Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Julys devonian

July's famous Devonian is Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the English poet, Romantic, literary critic and philosopher. Born in Ottery St. May on the 21st October 1772, he became one of the most 'Influential and controversial figures of the Romantic period'. [1]  

His signature. [2].
The son of a Reverend he entered Jesus college Cambridge in 1791, here he joined in the reformist movement stimulated by the French Revolution, and in 1793 he abandoned his studies.[3] He enlisted in the 15th Light Dragoons under the name of Silas Tomkin, some say because of rising debts and issues in his love life. However, he soon he realized that he was unfit for an army career and he was brought out under 'insanity' clause by his brother.[4] In October of 1795 Coleridge married Sarah Fricker, and took up his residence at Clevedon on the Bristol Channel.[5] His close friend William Wordsworth married Sarah’s sister Mary in 1802. It was around 1796 that Coleridge started taking Laudanum as a pain-reliever, for ailments including toothache and facial neuralgia, this would soon become an disruptive addiction in Coleridge’s life.

Coleridge's career as a poet and writer were established after he befriended Wordsworth. Together they produced the Lyrical Ballads in 1798. Coleridge contributed four poems to the collections, including one of his most famous works, 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner', a 625 line ballad published in 1798. It tells the story of a sailor who kills an albatross and for this crime against nature the sailor suffers terrible punishments.

And every tongue, through utter drought,

Was withered at the root;
We could not speak, no more than if
We had been choked with soot. 
For most of his adult life Coleridge suffered with addiction to opium and laudanum, some of his works present supernatural themes and exotic images, perhaps related to his use of drugs.[6] His much-admired poem "Kubla Khan" was inspired by a dream vision in an opium-induced state. His addiction and pain led to near suicide, separation from his wife in 1808, and estrangement from his children.[7]
Coleridge died on the 25th July 1834 from heart failure. He is buried at St. Michael’s Church, Highgate, London. Coleridge's legacy has been ‘tainted with accusations of plagiarism, both in his poetry and critical essays; he had a propensity for leaving projects unfinished and suffered from large debts. But, such was the originality of his early work, that his place and influence within the Romantic period is undisputed’.[8] 'Kubla Khan' and 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' are known as ‘two of the greatest poems in English literature and perfected a mode of sensuous lyricism that is often echoed by later poets’.[9]

Samuel Taylor Coleridge. [10].

[1] BBC Arts, ‘The Romantics’, 2012. [Online] Available from: (Accessed 27/06/2012).
[2] Wikipedia, 'Samuel Taylor Coleridge', 2012. [Online] Available from: (Accessed 27/06/2012).
[3] Books and Writers, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’, 2008. [Online] Available from: (Accessed  27?06/2012).
[4] Books and Writers, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’, 2008. [Online] Available from: (Accessed 27/06/2012).
[5] NNDB Tracking the Entire World, 'Samuel Taylor Coleridge', 2012. [Online] Available from: (Accessed 27/06/2012).
[6] BBC Arts, ‘The Romantics’, 2012. [Online] Available from: (Accessed 27/06/2012).
[7] New World Encyclopaedia, ‘Samuel Taylor Coleridge’, 2012. [Online] Available from: (Accessed 27/06/2012).
[8] BBC Arts, ‘The Romantics’, 2012. [Online] Available from: (Accessed 27/06/2012).
[9] Encyclopedia Britannica Online Academic Edition, ‘Samuel Taylor Coleridge’, 2012. [Online] Available from: (Accessed 27/06/2012).
[10] Wikipedia, 'Samuel Taylor Coleridge', 2012. [Online] Available from: (Accessed 27/06/2012).

Monday, 23 July 2012

The People's Record

The poster design for the upcoming People's Record Exhibition. Running from Thursday the 26th July to Wednesday the 29th August. The event is going to be opened by torch runner Andy Vallance! 
Don't miss it

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Exhibitions at the Museum

So, a lot has been happening at the museum recently. Currently the Puzzle Tree Painters exhibition is on display at the museum. This is only running for a short amount of time, the 5th July to the 16th July, so make sure you don't miss it. It displays a wonderful range of paintings, which were inspired by the imagination, other artists and Simmons Park. Puzzle Tree is a day service for people with learning disabilities and is a worthwhile cause. For more details on Puzzle Tree paintings visit or see Tom French's review of the exhibition at of dartmoor .

