Fairlynch exhibit room named after founding member

PUBLISHED: 08:10 22 September 2020

Joy Gawne who the Costume Room of the Fairlynch Museum and Arts Centre will be renamed after when it reopens. Picture: Fairlynch Museum and Arts Centre

Joy Gawne who the Costume Room of the Fairlynch Museum and Arts Centre will be renamed after when it reopens. Picture: Fairlynch Museum and Arts Centre


Fairlynch Museum and Arts Centre will be renaming its costume room in honour of the last surviving co-founder.

Joy Gawne is celebrating her 100th birthday on September 26 and was one of four local women who originally bought the house.

In honour of her reaching the landmark and in recognition of the museum’s origins, the costume room will be renamed as The Joy Gawne Room when the museum is safe to reopen.

Joy was born in Streatham, London and is the youngest child of the Reverend Edward Gawne and his wife Helen. The family moved around the Home Counties as her father’s job dictated and, as children, Joy and her older sisters Elizabeth and Aalish performed plays at home written for them by their aunt, Victoria Kingsley.

The London street markets were an inexpensive source of costumes for their amateur dramatics and became the genesis of a costume collection.

In 1939, the family moved to Yarcombe, East Devon, and during the war, Joy helped run a nursery school for the children of working mothers and evacuees.

Head of publicity at the museum, Clare Suttie, said: “It really is a remarkable story, which started when Joy and her sisters Elizabeth and Aalish built up the collection of costumes, some of them of national importance. Many of the finds came from local jumble sales and house auctions.

“To raise money for charity, a display of costumes was created for one of the garden parties organised by the sisters at their home in Budleigh Salterton. Such was its popularity that the sisters decided to open up the displays occasionally to the public.

“With the house full with mannequins and costumes, a chance conversation with Budleigh Salterton resident Priscilla Hull over a cup of tea in 1967 resulted in the purchase of Fairlynch and the creation of the town’s museum.”

The costumes collection has more than 3,000 outfits and accessories, and the displays in the Costume Room are changed every year after careful choice from the Fairlynch costume collection.

Fairlynch chairman Trevor Waddington has told stewards and volunteers that Joy is ‘delighted’ to be honoured at the museum which she helped to found.

Head of history, Roz Hickman, said: “Still taking an interest in all matters concerning her beloved museum, Joy is a mine of information and enjoys sharing her knowledge with us. We wish her a very happy birthday on the 26th and many happy returns.”

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