Friday, 26 April 2013

The Williton Bakelite Museum

Yesterday I had the chance to visit a small museum that has always intrigued me, and that I was genuinely excited about in terms of its housing a collection of something I personally am very enthusiastic about - Bakelite. The Williton Bakelite Museum describes itself as the world's greatest collection of vintage plastics, and it certainly has a vast variety on display. Situated in a small village in North Somerset, nestled between Exmoor and the Quantocks, just finding the museum is an adventure in itself. You drive through the main village then up a twisting lane to park by a beautiful field with a stream running through it next to a lovely vintage caravan. The museum itself is housed in an old mill, with a lovely vintage cafe with great china tea sets in the main house. It costs £5 for adults, and after paying the lovely Gwenda who was working yesterday, I entered into the (slightly chilly!) mill and its magical realm of plastics.

One of the things I loved about the museum was how it was both a small museum and one person's collection - a real testament to a passion. Personal collections are always interesting in terms of display as they are displayed in terms of how their owner curates them rather than how an official museum person sees it as making sense. Near the entrance an old oven was sat with a random book of animal cigarette cards on top - nothing to do with Bakelite, but somehow it added to the whole retro feel of the place. There were then cabinets containing everything from bowls made of amazing marbled Bandalasta ware (also known as Lingalonga - what great names!), to napkin holders in the shape of animals, telephones, gramophone horns, records, typewriters, great clocks with sailing boats in them, model planes and cars, things from dollshouses - I could go on! After winding round the ground floor of the mill, I then climbed the rickety stairs to the second floor where there was a room with old hairdresser setting dryers, kitchen ware, heaters and things actually diplayed on the old mill wheel! There was also a very interesting display of really early 19th century plastics, and also really curious things like a case of early plastic teeth! There was also a display of houses made with Bayko - one of my Dad's favourite toys from his '50s childhood. It really was a feast of quirky delightfulness - really atmospheric, eccentric, but informative too. I loved it.

I also want to thank Gwenda who was so lovely to chat to. I had a great cup of tea and some cake afterwards in the cafe. Any vintage enthusiasts would love its 1930s feel. There were also lovely postcards for sale. It was a truly brilliant experience, and I loved the way I felt like I was visiting a special place as well as a museum - seeing into someone's passion for collecting and being absorbed in the whole environment of the old mill and its beautiful setting. Below are some photos I took (on my phone so not great quality I'm afraid). You can visit their website at

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