25 The Strand
Devon EX3 0AX
Topsham Museum is both a surprise and a delight - this is no small town folk museum. It is a tribute to Devonshire maritime history, a famous local actress and film star (Vivien Leigh) and an historic local family.
Located in one of the 17th century buildings on The Strand overlooking the Exe Estuary, the museum was once the home of the Holman family who owned three shipyards in the village. Dorothy Holman (1888-1983) established the museum in 1967 to display personal artefacts belonging to her great grandfather. The museum was set up in the Sail Loft and she lived in the house behind. It now occupies the Sail Loft, 5 rooms of the original house and a River Gallery. The displays are beautifully presented and well lit.
The Sail Loft
Displays Topsham’s history from Prehistoric times. The displays include tools and artefacts associated with the shipbuilding industry, fishing, maritime trade and some fabulous model ships. There is also a very interesting model of Topsham in the 1900s.
The River Gallery
This gallery holds a collection of unique and historic Exe boats. Three of these were saved after the closure of the Exeter Maritime Museum. The lovely ‘Cygnet’ is actually a mahogany skiff.
Two of the rooms in the House are furnished as an 18th century bedroom and the parlour of a successful merchant. The Holman Room contains furniture, personal and family items owned by the founder. The kitchen is fitted out as it was in 1939 when Dorothy Holman lived there. It brings back many memories to some visitors.
One of the other rooms contains some iconic Vivien Leigh memorabilia. Here is displayed the silk nightdress she wore as Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, and a dress she wore to the opening night of Olivier’s Richard III. Topsham claims Miss Leigh as a ‘local girl’ because she married Dorothy Holman’s brother, and lived in Topsham for five years.
The Garden overlooks the river and is a delightful spot in summer. On display are two historic Exe boats, a Salmon Boat and a Market Boat (probably the sole surviving example of such a craft).
Plan Your Visit
Accommodation - Search & Book through Tripadvisor here: External Link
April to October afternoons
Refer Museum website Link Below) for opening dates and times.
There is lift access to the Sail Loft from the River Gallery. The Riverside Garden is open all year.
- Tea room with cakes and scones
- Gift shop
Contact & Further Information
+44 (0)1392 873 244
Topsham Museum External Link
Topsham is accessible by public transport and car. The museum website (Link above) has a street map and excellent directions.
Google Map - Topsham Museum