘Gone with the Wind’.

Fruit picking in the 1930s
1940s kitchen
From Gone with the Wind