Party fun for the attraction as it marks eight decades in the town.

Mervyn Palmer, who founded Ilfracombe Museum in 1932.Mervyn Palmer, who founded Ilfracombe Museum in 1932.

IT was party time at Ilfracombe Museum on Wednesday as the attraction celebrated its 80th birthday.

Staff, volunteers, trustees and plenty of visitors packed the building for a free day of entertainment and activities, with plenty for all ages to see and do.

This included a flea circus show, Punch and Judy, crafts fun and a special ‘Birthday Trail’ as well as the traditional birthday cake cutting.

The sight would have pleased museum founder Mervyn Grove Palmer, who first opened its doors on August 1, 1932 and was astounded when 1,231 people turned up on the first day, many bearing exhibits for the new museum.

Mervyn Palmer, who founded Ilfracombe Museum, apparently pictured during one of his expedition forays.Mervyn Palmer, who founded Ilfracombe Museum, apparently pictured during one of his expedition forays.

As a young man Mr Palmer had made numerous visits to South America to collect specimens such as butterflies for the British Museum of Natural History.

When he retried to Ilfracombe aged 49, he was amazed the town had neither museum nor library and promptly resolved to do something about it.

He formed a committee and became the first curator, with a trust set up to run the new museum shortly afterwards.

Present manager Sara Hodson said all involved were proud the museum had managed to reach its 80 year milestone and still remain an independent attraction.

“We are self-funded by visitors and we work really hard to keep people coming through the door,” she said.

“We’re very grateful for the support we get from the community and our volunteers. The 80th celebration was intended as a children’s party because we want to keep bringing in children and young families as it makes the museum lively and vibrant.”

Chairman of trustees Gill Hiscock thanked all the volunteers, staff trustees and the Friends of Ilfracombe Museum for their years of dedication.

“It is fantastic when children that I used to teach and were brought here as part of school projects quite often return and it’s such a nice feeling, that you have sown that seed of interest,” she said.

“Everybody who comes in wants to see our famous two-headed cat – plus we have a four-legged chicken, that was alive when presented to the museum years ago and actually ran around the place for a couple of years!”