Many of you will recognise this address as it is the location of Exmouth Museum. But how many of you know that the building that houses the museum and the other premises in this road are of great historical significance to Exmouth?

In the eighteenth century this area was underwater, along with what we now know as Exeter Road, The Parade and The Colony. In 1811, William Thomas Hull, the Lord of the Manor of Rill, who lived at Marpool Hall in what is now Phear Park, and who owned most of the land in the Parish of Withycombe, built the Mudbank. This had the effect of enclosing all the land from the back of The Parade to Withycombe Brook. This is the area that now houses Sheppard’s Row, New Street and The Colony. The 1840 Tythe Map shows a house and garden on the site of the present day museum.

In the 1850s Sheppard's Row was a real hive of industry. Edwin Hamilton the blacksmith and his wife Emma and five children lived there, as did Thomas Goldsworthy and Thomas Kennard and family, who were both carpenters; John Melhuish, a tailor; Albert Copp, a cabinet maker; Joseph Parfitt, a wheelwright and Joseph Goldsworthy and his wife Betsy who was a lace maker.

The Public Health Act of 1848 saw the establishment of Local Health Boards and at a later date the Exmouth Local Health Board acquired this land for their use. In 1883 the Local Health Board at their January meeting agreed that the tender of £99 for the purposes of building a workman’s cottage at the Board’s yard be awarded to William Long. Around that same time the Board had also applied to Local Government for powers to borrow £700 for the purposes of the storage yard, new stables, workman’s dwelling etc. They were granted the ability to borrow £800 by Local Government charged to the rates over 30 years but they insisted that in future no work was commenced until the loan had been approved - it seems that the Local Board had not waited!

The stables housed the horses that were used to pick up refuse and maintain the roads in the town. The hayloft above, now exhibition space for the museum, provided the food and bedding for the horses. Adjoining the far end of the cottage, now housing museum exhibitions, was a lean-to that housed the Exmouth Urban District Council’s fire engine and this is now used by the museum as a store.

The museum is fortunate to have the written memories of John William Edwards, born in 1910 and who lived at 6 Sheppard's Row, opposite the museum where there was a row of cottages and now the Salvation Army Hall. He recalls that the council yard, pumping station and mortuary was also the children’s playground! This can be seen in the attached photo (credit Exmouth Museum) So much for health and safety! Children were allowed to clean some of the leather in the tack room where he also recalls the large shire horses at rest in the stables. In 1891 a Henry Pyne, his wife and five children were living in the cottage with no indoor toilet facilities, very much the norm for such types of housing back then.

Next to the museum building is land now owned by South West Water which houses their pumping station and additional unused buildings. One of these is the old town mortuary, now bricked up and awaiting demolition due to its unsafe condition. This area was very much the industrial part of the town with Honiton Lace and straw hat making going on at the bottom of the Bicton Street. The museum is fortunate to be in such a historic building and in a part of the town that played such an important part in the town’s development. You can find out more about Exmouth Museum at the museum’s website or you can email me at