“ I have never before, in my long and eclectic career, been gifted with such an abundance of natural beauty as I experienced filming War Horse on Dartmoor.” Steven Spielberg.

Where Were You Forty Years Ago?

Last year saw the 40th anniversary of the Museum of Dartmoor Life. This year we hope to celebrate the amazing people who helped make this museum possible and we would love to hear from you if you were involved in any way at all with the museum over the last forty years. We hope to collect your stories and rememberings to share with everyone.

For those that do not know, the Museum is situated just off West Street at the end of a long cobbled courtyard. It was originally a medieval burgage plot which was later developed in 1811 into a mill for grinding mainly animal feed. Also in the courtyard is a cottage where Okehampton benefactor, Sidney Simmons, lived with his family for a while and opposite is the building that was their printing business. The cottage is now the Victorian Pantry Tearoom.

1976 saw the inaugural meeting of the Okehampton and District Museum Association, organised by John Young. The location was Okehampton Town Hall. Were you there?

A funding committee was set up and with the help of the Town Council the derelict buildings were purchased, mostly untouched since damaged by a WW2 bomb. A small band of volunteers set to work preparing the building for opening.  Supporters were able to buy a slate for the Museum’s future renovation and also, do you remember the 50:50 shops that were set up in various premises around the town? People could sell their unwanted items in these shops and 50% of the profits would go to them and the rest to the Museum.

By 1983 £50,000 had been raised to renovate the three storey building using local skilled craftsmen. Maybe you know someone who worked on the building who may have some stories to share with us.

Much of the initial displays came from Alan Endacott who had been collecting Dartmoor artifacts since he was a boy. He was a huge help with the fundraising and became the first Museum Curator.

On the 4th July 1981 the museum was finally opened by the Mayor of Okehampton, at the time, Brenda Savage. Were you there?

Since then the Museum has gone from strength to strength due to its amazing band of volunteers who have loved it and helped it grow for the benefit of Okehampton townspeople and visitors alike. If you were one of these wonderful volunteers or know one, then please contact us by popping into the museum that reopens on the 21st March, or emailing us at manager@dartmoorlife.org.uk. It would be fabulous to gather a whole host of stories to share. Maybe you remember visiting the museum all those years ago and could tell us about your experience. We would love to hear from you all.

If this has inspired you to join our wonderful team then please contact us to find out more about current volunteering opportunities.