Exmouth Museum shares playgroup history

The history of Halsdon Playgroup was revealed to former members when Exmouth Museum handed over its scrapbooks

The history of a former Exmouth playgroup has been preserved thanks to Exmouth Museum.

Museum curator Alan Arthur last week met with members of the old Halsdon Playgroup to hand over the scrapbooks held by the Sheppard Row museum for the group.

The playgroup was founded by Jean Barnes in the early 1960s, and sessions were held in Lyndhurst Road.

In 1963, the group moved to Halsdon Avenue, where it stayed for almost a decade before moving to Exmouth Football club in 1972, becoming a community playgroup. Later, the group held its sessions in Christchurch Hall before settling in Marpool Hill Scout hut. After a burglary resulted in the loss of all the playgroup’s toys, the group disbanded in the early 1990s.

Over the years youngsters attending the playgroup were treated to trips out, including visits to Farway Park for horse and cart rides. Visitors to the group included a boa constrictor from Exmouth Zoo and a dog called Toffee was a regular at sessions.

Exmouth Museum spokesman Kim Roper said: “Unusually for the times, the group actively encouraged mums to join in sessions, and were joined on occasion by Pam Long, an Exmouth resident with a beautiful contralto voice, who sang for the children. Members of the community helped, including Enid Pearsons’ husband, who made easels and a large slide for the children.

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“The impact of this quality of early years care is very important to the local community. June Stavell was swimming off Maer Rocks 20 years after her time as playgroup leader when she was approached by a large, stocky man, who called out ‘hello Aunty June’ – he was one of her former pupils.”

l To contact the group, parents or children who attended, call Alison Shepherd on (01395) 274770. To volunteer help at the museum, call Alan Arthur on 07768 184127.

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