Museums of Antiquities and Contemporary Art

Sidmouth's town square is home to two iconic red telephone boxes. Both have been repurposed to add a new cultural dimension to this busy part of town. Now ying and yang art spaces for 'old' objects of curiosity and 'new' mini contemporary artworks. Artist David Shrigley and local historian Barbara Farquharson will curate the museum exhibitions.

Each telephone box has been repaired, repainted and fitted out with flexible display mechanisms and lighting to create the Micro Museum of Contemporary Art curated by David Shrigley and the Micro Museum of Antiquities curated by Barbara Farquharson.  Working with Sidmouth Toy Museum and Sidmouth Museum and others, curios and artworks will be sourced for installation to establish a rolling programme of themed exhibitions.

Sidmouth’s telephone boxes are the K6 model, constructed in cast iron with a concrete base, they were commissioned by the General Post Office in 1935 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of the coronation of King George, and designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.

The Museum of Antiquities: Holiday Makers of Sidmouth 

Artist-Sculptor Wilfrid Wood's satirical plasticine-head portraits create the first exhibition in The Museum of Contemporary Art.

Wood visited us during Folk Week to complete the installation on Monday 7 August, all before leading a series of workshops. His vibrant plasticine portraits will feature in the telephone boxes in Market Square until October 2023. And this 3D exhibition coincides with a new artwork for Sidmouth created for Wallspace.

Both the exhibition and Wallspace artworks are called Holiday Makers of Sidmouth - a topical, colourful and whimsical love letter to Sidmouth and to all the holiday makers who flock to our town throughout the summer.

From Wonky Donkeys to Pelham Puppets

The Museum of Antiquities will open in time for Folk Week which will ensure maximum viewers as the market square will be busy with buskers and street performers. Sidmouth Toy and Model Museum will present some of their collection of Pelham Puppets in our first exhibition. 

These handmade and hand painted puppets are as iconic as the telephone boxes. 

Collectible and prized toys, they were first made by Bob Pelham in 1947 in Marlborough under the name of Wonky Toys Ltd.  Renamed as Pelham Puppets in 1948 to move away from the name that came from  Bob's Second World War military nickname, when he was known as "The Wonky Donkey Officer" as he made small toy donkeys.

With a huge number of different puppets created, many were characters from children's stories such as Hansel and Gretel and TV programmes through the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s from Pinky and Perky to the Magic Roundabout to the Muppets and Snoopy , these popular wooden marionettes are very evocative of childhood memories.

Sidmouth School of Art have been in contact with David Leech, official biographer of Bob Pelham who was delighted to hear about the exhibition. David, who has provided images to help create the backdrop for the puppets said, "Although Pelham Puppets are no longer produced, Bob Pelham’s legacy lives on through the lives and work of many professional puppeteers today.”

For more information about the puppets and their history, visit:

Photo credit: Sarah Hall

David Shrigley

Artist (Founding Trustee)

Studied at Glasgow School of Art, best known for his drawings: often witty, funny, sarcastic, in tune observations about life and the universe that help to make us feel better. His sculpture Really Good was installed on Trafalgar Square's Fourth plinth 2016-2018. David received an OBE in 2020.

Barbara Farquharson


Barbara was a Professor of Anthropology at University College London. Over the last 30 years her work with the Branscombe Project - a community project "Where history meets memory" has included, making recordings, writing books and lately she has created "The Smallest Museum in the Southwest" featuring a dozen boxes telling the story of Branscombe.

Witches Away!

The second exhibition being planned for the Micro Museum of Antiquities will seek to cast a thought provoking spell on us all as it sparks our curiosity about witches. It will lead us to question our thoughts about the stories we know and have yet to discover about people's belief in witches and evil spirits as well as their role to protect and bring good fortune.  

The phone box itself will evoke a sense of the past meets the present and how we may reimagine what we once thought about witchcraft. Turning on their head some of the powerful concepts of what, who and why witches may be part of meeting very human needs.