I had stopped off at Totnes on the way back from a wedding in Devon and had no particular plans apart from finding somewhere for lunch. I had heard of the towns alternative `New Age` community where many artists, musicians, actors and other creative folk choose to enjoy a bohemian lifestyle. `Time` magazine declared Totnes the capital of `new age chic` whatever that means and in 2008 the British Airways magazine `Highlife` declared it one of the Top 10 Funky Towns in the whole world!
Having been something of a `weekend Hippy` in my youth I just had to visit Totnes!
I had also read somewhere that in March 2007 Totnes was the first town in Britain to introduce its own alternative currency to support its local economy. Over seventy businesses trade in the “Totnes Pound” accepting them as payment and offering them to shoppers as change for their purchases.
This initiative is part of the Transition Towns concept which supports grass root community projects to increase self-sufficiency and to reduce the environmental impact of oil, climate destruction and economic instability. There is also a twice-weekly market offering antiques, musical instruments, second-hand books and handmade clothing from across the world as well as locally grown organically produced products.
Totnes is said to have more listed buildings per head than any other town in Britain but I didn’t get to see the Norman motte-and-bailey Castle or the late medieval church of St Mary with its 120 feet high west tower as I got side tracked just below another famous feature of the town called the Eastgate —an arch spanning the middle of the main street, and beautiful it looks too from either direction.
I stopped at the window of a place calling itself `The Time Travellers Muzeum`. The prospect of a `free glass` of mint tea did not encourage me to go inside but I was curious so I stepped inside to what I first thought was a vintage `retro` record shop but as we ventured further forward it became much more that.
The gentleman behind the counter spoke with obvious enthusiasm for what was behind the doors and floors above including `The Beatles` room which had me convinced it was well worth going inside within minutes.
The Muzeum is a collection of rooms based on a period of History. You need to take your time in each of the rooms and open your eyes to the curious and everyday objects surrounding you. Immerse yourself in Paris during the forties, watch classic ski-fi movies set in an authentic fifties kitchen or sit comfortably on a Danish sofa watching television `classics` surrounded by artifacts, furniture, photographs, paintings, record players and music to transport you back to the sixties.
The self – guided tour also enables you to take your time and to sit down in the rooms if you wish. Unlike most museums you can truly immerse yourself in the experience.
My daughter was actually in Marrakesh at the time of my visit to the museum so I was intrigued to find a small room complete with burning incense and complimentary hot mint tea next to what appeared to me to be an authentic Moroccan courtyard complete with mud walls, characterful wooden chairs, colourful embroidered cushions and smart round tables and other North African objects and curiosities. I sat down for a short while and but for the lack of sounds and smells I could easily have been sitting in Marrakesh.
I was particularly interested in the Beatles room which included a replica of the guitar Paul McCartney owned when he met John Lennon at St Peter’s Church Hall, Woolton Village, South Liverpool in July 1957.
There was a poster advertising their memorable concert at Shea Stadium, the classic picture of the mop tops strolling along at the height of their fame and a stunning old record player taking up centre stage ably supported by a solid looking radio and the sounds of the Beatles themselves filling the air.
The cloud room included a soft floor for visitors to stretch out on whilst watching the powerful projections and music on the screen. There are a number of films designed to provoke and inspire reflection and thought on a number of world issues. Without describing each of the rooms in turn it is fair to say each room was beautifully decorated with a multitude of objects, paintings and furniture each placed to help the visitor evoke a feeling of being in that time. It is in fact a museum of time travel.
There were a large number of old radiograms dotted about the museum and I eagerly looked closer to see whether my adopted hometown of Daventry was shown on the dial. As you can see from my photograph it was. The BBC World service will forever have a place in our nations history at Daventry.
The small area inside the entrance includes a number of items for sale including a wide collection of vinyl records and other bits and pieces to purchase. The two people I spoke to inside the museum were both very friendly and happy to give their time to talk about aspects of the museum. Some of the artwork on the walls I think is the work of one of the owners.
I spent almost two hours wandering around the muzeum because there was so much to see. I kept going back to some of the rooms because I wanted to check I hadn’t missed anything. An excellent diversion and a real addition to the visitor attractions of Totnes.
Narnia Totnes + Timehouse (Just below the Arch)
69 Fore Street,
Adult £5.80, Child £3.50 (16 & Under with an adult), Student £4.80
OPEN 10am – 5pm 6 DAYS A WEEK FOR THE SUMMER SEASON (Jun 5 – Sept 5)
James William Davis
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