HAP Prepares New Heritage Interpretation Framework for Torbay

HAP Prepares New Heritage Interpretation Framework for Torbay

HAP was delighted to work with Torbay Council and Torbay Culture to prepare the new Heritage Interpretation Framework. It was a pleasure to work with local partners to help develop the themes and stories for the framework. We hope it will help heritage organisations bring Torbay’s rich history and culture alive for residents and tourists alike.

The Interpretation Framework, ‘A Haven Through Time’, was produced by HAP’s heritage interpretation specialist Katherine Findlay, as part of the Torbay Heritage Strategy. It uses the eight themes of the heritage strategy as a framework for organisations and individuals to interpret and present the fascinating stories of the bay. The themes are those which the public highlighted as their priorities through the extensive consultation during 2020.

The framework is for anyone who works or volunteers in the heritage sector, and is designed to help heritage settings and organisations bring the history of Torbay and its people and places alive for audiences. You can read the Interpretation Framework here.

Stuart McLeod, Director, England, London & South, for the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said –

‘I am very pleased to support this new framework for heritage interpretation in Torbay. It will help organisations, staff, and volunteers make the most of the fascinating stories that the English Riviera has to share. It is a positive example of how the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage has supported strategic development and recovery, in a very practical way.’

The development of Torbay’s Heritage Strategy has been supported by the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage (CRF) award to Torbay Culture. The CRF is administered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport

HAP Putting the New Torbay Heritage Strategy into Action

HAP Putting the New Torbay Heritage Strategy into Action

We’re delighted that HAP will be working on implementation of the Torbay Heritage Strategy 2021-2026 this year, led by Katherine Findlay, HAP consultant. The new strategy was formally adopted by Torbay Council’s Cabinet in November 2020 and the implementation work has been made possible with Culture Recovery Fund support.

It’s really exciting to start putting the new Torbay Heritage Strategy into action. I’m delighted that HAP has this opportunity to continue working with Torbay Council, Torbay Culture and organisations across the Bay to make a real difference to how heritage is cared for and celebrated in years to come.” Katherine Findlay, Heritage Arts and People

The work will involve action planning, relationship building and developing a framework for telling key stories about Torbay’s past that will help local organisations provide coherent heritage experiences. HAP will also be working with the English Riviera Business Improvement District (ERBIDCo) to promote Torbay as a heritage destination through these key stories

For more information about the implementation work visit Torbay Culture. You can also email HAP’s lead consultant Katherine Findlay at katherine@heritageartspeople.uk.

New Torbay Heritage Strategy Published

New Torbay Heritage Strategy Published

We’re delighted that the Torbay Council’s Cabinet has formally adopted their new Torbay Heritage Strategy. At the beginning of 2020, Torbay Council in partnership with Torbay Culture and TDA commissioned HAP to update the local area’s heritage strategy. The new strategy is the result of our review of heritage across the locality.

HAP carried out consultations with over 800 people and numerous organisations and partnerships – including local museums, heritage organisations, National Trust and the English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark. We also worked closely with Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund

‘Torbay Council is committed to culture and heritage being part of our future ambitions. These things matter to people in Brixham, Paignton and Torquay, and the adoption of this new strategy and the forthcoming action planning – supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Torbay Culture – will play a valuable role in taking this forwards’

Councillor Swithin Long, Cabinet Member, Economic Regeneration, Tourism & Housing, and Councillor Mike Morey, Cabinet Member, Infrastructure, Environment & Culture

The Torbay Heritage Strategy can be viewed and downloaded here.

Explore and Create

Explore and Create

We’ve had lots of fun recently creating a series of Explore and Create videos for the Blackdown Hills AONB, aimed at families with children under 12. The videos showcase beautiful places to visit in the Blackdown Hills AONB and inspiring activities to help families engage with the landscape. All of the places explored in the video series are in the visitors section of the Blackdown Hills website.

The activities are easy to reproduce and involve everyday, or low-cost materials. Discover how to make simple frames to take on walks, a mini nature raft, a colour spotting chart, a nature loom, an Iron Age pot, nature-inspired patterns and how to use clay to collect bark and leaf pattern keepsakes.

Framing the Landscape at Culmstock Beacon

There are beautiful views at Culmstock Beacon – try framing the view to look at the landscape differently. Learn how to make some simple frames to take on walks using natural objects you find like twigs and feathers, or try your own personalised card frame using fun shapes and photos.

Crayfish in the River Culm

Explore the River Culm and meet the white clawed cray fish in this video. Learn how to make a nature raft using natural materials found on the ground – will it float?

Patterns in Nature at Castle Neroche

In this video Catherine explores Castle Neroche, a site occupied in the Iron Age and then later in the 11th century, looking at things close up with a magnifying glass. Families can discover how to use the shapes they spot on their walk to make colourful patterns at home.

