Topsham is a village/small town on the eastern bank of the River Exe just 4 miles or so from Exeter’s city centre. Since 1966 it has officially been part of Exeter, but its distinctive character makes it feel very different from its larger neighbour.
It started out as a Roman settlement and developed as a port which grew in importance following the construction of the weir at Countess Wear. Even with the arrival of the canal in 1566 it still prospered as trade boomed with the Dutch who came for Devon wool. The Dutch influence can be seen all over Topsham with gable-fronted houses, some of which were built with the bricks that were used as ballast for their ships.
The port is no longer vital to Topsham’s prosperity as it has now become a desirable place to live for people who like to live near the city but not in it.
The River Exe and the surrounding marshes have an abundance of birdlife, and places like Bowling Green Marsh are protected habitats for the large flocks of waders, geese and migratory birds that also make Topsham their home.
Royal Albert Memorial Museum
There’s a danger of boring people to death when describing museums, so forgive me if I don’t include everything that this museum has to offer.
The Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) was built in the Gothic style in the 1860s. It’s a handsome building, and with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, a multi-million pound re-development took place between 1999 and 2011.
The new-look museum was such a success that the Art Fund named it Museum of the Year in 2012.
It might have cost millions to bring up to date but it’s still free to go in, and so there’s no real reason not to pay it a visit. There are two entrances but the main one is in Queen St at the front of the building.
Briefly, the layout of the museum is spread over two levels, with the Ground Floor concentrating on local interest, whilst the upper First Floor includes items from other cultures and specimens from the natural world. There is more to it than that of course, but that’s the gist of it.