I think I might have stirred up something of a hornet’s nest in a debate about the museum in Exmouth but I will be sticking to my position. First, I want to pay tribute to all those volunteers who have kept it going over the years. Without their enthusiasm and commitment there would be no museum at all in Exmouth.
I have of course visited the museum a number of times over the years and was involved in trying to negotiate a deal with South West Water over the acquisition of the building. I applaud efforts by the local community to raise funds to acquire it. But I believe there is a bigger question and that is should a town like Exmouth with a estimated population of 48,613 - indeed the largest town in Devon – have a bigger, more modern museum?
I have recently had a meeting with Wayne Hemingway to review the plans for Queen’s Drive and the Exmouth Seafront. I believe these to be genuinely exciting and they will benefit both town people and tourists alike. And let’s not forget we depend on tourists for our local economy. We need to attract more visitors, encourage them to spend more in the town and to extend our season. That means more visitor attractions. So, my vision is of a new, state of the art visitor centre, either in the middle of the town or along the seafront. This centre could trace the history and development of Exmouth, display the original plans by the Rolle family for the town’s layout (which Clinton Devon are seeking to fulfil in the new Plumb Park development). It could also trace the history of some of the town’s notable inhabitants such as Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter who invented the first computer programme in 1843; General “Chinese” Gordon of Khartoum, killed by the Mahdi in Egypt before seeing his finished house on Douglas Avenue; the burial place of Lady Nelson, Horatio’s long suffering wife who he jettisoned for the infamous Lady Hamilton. The exhibition could bring the town alive. And what about a part of it being dedicated to the Jurassic and Triassic coast a UNESCO World Heritage Site? After all, Orcombe Point is the start of it. We could link up with the Norman Lockyear Observatory in Salcombe Regis and the Met Office to highlight our changing environment. And what about part of it being dedicated to the Seahorse Trust, based in Topsham, of which I am a Patron? We could bring the sea, the coast and the sky together.
I believe Exmouth lacks a signature building that defines the town. So, I challenge the new Town Councillors and the new District Councillors to raise their game – I stand by ready to help them achieve this.