The Totnes Elizabethan House & Museum is due to re-open for the season on Monday 8th April with some interesting exhibitions appealing to all ages scheduled for the year.

From opening day until 25th June, the Totnes Women’s Voices exhibition will celebrate 100 years since at least some women won the hard fought for the right to vote in a general election. This exhibition features the audio/ visual presentation “Totnes Women’s Voices 1918-2018”. In it, you will hear local women and girls from age 3 to 92 give their views on politics and voting, how life has changed and what they feel still needs to change. You will also learn about local women activists from Totnes and Devon who were involved in the suffrage movement and there will be an opportunity to share your views.

From 3rd July – 1st October the exhibition will switch from political to technological when the public is invited to meet “Eric”, a mini replica of the first ever British Robot constructed in 1928 by Captain WH Richards from Totnes. This replica has been specially built for Totnes Museum.

In 1928 at the Royal Horticultural Hall London, to great astonishment instead of the anticipated Duke of York, the original Eric rose to its feet and gave a four-minute address to open an exhibition. In the 1930s Captain Richards built another robot, this one called George. They toured the world where George gave speeches in several languages.

Totnes Museum is very pleased to have won a Place of Science award from the Royal Society to put on this exhibition about WH Richards and his pioneering work.

Alongside the exhibition, Plymouth University Robotics department will be offering workshops for our schools and the museum will be hosting a discussion on the ethics of artificial intelligence.

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The atmospheric town taken by the sea

Only 18 miles from Totnes the village of Hallsands near Kingsbridge in south Devon is the village that fell into the sea. To say the village is still there would be bending the truth slightly, however the remains (which are now closed) can still be seen from the safety of a viewing platform over the cliffs. No-one knows exactly when Hallsands was established although some say it was probably in about 1600 and growing in the 18th and 19th centuries. By 1891 it had 37 houses, the London Inn and a population of 159 with a very close community. Most residents owned their own homes and depended on fishing, mainly crab, for a living. It was a hazardous business with irregular earnings and frequent losses at sea. Everyone, including women and children, helped haul in the boats and nets. Everything was fine until the 1890s when the Admiralty decided that the naval dockyard at Keyham near Plymouth should be expanded which required hundreds of thousands of tons of concrete. In January 1896 the construction company Sir John Jackson Ltd was granted permission to dredge shingle from the coast between Hallsands and neighbouring Beesands. Many fishermen at the time, who knew the area offshore intimately, opposed the plans saying the dredging would alter the seabed as well as the beach and what was taken would certainly not be replaced. Despite the resident’s protestations dredging began in the spring of 1897 and during the next four years some 660,000 tonnes of material were removed. Activity was eventually paused when opposition from several fishing villages grew as they saw their shingle beaches being relentlessly carried away.  
It took 18 years from the start of the dredging to the final destruction of Hallsands village. It had been assumed that the removal of any shingle would be replaced naturally but we now know that the same shingle which protects the nearby villages of Beesands and Torcross was deposited thousands of years ago during the ice ages, and is not being replaced.
  An inquiry was established in response to protests from villagers who feared the dredging might threaten their beach and village, but dredging continued after it was decided that the activity was not likely to pose a significant threat. However by 1900 the level of the beach had started to fall and in the autumn storms that year, part of the sea wall was washed away. In November 1900, villagers petitioned their Member of Parliament, Frank Mildmay complaining of damage to their houses, and in March 1901 Kingsbridge Council wrote to the Board of Trade complaining of damage to the road. The Liberal MP for the area was extremely supportive of the residents of Hallsands and on more than one occasion offered his own money to help out the residents. In September 1901 a new Board of Trade inspector concluded that further severe storms could cause serious damage and recommended that dredging be stopped and on 8th January 1902 the dredging licence was revoked. On 26th January 1917 a combination of easterly gales and exceptionally high tides breached Hallsands' defences and the village fell into the sea! Miraculously no one was hurt but many families had to relocate to neighbouring villages having lost everything. Only one house was left standing after the destruction. The owner Elizabeth Prettyjohn stubbornly refused to leave and lived there with her chickens until her death in 1964. She acted as a guide to the visitors who came over the years curious to see the remains of the village. Today her house is used as a summer holiday home. Another famous Hallsands resident was Ella Trout together with her sisters Patience, Clara and Edith. When their fisherman father, William, became sick, Patience and then Ella gave up school and operated his boat which was the only source of income for the family. William died in 1910 when Ella was 15 years old. On 8th September 1917, after the Hallsands disaster, Ella was crab fishing with her 10 year old cousin William when they saw the SS Newholm struck by a naval mine one mile south of Start Point. With William Stone, another fisherman in the vicinity, they rowed to the scene and helped rescue nine men. In recognition of her bravery she received the Order of the British Empire. The sisters, with compensation for the destruction of their cottage at Hallsands plus some earnings, built Trout's Hotel on the cliff above the deserted village. The Trouts ran the hotel successfully until 1959. More recent owners moved down from London and attracted some of their well-known friends to stay including Danny La Rue and Larry Grayson, and for years their signed photographs hung on the walls of the dining room. The hotel has since been turned into apartments now called Prospect House. In more recent years the story of Hallsands has been turned into an opera called ‘Whirlwind’ commissioned by acclaimed company Streetwise Opera and written by Will Todd, one of the country’s leading young opera composers, and Ben Duwell, and has also featured in a book by Steve Melia called “Hallsands; A Village Betrayed”. You can walk to Hallsands from the villages of Beesands or Torcross following the South West Coast Path. Beesands, albeit a small village, has a café and toilets and free car parking. Torcross is bigger with a few cafes and a pub and more (charged) parking. Please note that you can no longer drive from Blackpool Sands to Slapton Sands and then on to Torcross because of the recent storms and road damage which in itself is somewhat ironic. Hallsands and Beesands are both walkable with a moderate degree of accessibility from Torcross, which has ample (paid) parking. Beesands however has free parking. If driving from Totnes head for Dartmouth, then Slapton and finally Torcross. If you want to travel by bus you can take the 164 to Kingsbridge or the X64 to Dartmouth and then catch the number 3 to Torcross. All routes joining the coastal villages are part of the South West Coast Path and therefore accessible at all times.

