Maritime Topsham

We hold a large collection of actual and model vessels.

Boats that used the river and canal include the iconic Cygnet, one of four satellites to the Swan, an idiosyncratic yacht designed and built by Captain George Peacock, who also designed the Panama canal.

This dinghy was built by Charlie Trout whilst on a voyage around Cape Horn aboard the Mary Ann Holman. The Trout family are the only remaining Topsham boat-building business. Also exhibited are Ruby – one of the last salmon fishing boats – and a rare market boat that traded with small communities on the River Exe.

From 1700 Topsham was a major ship-building centre, too, and perhaps the most treasured of many exhibits reflecting this history is our model of HMS Terror. It was one of 13 ships built for the Navy in the early 1800s and Terror’s remarkable history includes her discovery in pristine condition in the Arctic in 2016, some 170 years after disappearing when part of the doomed Franklin expedition to complete the North West Passage.

We also have many ship-building and sail-making tools, remains of rope walks, ship half models, and other reminders of the maritime trades that dominated the town.