Grymm Tooms Travelling Museum
Newhaven Fort (Christmas Fair) 6 December



Saturday: Tooms and I left London in the early hours to get to Newhaven; it was a glorious morning and was to be the first event this year that did not include wind, rain or mud. The view of the harbour from the fort was fantastic although I wasn’t quite sure about that giant cormorant sitting on a mooring…I’m sure it looked at me ‘funny’…perhaps I dreamed it. Real birds included common buzzard and little egret.

We were met at the fort by Minna and then shown to our quarters for the day; two rooms that are being refurbished, they were ideal for us, so we put a department in each. We also had the luxury of heaters. This was going to be a short day for us, 10:00 to 15:30, so we got our exhibits out as quickly as possible.

There seemed to be rather a lot of stairs around, one set leading down into the depths of the fort to the beach and, while hill tops are good places to put fortifications, I could not, for the life of me, understand why the original builders had not levelled off the parade ground – the combination of frost and hobnail boots must have been interesting.

I spread some of my exhibits on to the window sill, always a bit risky as there was a danger of things being picked while I was across the room; thankfully it all worked out OK, apart from the kid trying to play with the platypus when he thought no one was looking! Amongst my new exhibits are two fossil models; a baby ichthyosaur and a Pterodactylus kochi, this last was inspired by one of our visitors at Carisbrook who liked pterosaurs.

While we were never overwhelmed by visitors we were busy for most of the day and never got to see any of the other exhibitors, although I did get to talk to the Punch & Judy man for a while. As usual at this sort of event we had some great visitors. My favourite was the cheeky girl who asked loads of questions and had a natural curiosity for all things, she told me that she likes octopus and squid – first 8 year old I ever met who likes Cephalopods! People who say that kids are not interested in anything these days have clearly never been to the sort of show where kids are not only interested but also know things.

There was a brass band playing and every now and then the haunting sound of a glockenspiel drifted up toward us, I say “haunting” because since listening to this contraption at Detling for days on end, it has the same effect on me as the ticking clock in a crocodilian’s belly has on Capt. Hook!

Half way through the day Paul and Debbie came to see us all the way from Essex, they had brought along Jenn, a member of their group, and this was her first introduction to the bizarre and diverse world of Victorian Curios – trust me, we are but the tip of the iceberg!!

Suddenly it was over, visitors were rapidly ushered out and we started to pack up. Minna brought some of the staff over to see the phonograph; it had been playing most of the day and had made quite an impression. Minna also brought us a much needed cup of tea and a mince pie. It had been a successful event with over 1,300 people through the gate; but we only saw a fraction of those.

This is Prof Grymm with thanks to the staff at Newhaven for all their help