A massive legacy has been left to Fairlynch Museum which will pay for a long-overdue £80,000 refurbishment and modernisation programme.

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The late Tony Colmer, a former curator of archaeology at the museum, left what the Journal understands to be a £100,000 legacy to Fairlynch.

Although chairman Roger Sheriff declined to confirm this figure, he said the cash would enable a two-year £60,000 project to modernise the 200-year-old Grade II listed building.

Work will begin this winter with a £30,000 project to renovate the outside and replace the windows.

Over the next two years, £20,000 of improvements will be made to the internal décor, display cabinets and to the gift shop.

The aim is to stock the shop with locally-made products.

The committee is also aware that at least £30,000 will be needed to replace the thatch roof in ten years’ time.

It follows one of the museum’s most successful summers; in June charges were abolished and, as a result, visitors quadrupled from around 1,500 to an estimated 5,500 this summer.

But while visitor numbers and donations have increased and despite the cash windfall, very little money will be left over.

It costs around £12,000 to run the museum annually with income mainly from Friends of Fairlynch subscriptions, donations and income from the shop averaging £8,000. The museum currently operates a loss of around £4,000 a year.

Roger said: “It was a fantastically generous legacy which has secured the long-term future of the museum.

“And at some point we will have to re-thatch the roof and it is nice to know the money is there when we need it.”

He added: “This has been the best year since we borrowed The Boyhood of Raleigh by John Everett Millais. That year we had 7,000 visitors.

“What has been interesting is that many of the visitors we have had have been local people who have not previously visited.

“They have been coming here to carry out local research on the town and their family – our research facilities are some of the best in Devon.

“‘The museum, which is managed and run entirely by volunteers, is very expensive to maintain, we will always need the support of the local community

“But it is very expensive to run a museum and we still need people’s support.”

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