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Tuesday, December 10, 2013
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COLYTON: Society given home for historic heritage centre
Thursday, 17 October 2013
COLYTON?Parish History Society has been given a permanent home which will soon open to the public as a heritage centre.
The society has been offered space in one of the town’s most historically-significant buildings, the Abbotts Law Chambers in Market Place, formerly occupied by Abbotts Antiques & Collectables, by owner Jackie McCullough.
The section of the grade II listed building previously open to the public as a shop will be converted into a tea room and garden, with previously private sections of the house, including impressive 16th century features of national significance, being opened as a volunteer-run heritage centre, named The Merchant’s House Heritage Centre.
The history society hopes to open the centre temporarily for Colyton Christmas Fayre on December 4th, and to officially open the completed centre at Easter time next year.
The society previously ran a heritage centre in a temporary cabin in the Dolphin Street Car Park as a test to see if something more permanent would work. The cabin closed five years ago and members are now delighted to have been offered space in such an historically-significant building. A public meeting was recently held to discuss the possibility of opening a new heritage centre, with the general consensus supporting the project.
It is thought the building was the house of a wealthy merchant in the 16th century, with the only remaining Mediaeval elements of the building being the thick stone walls and the half-timbered dividing wall in the Law Chambers, where the heritage centre will be based.
The building was later modified to create a second storey and refinements such as the fireplace and elaborate ceiling features, which demonstrate the merchant’s wealth. Remnants of the fireplace in the Abbotts can still be seen, with the sides and lintel made from a robust stone. This was later crudely cut through to create access to the room behind, and further damaged to create space for Colyton’s first phone exchange.
While the smaller fireplace in the Law Chambers is of less significance itself, it supports the most historically-important feature of the whole building - a 16th century wall painting circa 1550/60 which has been deemed of national significance by leading authorities. The painting was revealed in 1974 during redecoration when the building was a bed and breakfast.
Former Post Office
Previous to this, the building was used for a number of different trades under the ownership of the Brown family from the late 1800s to mid 1900s, including a woollen drapers and tailors. Frederick Charles Brown opened Colyton’s Post Office at the site in 1891, with 15-year-old telegraph clerk Charles Brown. It remained a Post Office and stationer through to the 1900s, incorporating the telephone exchange in the 1930s, until Gribble Booth & Taylor opened an estate agents in 1969 with solicitors Beviss & Beckingsale also taking up office.
The new heritage centre will focus on the rich history of Colyton, utilising the available range of ancient documents, together with access to historic archives. There will be a strong link to the Colyton Chamber of Feoffees and their nationally unique archive of records going back over 450 years.
Members hope the centre will be a “major asset to the community”, as well as to the wider region, attracting visitors as well as those undertaking specific research.
The society will soon be seeking financial assistance in running the centre from national and local sources.
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