the museum display cases are brightly coloured blocks with a different colour for each topic

2020- A Year of Great Change

It’s fair to say that 2020 has not been an easy year for the world but in the spirit of positivity I  thought it might be an opportune time to look back at the amazing progress Newton’s Place has made, despite adverse circumstances. Thanks to the incredible hard work from our team (from builders and designers to our wonderful volunteers) and support from YOU, we have made Newton’s Place a vibrant reality.

So without further ado, here are some ‘before and after’ pics to prove that even among the hardship, some good came from 2020.

Left image shows a narrow wooden balcony in poor condition. Image on right shows a finished meeting room with a large table and chairs

This dilapidated upstairs gallery that ran around the edge of the church and used to provide extra seating for services has become a mezzanine upper floor.

Now home to a flexible space that can be used for Town Council sessions, external meetings, classes, workshops, temporary exhibitions and more (when it is safe to do so). The grey wall on the right can be folded back to make an even bigger space if needed.

There is also a small area where you can sit with a coffee from our vending machine and admire the appropriately themed Madge Mellor display with historical photos, objects and a community art display (perhaps you made one of the stained-glass cups or cakes?). There’s no ‘before’ image here, as this floor literally didn’t exist before.

An area with tables and chairs. The table has the 'Madge Mellor' logo from the historic cafe on it. Hanging from the ceiling is a mobile made from stained glass nodels of cakes and tea cups

The ground floor is the main museum space, it’s hard to believe the transformation

Two views of the museum floor from above. On the left you can see scaffolding and a half built ramp with building materials scattering around. Right image shows finished museum with an elevated model train track, display cases and a hanging diving engine.
progress images of the museum being installed. Left shows the floor being dug up with exposed earth. Middle shows the space from above with a diagram laid out on the floor. Right shows the finished museum, you can see display cases and the diving engine hanging from the ceiling
The work begins, the mid-point, the finished area

Transferring objects from their old home to the new was a huge undertaking but our Curator and Museum Assistant got there in the end! Masks, visors or staying 2 metres apart were the ‘new normal’ throughout this process as it happened during the pandemic.

a series of images showing the Curator and Museum Assisstant pitting objects on display wearing plastic face shields
the museum display cases are brightly coloured blocks with a different colour for each topic

Using innovative colour-coded free-standing display case blocks we guide you through all aspects of the story of Newton Abbot

As well as making a space for the Museum, the Town Council and community rooms, the whole of the former St Leonards Church has been restored. Next up you can see just a few of these amazing period features being conserved. Stay tuned for more blogs as we haven’t even touched on the  fifteenth century church font or the painted Chancel ceiling this time.

The windows throughout the building underwent conservation, even the panes that weren’t missing, broken or later replacements needed cleaning and reinstalling using the correct materials.

left image shows a woman in a hard hat removing the stained glass from the stone window frame. Right image shows the window back in place

Some of the panes were blank/faded into obscurity so we commissioned an artist to make replacements that reflected the original colours and designs but also incorporated the ‘wheel of time’ from the museum logo and the pattern of the face of the clock tower, which is not just one of our best landmarks, but also the logo for the Town Council.

left image shows four round stained glass panels, they are yellow and most of the detail has been lost so they look like empty circles. On the right the restored panels: two have flower patterns, one says Newton's Place and one has a wheeel design

We had several decorated columns with really lovely carvings on the top. They had been repainted over their lives my amateurs with the wrong sort of paint, and the many layers of touch-ups had  given them a rather blobby appearance. This paint was carefully removed and historically appropriate paints with the right colours and chemicals were applied.

column tops with carvings of three faces. On the left they are damaged and poorly painted, on the right they are restored
two images of a white building column with carved painted rams heads at the top. On the left images the rams are a dirty brown, on the right they are painted white with gold leaf accents
From sludgy brown to gleaming gold
images show carved cherub faces at the top of a column in various stages of repair

Cherubs part way through their facelift- already looking much better!

The pulpit was suffering under years of grime and it’s statues were damaged and detached

a series of images showing a dirty grey pulpit with empty alcoves, saints statues with some damage, a man in a hard hat cleaning the pulpit and the pulpit with clean statues put back into the alcoves

Everything has now been professionally cleaned, regilded and put back in place (‘after’ photo features a bonus view of our railway signals)

top image shows a drawing of the proposed costume area, bottom image is aphoto of the real area, both show a dress in a glass case
From design to reality: a perfect match (but a slightly different camera angle)!

Every nook and cranny as been repurposed to educate and delight, this tiny cupboard was once used for communion plates and chalices. Rather than remove this important element of church life entirely, it has been converted to a fun secret. The outside may look the same, but the inside may suprise you.  Take a peek each time you visit as our church mice love to decorate according to the season.

a wooden cupboard in a decorative stone alcove. Inside the cupbord is a family of felt mice celebrating christmas

Even outside the improvements continue: the roof is repaired, the bricks repointed, our beloved GWR bench is in situ and colourful banners declare our presence.

Two images of the outside of the building. The building has large banners that say 'Newton's Place' and a red bench with GWR logos outside

And a final comparison: from abandoned building to opening ceremony!

image on left shows an empty church building image on right shows a group of people in face masks cutting ribbons to show museum is open

Masks, visors, hand-sanitiser, screens and distance reminders made the Museum COVID-safe for you to visit for a few weeks in autumn and winter 2020. We look forward to welcoming you back as soon as we can.

Various images of the museum. Children trying on a roman helmet and drawing on a model pot, a woman in a fabric mask pulling a signal lever, a green 2 mertre distance reminder sticker and a photo of the building at night