Wildlife and weaving at Otterhead Lakes

This video explores Otterhead Lakes Nature Reserve and demonstrates how to make a nature loom using different items in nature. Moss, feathers, pine cones, seed pods and leaves woven into an easy-to-make loom create a beautiful memory of the walk.

Impressions of Nature at Staple Hill

In this video Catherine explores Staple Hill and explains how families can use a ball of clay to collect some of the patterns and textures they might find on a walk like this one. Once the clay has dried, painting the pressed clay creates some unique keepsakes from the walk.

Reveal the Iron Age at Hembury Hillfort

Hembury Hillfort has a long and fascinating history, dating back about 5000 years. It’s a great place to visit to explore the impressive Iron Age ramparts (banks and ditches) and you can see for miles! In this video discover how to make a Hembury-inspired pot using air dried clay. Some of the beautiful pots found at Hembury Hillfort on display at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum.

Beautiful Bark at Combe Wood

In this video Catherine explores Coombe Wood, a 10 acre area of woodland north of Honiton. There’s lots of beautiful bark and leaves at Coombe Wood and Cat shows how families can make a record of their walk by taking rubbings and then creating their own unique concertina book to hold their artwork in.

Colour Spotting in Hedgerows

In this video Catherine walks from Hemyock towards Owleycombe, exploring some of the many footpaths crossing the Blackdown Hills. Families can discover how to make a colour spotting chart to see how many colours they can spot in nature. Details of this walk can be found here.

Bringing the Iron Age to Life for Primary Children

Bringing the Iron Age to Life for Primary Children

HAP has just completed some learning resources for the North Devon AONB, helping bring the Iron Age to life for primary school aged children.

The interactive educational resources are an online, downloadable pack, exploring the hillforts of the North Devon Coast AONB and enabling teachers to inspire pupils about the Iron Age through enquiry based and creative activities. The resources invite pupils to use archaeological techniques to investigate this period in history and reveal what we know about the people who built the hillforts.

North Devon School Resources - Hillforts in the Iron Age

The PDF download contains five lesson ideas and resources that can be used in-class or adapted for outdoor use. Examples include a mirror and shield template, instructions to build an iron-age roundhouse and archaeologist’s toolkit information cards. A set of tactile, reproduction iron-age items and archaeologist’s toolbox are available for schools to loan, free-of-charge from the North Devon Coast AONB.

North Devon Resources - Decorated Iron Age Objects Template

We hope the pack enjoys wide usage within local primary schools, ignites a sense of curiosity about the past and inspires more children to explore the rich North Devon landscape. We were delighted to get this feedback:

Heritage Arts People were commissioned by the North Devon Coast AONB to develop a heritage-themed learning resource, offered on loan to schools for Key Stage 1 & 2 children. We are so pleased with the result – HAP produced a wonderfully creative and engaging package of learning, including lesson plans, visual aids, media links and ideas for outdoor learning. The resource will undoubtedly help us to work more closely with schools in our area, and will inspire both teachers and children to discover and learn about our iron-age landscape.” Joe Penfold, Heritage Officer, North Devon Coast Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

You can download the Discover the Iron Age school resource pack on the North Devon Coast AONB website.

Discovering Dunkeswell Abbey – A Project Summary

Discovering Dunkeswell Abbey – A Project Summary

History of Dunkeswell Abbey

Dunkeswell Abbey is a scheduled 13th century Cistercian abbey 2 miles north of the village of Dunkeswell. Some upstanding remains survive today and parts of the abbey church are incorporated into the current Victorian church constructed in 1841-2 by the Simcoe family. Dunkeswell Abbey was the ‘daughter’ of Forde Abbey, and was founded in 1201 by William Brewere. By the time of its dissolution in 1539 it was counted as one of the major monastic houses in Devon

Monasteries were an essential part of medieval life and acted as the centre of worship, learning and charity. Unlike many other monastic orders, the Cistercians sought seclusion and believed in living a very simple life, valuing hard work, study, prayer and self-denial. They were known as the ‘white monks’ as they wore undyed tunics to distinguish themselves from Benedictine monks who wore black.

The Cistercians would have chosen to build their Abbey at Dunkeswell because of its rural location and proximity to water, timber and other natural resources. The Cistercians were skilled at managing water and diverted local watercourses to supply the large fish ponds where they farmed fish. The earthworks of these fishponds are still visible today.

As well as monks, the community at Dunkeswell would have included many lay brethren who acted as ploughmen, dairymen, shepherds, carpenters and masons. Some masonry remains of the lay-brothers dormitory (which would have been on the first floor of the west range) can be seen at the site.

The site is now a Scheduled Monument and is currently on the Historic England Heritage At Risk register. The abbey is an important part of the Blackdown Hills historic landscape and helped shape the environment we see today.