Slowing down fast fashion for a worthy cause…

. . . .Over £500 raised at local charity event for Breast Cancer Now


South Hams ladies helped raise £543 for Breast Cancer Now in the space of three hours, at the first-ever Sustainable Shopping event of its kind, hosted in Totnes on Thursday 28th March.

Popping up between 6pm -  9pm at Coffee Couture in the town centre, the event took place as part of fundraising efforts by a local young woman. Laura Quick, from Totnes, will be attempting her first marathon in London this April on behalf of Breast Cancer Now.

Guests were able to delve into a selection of one-off finds, participate in a lucky dip with a medley of beauty gifts and have the chance to win a variety of raffle prizes – with live music provided by local musician and Laura’s brother, Harry Quick.

All proceeds from the event, both from sales of donated clothes and the raffle prize draw, will go directly to the charity ahead of the 26.2-mile challenge, which will take place one month after the charity fundraiser on the 28th April 2019.

The local bar and coffee shop was transformed for one night only in a vintage-esque clothes emporium, with all hands-on deck to help from friends and family. A flurry of clothes were donated for the event, after local women gave wardrobes an early spring clean.

Laura said: “We want to say a huge thank you to everyone that came to the event and to everyone that took the time to go through wardrobes and make it possible in the first place. We are so grateful to local businesses for all the donations to the raffle, as the amazing line up of prizes definitely helped spur on purchases!

“Training for the marathon has been much harder than I thought, but I feel very lucky to be able to run and in turn, do something towards helping raise some money for such a brilliant charity. The work that the Breast Cancer Now team do is so important, not just for women diagnosed, but for the families that are affected and to help fund vital research to prevent it. The charity believes that if we all act now, by 2050, no one will die from breast cancer - so every pound raised is truly appreciated to help us all play a part in that. Couldn't have done it without the massive help of my family, friends and most importantly, my wonderful mum!”

Organisers where overwhelmed with the support from local businesses who kindly donated prizes to the raffle, including – Eco Laundry, Dartmouth Ice Cream, Moved to Move, Dart Marina Hotel & Spa, Bayards Cove Inn, Lovely as It Seams, local artist Becky Bettesworth, Austin’s Department Store, Boots in Newton Abbot, Vincent Trading, Hill House Nurseries, Woolston Accounts, Gem Rose Hair, The Design Sheppard, Liten Hem, Food for Thought and London based designers Fee Greening and Luke Edward Hall.


Go plastic free with Ben’s Beeswax wraps

Ben’s Farm Shops are always on the lookout for solutions to tackle the single-use plastic issue and here's another one that they hope is going to prove popular with customers. If you're looking for an environmentally sustainable alternative to clingfilm without the bulkiness of Tupperware, then these organic cotton and beeswax food wraps will be right up your street. These colourful little numbers come from Cambridge based supplier Bee Bee wraps. Bee Bee is the brainchild of Kath Austin,who, inspired by a conversation with a friend (and the fact that cotton and beeswax has been used as a food wrapping tool for centuries) started experimenting in her kitchen with various formulas until she hit upon the perfect one...and the Bee Bee wrap was born. The wraps are ethical and sustainable from cotton grower to production, with the company working closely with their beekeeping communities to perpetuate the pollinating population and they aim to be zero waste in everything that they do. Simply made from organic cotton, beeswax, tree resin and organic jojoba oil, the wraps are completely compostable but if cared for properly, each wrap will last at least a year. They are breathable and won't cause food to 'sweat', therefore increasing the shelf life and cutting food wastage to boot. Bee Bee uses low impact dyes and is confident that, whilst the wraps have a beautiful 'beeswaxy' scent, this does not taint food at all and does fade with use. To care for your wrap and get the very best from it, hand wash in cold water and ensure any food to be covered is cold before doing so. Bee bee wraps are not suitable for use in microwaves, dishwashers or washing machines and you should avoid wrapping raw meat and fish in them. They are very malleable when warm so use warm hands to mould them and create a breathable seal around your food - once they have cooled down they will hold their shape. The wraps are available from any Ben’s Farm Shops.