Video credit: Bygones
Golden eggs and Zoetropes at Bygones Museum in Torquay
We were looking for a family day out on holiday in Devon and heard about a quirky little museum in Torquay. Bygones turned out to be one of those places that feels like someone else’s dream. There is something terrifically enjoyable about it if you like chaos and eccentricity - I can imagine that it’s not the best day out for people that like order and simplicity. Apparently it all began with a train.
Many years ago the owner of Bygones bought a 28 ton Railway Tank Engine and brought it home to show his wife. Unsurprisingly she didn’t want it in the house and insisted that if he wanted to keep it he would have to find somewhere to house it. When he found an old cinema for sale in St Marychurch, Torquay, Bygones was born. The train is still there and an impressive, eclectic, and endlessly interesting museum has grown around it.
Your visit starts in a dimly lit reproduction of a Victorian street. One of my three children really enjoyed this part of the museum and enjoyed pressing her face up to the glass and looking at the Victorian treasures on display. However two of my children were terrified of the ropey-looking dummies in unnatural poses, and rushed past this part of the museum. They were happier on the second floor and played with the machines at the penny arcade for quite some time. They also liked the model village with a train running through it.
Most of the second floor is devoted to model villages and some are great. Some, though, are just frankly odd. There’s a strange land with various Disney princesses skating on an ice lake in front of a cave with a dragon guarding a golden egg. My children couldn’t quite work out how we’d gone from Victorian antiques to this! I’m assuming that many of the things in the fantasy world were Victorian but there was no sign to say that.
In another jolt to your senses you go past these strange fantasy worlds into a First World War exhibit and find yourself re-living the sights and sounds of trench warfare. With apologies to the owner, who I’m sure is a fantastic person; the museum throughout feels like the brainchild of someone who calls himself a collector but others might call a hoarder. Parts of the museum, such as the trench experience and the evacuees waiting for the train, were absolutely fantastic and well worth the entrance fee, but other parts were just bizarre.
Some of the things which caught my children’s interest the most were often hidden by other things and had to be searched out. They were fascinated with a Zoetrope that one of them noticed almost by chance, and they also loved a Victorian table football game which was actually broken and kept feeding more and more marbles into the game at random moments. In the end it was one of those days that we enjoyed mostly for quirky little odd moments rather than the place as a whole.