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Cheese and Charabancs: Historic Holidays in Devon and Somerset

With summer holidays on the horizon the South West Heritage Trust is staging pop-up exhibitions in Weston-super-Mare and Barnstaple to explore the West Country’s enduring appeal for holiday makers.

Somerset and Devon have long been tourist destinations. The country air, market towns, beaches and fossil coasts are all key West Country attractions. Using historic collections from within the archives at Devon and Somerset Heritage Centres the exhibition offers an opportunity to discover more about holidays of the past.

Many of the documents are being exhibited together for the first time. Photographs, building plans, travel diaries and transport posters are all amongst the documents that will help tell the story of how people enjoyed their leisure time and what they thought of places they visited.

Vibrant appeal of seaside holidays

Senior Archivist Esther Hoyle has helped curate the exhibition. She said: “Holidays, as we now think of them, really became part of life in the second half of the 19th century. This was largely thanks to the increase in methods of transport. Before this, holidays were mainly for wealthy people who could afford to travel to the spa towns or the seaside, while literary and artistic people wandered widely for inspiration.


“Some of the railway posters that will be on display really capture the vibrant appeal of seaside holidays in the West Country. Diaries and visitor books show what people experienced from their own point of view.”


Highlights to see

  • Weston-super-Mare Grand Pier Autograph album, from early 20th century

  • Photographs of North Devon resorts and tourist attractions from the 1880s

  • A mid-19th century description of a trip to Wookey Hole

  • 19th century travel diaries

  • An inventory of furniture and effects for Sweet’s Hotel, Taunton

  • A timetable for trains running between London and the West of England, 1874


Come along! 

The exhibition will be held at Weston Museum on 5 June and Barnstaple Guildhall on 13 June. Both events will run from 10.30 am to 3.30 pm.


Entry is free. Donations for the work of the South West Heritage Trust will be gratefully received.

Fairground, Birnbeck Pier, Weston-super-Mare,

c. 1900

The seafront at Dawlish, showing the coastal rail line, beach and bathing machines, May 1889

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