The museum is also busy creating the People's Record Exhibition, which will run from the 23rd of July until the end of August. The exhibition focuses on the Olympics and looks at the Britain during previous British Olympic host years,1908 and 1948. The exhibition has been given the 'London 2012 Inspire Mark' by the organisers of the games, LOCOG. Things have changed a lot since then and now. There will be much to see here, with scoreboards, Olympic records and lots of Olympic themed games and activities. Any one fancy making your own medal or seeing if you could break some Olympic records? We also need your help with this one. Any pictures you have of the Olympic torch relay passing through Okehampton would be very much appreciated and we'll show them in the museum as part of our display. You can either hand them into the museum or email them to

The People's Record - Olympic Exhibition is to be officially opened by Andy Vallance, who was a touch runner this year. Andy carried the flame through Torquay on the 20th May. You can read about Andy's story at

Summer activities at the museum are also be designed and finalised. So if the kids are bored, you want to learn something about the local area or you're looking for something to do on a typical rainy summers day, come and visit us at the museum!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Mystery Item No 6

This month’s mystery item is...a clothes mangle.
Image of the museum's mangle

During the Victorian period some devices were invented to ease household tasks, by the 19th Century small domestic mangles were being developed and became very popular.[1] Before this time it was only large houses with laundry facilities or laundry services who used this type of equipment.[2] A mangle is a mechanical laundry aid which was used to squeeze water out of wet laundry. Powered by hand the handle would turn the two rollers, which were attached by cogs, which would wring out the water. The rollers were normally made out of beech or maple wood, however by the beginning of the 20th Century rubber rolls were introduced. Our mangle is made by a company in Devon. With two wooden rollers, its metal frame work has been painted green and reads ‘James Wright Okehampton’.

Close up of the flower design on the side of the mangle
The Engineer’s and Mechanic’s Encyclopaedia describes a mangle as
a domestic machine of great utility employed in smoothening linen, as a substitute for the heated irons extensively used for the same purpose. In the common mangle, as most of our readers well know, the linen or other articles to be mangled, are wrapped round wooden rollers, which are upon a solid level bed or floor, and upon the rollers is placed a large oblong box which is filled with stones, or other heavy substances, in order that they may press with great force upon the rollers, while the box is moved backwards and forwards upon them, by means of a handle attached to an upper roller or windlass, to which straps from each end of the moving box are attached. By this machine, the operation of mangling is very well done, but the labour is excessive on account of the necessity of frequently arresting and changing the motion of the heavy box.[3]
The first version of the mangle was the Box Mangle, which consisted of a heavy box on rollers which was pushed across laundry; this was developed during the 17th Century.[4] This process would have been a laborious task involving at least two people. By the 18th and 19th Century’s new mangle ideas were being developed in order to make the process easier. Systems using gears, leavers and handles were introduced in order to make it a less laborious job and easier for one person to do.

Image of a box mangle.[5]
In this time clothes and linens were washed in tubs, with a ‘dolly’ being used to wash the clothes. A dolly is a pole with one end shaped like a cone or a three legged stool. This was plunged into the boiling water with the clothes to help remove dirt. The later invention of washboards were quicker and easier to use than the dollies, and involved rubbing the laundry against the metal rungs. The washing was then wrung out through the mangle and hung out to dry. This was a long and laborious process, so the invention of the washing machine must have been very welcomed.
Many of the items needed to wash clothes can be seen at the museum, so if you are in the area why not come in and have a look!

[1] Object Lessons, ‘Clothes Wringer, Victorian, Original’, 2012. [Online] Available from: (Accessed 18/06/12).
[2] Object Lessons, ‘Clothes Wringer, Victorian, Original’, 2012. [Online] Available from: (Accessed 18/06/12).
[3] Hebert, L. (1838) The Engineer’s and Mechanics Encyclopaedia Volume II. London: Thomas Kelly: 125-126.
[4] Wise Geek, ‘What is a Mangle?’, 2012. [Online] Available from: (Accessed 18/06/12).  
[5] Old and Interesting, ‘Box Mangles’, 2012. [Online] Available from: (Accessed 18/06/12).
A Day in the Life, ‘Washing Day’, 2012. [Online] Available from: (Accessed 18/06/12).

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Mystery Item No 6

Here is July's Mystery Item. Managed to get a clearer picture this month! Good luck. 

Don't forget you can guess the item here on the blog, on our Twitter page (@dartmoorlife) or on our Facebook page by searching Museum of Dartmoor Life.