Brunel’s connection with Newton Abbot is strong. While working
on his Atmospheric Railway system, Brunel based himself in the town,
using the Earl of Devon’s architect’s office. In this area
of the South West, the atmospheric system is well known, but there is
no physical representation of it to see. As a complex scientific principle,
the atmospheric system is difficult to explain without a working model
to demonstrate it in practise.
The atmospheric event in the gardens of Forde House.
The Newton Abbot Town & GWR Museum
decided to address this by creating a two-day Atmospheric Event to
entertain and educate local people in how the atmospheric principle really
Museum also extended its permanent exhibition at its home base with videos,
displays and photographs of Brunel, and displayed the William Dawson
watercolours to encourage regular and new visitors to learn more about
Brunel and his achievements.
The combination of the
exhibition within the museum and by creating a two-day Atmospheric Event (13 and
14 May 2006) held in the house and gardens of Forde House has encouraged
a great interest in IK Brunel and engineers in the area. The Museum
had many more visitors than usual to the exhibition, some visitors travelling
numbers in 2005, Jan to May: 1,009
Visitor numbers in 2006, from mid-Feb to June: 2,489
The Museum also supported
Wren Music to develop the Brunel community play ‘A Wonderful Alteration’.
As a result, 150 people were involved in the play, including individuals,
families, school children, teenagers, the local town band, school bands
and the local choir.
For further information, visit the Museum at: www.devonmuseums.net and type Newton Abbot into the Search box.
Barometer World Activity.
Visitor comments from the Atmospheric
Event and Community Play
“I at last understand what the
atmospheric system was.”
“I never knew Brunel did so many different things.”
“I know all about Brunel now.” (a
“Isn’t it amazing to see a piece of the pipe, wasn’t
“I don’t want this to finish” (child in the
“It is wonderful to work with Paul.”
a Town Band player on Paul Wilson from the Wren Trust)
“It’s been such FUN, I wish we could have the
Wren Trust working with us at school, I love doing the junk
band and now it will stop again.” (Knowles
Hill school pupil)
“Working with the Wren trust has been brilliant,
everyone had a part and we all did our bit; it really
“Mr Brunel would have been proud of your tribute to him!”
“Enjoyable, a subject and a half.”
The railway modellers commented
have never had so many intelligent questions in
a show before.”….!
“I love Forde House. It’s such a lovely place, why
haven’t I been here before?”
From this event and celebration
of IK Brunel, there has been a greater awareness and understanding of Brunel’s atmospheric railway; together
with an understanding of the impact that Brunel’s railway brought
to the life of the town.
Learning Atmospheric principles.
Visitor comments from the Brunel exhibition
“We enjoyed learning about the atmospheric railway which we’d
only heard about before. The exhibition and video are very informative
and the staff so welcoming.”
“Very interesting – well laid out; I’ll
return again with more visitors.”
Visitor from South Wales
“Informative exhibition which
will demand a second (and maybe third!) visit. Friendly and helpful
“My sons, aged 4 and 2, really
enjoyed the railway room. Will definitely visit again.”
“An excellent selection of good explanatory material on that great
mystery – the ‘Atmospheric Railway.’”
exhibition and helpful staff and curator. This is my second visit to
“My great-grandmother, Margaret Voisey, was of Huguenot stock
who had come as refugees from France in the reign of Elizabeth I. Her
father was angle ironsmith to I K Brunel (also an émigré).
I remember seeing her brother, my great uncle Harry some 75 years ago.
He was also an angle ironsmith at Swindon Railway Works. All the boys
in the Rushton-Voisey household served their apprenticeships in the Railway
Works. I remembered that Uncle Harry had Brunel’s drawing board,
but I’m afraid it got lost.”
George Rushton, Dartmouth
“I’ve never spent so long in any museum! (3 hours). Excellent
help and info from dedicated staff – thanks.”
Visitor from Bristol