A Brief History of the Collection

In 1967 three people, who all had an interest in historic dress, put on their first dress parade for charity. This was to become the foundation of the Devonshire Collection of Period Costume. Peter Clapham, Paula Morel and Annette Kok (later Morel) knew each other through theatre and each owned a collection of period dress, used for research purposes.

Embroidered waistcoat and jacket (c.1780)

Embroidered waistcoat and jacket (c.1780)

This first parade, in Oldway Mansion, was such a success that there were many requests for a repeat. In these early stages the garments were shown in carefully mounted and detailed parades, presented in stately homes in Devon in aid of various charities.

During this period the work of the Collection became widely known and in 1972, at the suggestion of the Victoria and Albert Museum, it was included in the BBC television series, Collectors’ World. As a result of this wider publicity, many interesting and valuable items were presented to the Devonshire Collection. It became obvious that a permanent home should be found and in 1974 the first summer exhibition was opened at 10a High Street, Totnes. A new themed exhibition has been mounted every year since then.

In 1987, thanks to the generous interest of the late Douglas and Priscilla Mitchell, the Collection moved to more spacious premises at Bogan House, opposite the Market Square in Totnes.

The Collection continues to be maintained as an entirely voluntary organisation, a registered charity with its own Board of Trustees and accredited by the Arts Council. Talks are given to educational and other organisations both in-house and as outreach. Items have been loaned to other registered charities including the V&A and research on the Collection is facilitated and encouraged.

Over the years of its existence the Collection, through the inspired enthusiasm of its original founders and subsequent volunteer groups, has become established as an extensive, much valued and beautifully presented collection of period dress, unique of its kind.