Ruins of the west range of Dunkeswell Abbey with the Victorian Church behind

The ruined remains of the west range with the Victorian Church behind

Aims of the Discovering Dunkeswell Abbey Project

Doscovering DUnkeswell Abbey project logo

Start Date: 2019-04-12 End Date: 2020-04-30

Although the abbey is an important part of the Blackdowns historic landscape, it was not well known or understood in the wider community. Very little of the abbey survives today and a lack of signage or interpretation information at the site made it difficult for the community to connect with or understand the layout and significance of the abbey complex.

The aim of the project was to raise the profile of the abbey and to help the community connect with and understand the site through a community archaeology programme, multi-generational community engagement activities and interpretation material on-site. There was a focus throughout the project on enabling volunteers to learn new skills and on increasing well-being.

The project was run by Heritage Arts and People (HAP) CIC, in partnership with the Blackdown Hills AONB.

The project ran for 1 year and involved:

  • River Walking Survey
  • Earthwork Survey
  • Geophysical Survey
  • Test pit excavation
  • Programme of learning with schools and community groups
  • School education packs
  • Tours and activities during Heritage Open Day

During the project HAP worked with more than 30 volunteers on research fieldwork and learning opportunities. Volunteers worked alongside professional archaeologists learning skills and gaining knowledge about both Dunkeswell Abbey and the techniques being used to further understand it.

New Discoveries: Our Community Archaeology Programme

The volunteer programme gave our volunteers an enriching and enjoyable learning experience and helped them discover more about the abbey complex.

River walking survey Dunkeswell Abbey

During the river walking survey volunteers helped to recover medieval floor tiles, peg tiles and building materials. At least one of the decorated floor tiles represented a previously unknown design. The discovery of tile wasters revealed completely new evidence for the production of plain peg-tiles (used in roofing) on the site, supporting emerging evidence that the parishes around Dunkeswell supported a major ceramics industry in the medieval period and in the 16th century.

Floor Tile Fragments from Rover Walking at Dunkeswell Abbey

Floor Tile Fragments

The results of the earthwork survey at Abbey Mill Farm suggest that the earthworks represent the remains of part of the inner precinct boundary of the abbey, with the remains of two building platforms which may be the sites of service buildings for the cloisters.

The geophysical survey explored four areas around the abbey ruins to try and further understand the nature of earthworks previously identified during aerial surveys.

Geophysical survey near Dunkeswell Abbey, Devon

Geophysical survey with volunteers

Following on from the geophysical survey, two test pits were excavated in an area identified as a possible furnace/extractive site, targeting a linear earthwork and putative slag deposit. The excavation revealed large quantities of dumped metal working waster: iron smelting slag, fragments of clay furnace lining and possible iron ore. The possible in-situ remains of a clay structure, potentially a smithing hearth bottom, were also discovered, suggesting on site iron working production. A sample taken from a sealed burnt layer had the potential for radiocarbon dating, so with a grant from the Blackdown Hills AONB, the material was processed and a radiocarbon date extracted. The radiocarbon determination for charcoal recovered from the sample returned a date in the late Roman Period.

Volunteers were involved in all of the archaeological investigations, as well as sessions with heritage experts and a trip to the Devon Heritage Centre.

Dunkeswell Abbey on Tour

As part of the project we worked with local primary schools and community groups to share the results of the community archaeology programme. In addition to this, an open day was held at the abbey during the Heritage Open Days 2019. More can be read about that here.

Heritage Open Day at Dunkeswell Abbey, Devon

Heritage Open Day at Dunkeswell Abbey

Reconstructing Drawing of the Abbey

Before the closure of Dunkeswell Abbey following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. it would have acted as a centre of worship, learning and charity, full of activity, industry and life. To try and help visitors understand how the abbey might have looked, historic buildings specialist and illustrator Richard Parker was commissioned to create a reconstruction drawing of the abbey.

Reconstruction drawing of Dunkeswell Abbey, Devon

Reconstruction drawing of Dunkeswell Abbey (for a labelled version see leaflet attached below)

“The Discovering Dunkeswell Abbey project was very much welcomed by Historic England as an enabling project to test and develop the levels of local and wider social engagement at this relatively remote and unknown but nationally important site.  The outcomes have been excellent, the HAP team have sought ought and brought together interested local people and individuals as well as people from further afield. It was really impressive to see the commitment and dedication demonstrated by the HAP team being ably communicated to volunteers and local people, some of whom have continued to work on aspects of research and conservation at Dunkeswell Abbey even after the project closed.” Charlotte Russell, Heritage at Risk Projects Officer, Historic England

Reports relating to Discovering Dunkeswell Abbey

Additional Resources

Funders and supporters

The Discovering Dunkeswell Abbey project was funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund, with additional funding from Devon County Council and the Blackdown Hills AONB.

The project was supported by:
Historic England
Dunkeswell Abbey Preservation Trust

Project Location

Parts of Dunkeswell Abbey are open to the public and interpretation material is now available to view in the red phonebox near the entrance to the Holy Trinity Church. There is also an interpretation board and leaflets inside Holy Trinity Church, located on the site of the Cistercian abbey church.