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Tavistock Museum

Founded: 2003        Governance: Independent Trust        Scope: Local history    Visited: Autumn 2013

Tavistock has the strange sense of being a frontier town - it reminds me a bit of Alnwick and places in Northumberland. This is despite the fact that the only frontier it's near is the one between Cornwall and the rest of England; it may be something to do with the crenellations and turrets which dominate the grey granite buildings in the town centre - many built by the Dukes of Bedford with mining royalties. In one of these, Court Gate, you will find tiny Tavistock Museum. Bijou though it may be, the Museum website is a little too modest in describing it as  occupying two rooms, as it does have a little downstairs vestibule and shop with a small film room. Tavistock is distinguished from the run-of-the-mill West Country market town by its medieval Abbey (mostly now gone, of course, with the exception of a wall here and there) and its long history as a centre of mineral exploitation on the western half of Dartmoor and the villages between there and the Tamar.

You find this history reflected in the collection of the Museum, as there are some very nice bits and pieces crammed into those two little rooms. I learned more than I expected about the mining industry hereabouts and the role the town played as its focus, as I wasn't aware of anything more than the ubiquitous tin and a bit of lead being grubbed up from the unwilling earth of West Devon. The collection has a charm, and provides a sense of place, that many larger museums can only dream of, if they even think of it; there is something strangely moving about work boots put on display in a case, I find.

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