While on holiday in Devon over the Easter period we visited the Country Life Museum at Sandy Bay, Exmouth. The brown tourist information signposts lead us straight to the door and there were plenty of parking spaces to choose from on our arrival. We were looking forward to this visit as we had been told that there were some interesting engines to look at. The admission prices were adults £8, children £7 and a family ticket was available at £28, we thought that this was possibly a bit expensive.
The first hall contained several room sets such as a pub and a gamekeepers house, there were also some ‘period’ shops and other window displays containing a variety of objects from the past. Continuing on we found a selection of agricultural machinery including a Ransomes portable, a threshing machine by Marshalls with a pair of traction engine front wheels and a similarly adorned Ruston clover huller. Also in this hall was a Tasker 3 ton tractor which one of our party last saw pulling rides around the holiday camp next door thirty years ago.
Passing next to the hall of transport, we at last found something to attract our attention, three showmans engines. The Burrells, ‘His Majesty’ and ‘The Gladiator’, and a Fowler conversion ‘Candyfloss’. All three engines were restored and presented in a fair condition, though they could have done with a bit of a polish. It looked like ‘The Gladiator’ was stripped for a boiler inspection which suggests that it is occasionally steamed. The Fowler was a bit of a find as it was a Petersfield Engine when new, being supplied to Ameys Brewery and driven on numerous occasions by none other than James Seward Senior.
The transport hall also contained a good selection of other vehicles including a rather nice Thornycroft ‘J’ type charabanc. We then passed on to the steam, tractor and wagon shed which, as its name suggested, contained three traction engines, one roller and a Robey ‘Express’ tractor, all in rather ‘used’ condition, (not ‘used’ in the right sense), a selection of rather vintage tractors and some associated machinery, stationary engines etc.
The rest of the park contained numerous animal attractions, childrens play areas and rides which proved popular with the younger members of our team who had a great time.
Overall, The World of Country Life at Exmouth is a good family day out with plenty to occupy the kids, but from a museums viewpoint, it is rather disappointing. There are indeed some interesting engines and other vehicles, but they could be a bit better presented. The reconstructions of shops and rooms are rather amateur when compared with those at places like Bygones and Milestones but contain some interesting objects.
Visit, see what you think.