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Details of current and recently completed projects

The Heart of Oak project began when a rare, carved oak, Renaissance screen was donated to the museum in 2008.
It is thought that the carved oak panels were originally from St Leonard's Chapel, (generally known as the Clock Tower). The carved oak panels could date from c.1534. They were purchased at auction by George Templer, builder of the Haytor granite tramway. One of the project's aims is to commission an art historian to research the origins of the design and choice of symbols and characters depicted in the carved panels of the screen, and possibly even discover the maker. These findings will help to inform the workshops and future exhibitions for the town.

The oak panels were purchased at auction by George Templer, builder of the Haytor granite tramway. He had just married Charlotte Elizabeth Kennaway, daughter to Sir John Kennaway, in 1835 and in 1836 George set about building a beautiful house at Sandford Orleigh on the road from Newton Abbot to Bovey Tracey. The site commanded a view of the River Teign estuary on one side, and to Haytor on the other - and encompassed the triumphs of George's past.
In fitting out his home, George Templer had the carved oak screens made into an enormous vermantel - a chimney/mantelpiece surrounding a fireplace. The panels were put into two rows of 6 panels and joined with a cornice and by caryatids on a framework to hold it all together. The subjects depicted by the screens were not of a religious nature - but more secular, and so would not have looked out of place in the sitting room of the great house.

Here the screen remained for 175 years. They were seen by George Templer and his numerous guests, and after his death in 1843, by the Victorian explorer of the Nile, Sir Samuel Baker and his wife Florence and their many famous visitors - and down the ages until the house fell under the hammer and was bought by a developer to convert the house into apartments.Sam-Flo-Baker

In the process of conversion, the vermantel was removed to storage - for 10 years. Eventually the owners of the apartment offered the screen back to the town. The Newton Abbot Town and Great Western Railway Museum took on the challenge to restore the carved screens and surrounds and the Heart of Oak Project was born.

Newton Abbot Town & GWR Museum, 2a St Paul´s Road, Newton Abbot TQ12 2HP - 01626 201121.  See www.heart-of-oak.info for more information.


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Professional photography - Museums Photograher Jon Arnold - jon.arnold2@ntlworld.com

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Laurence Beckford is a Specialist Member of the Master Carvers Association

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