Crumbs - What a Find!

A LITTLE piece of Newton Abbot’s history has made its way home from Yorkshire thanks to a chance find by a member of the team designing the town’s new museum.

The Madge Mellor cake fork – sometimes known as ‘spork’ thanks to its hybrid design - was discovered by Helen Mort, Managing Director of Creative Core in Huddersfield.

Just days before she was due to welcome a delegation from Newton Abbot Town Council she had been browsing in a Barnsley antiques shop.

Outside was a basket rammed with old cutlery and when Helen took a closer look she spotted the cake fork, embossed with the Madge Mellor logo.

Madge Mellor’s was a much-loved cafe that traded in Queen Street from 1928 - 1987. It was famed for fabulous home-made cakes and its waitresses’ traditional black and white uniforms.

The find would have meant little to Helen had she not been helping to create a tribute area to the eatery within the Newton’s Place museum and community space project.

‘I think it needed to find its way home,’ she told Town Clerk Phil Rowe when presenting the spork to him in Huddersfield.

How the piece of cutlery ended up in Yorkshire is a matter for conjecture, perhaps an illicit memento smuggled out by a satisfied visiting customer.

‘We’ll never know the story but it was remarkable that Helen found the spork and only because of her work on Newton’s Place was able to realise its significance and reunite us,’ said Phil Rowe.

‘And it only cost £1!’

The slightly grubby item was catalogued and given a clean by the newest member of the Newton Abbot team, part time Museum Assistant Dr Charlotte Dixon who joined in July.

She has been helping volunteers to prepare no fewer than 17,000 artefacts for the move to a new home in the former St Leonard’s Church, Wolborough Street.

‘It’s been varied and fun, and everyone’s been most welcoming,’ she said.

‘As for the cake fork turning up like it did, it's amazing how it was discovered in Huddersfield by the team designing the new museum.’

Ecclesiastical mystery at Newton’s Place…

CONTRACTORS working on the conversion of the former St Leonard’s Church, Newton Abbot, have unearthed an ecclesiastical mystery.

While preparing the Victorian structure for its new life as the Newton’s Place museum and community hub, two tired and dusty kneelers - hassocks to give them their proper name - were found behind a wall.

Of an unusual design and differing in size, they are thought to date from the 19th century.

No one can figure out why they should have been deliberately hidden.

‘It’s a mystery, a bit spooky,’ said Kate Green, Outreach Worker for Newton’s Place.

‘The kneelers are like the cloth ones you see but these are made from raffia and stuffed with straw.

‘They were found when a panel was removed, it’s very odd that they should have been hidden like that.

‘If they weren’t wanted why not just get rid of them?’

The puzzle was beyond even the combined brains of members of the Teign U3A (University of the Third Age) History Group.

They were shown the hassocks by Kate while on a tour of the site which is due to open to the public early next year.

One theory that they might have contained church treasure floundered when an inspection of the innards revealed nothing.

The U3A members were pleased however with progress at the £2 million cultural project that will also conserve some of the Grade II building’s best features.

With a new floor now laid and set, work on creating rooms and the upper level is set to begin within weeks. The main build is due to be completed by the end of August after which award-winning designers Leach will move in to create the display areas.

‘Kate’s shown us the future, described exactly what will be here, and it’s going to be fascinating to come back and see it,’ said U3A visitor Jill Thompson.

‘It’s going to be absolutely amazing, a huge thing for the town.’

 newton place kneeler group

 left - right: Back row: U3A members David Thompson, Norman Hanson and Peter Luxton - Front row: Niki Stigwood of contractors Pollard, Jill Thompson, Kate Green, Margaret Southcombe.

newton place kneeler

Margaret Southcombe and Peter Luxton with the mysterious hassocks.


My Place: Newton Abbot's past, present and future in picture.

Photo opportunity: 14.00hrs Tuesday January 22 at Newton’s Place, Wolborough Street, Newton Abbot. Pupils from several schools in the Newton Abbot area will be joined by officials for the unveiling of the My Place arts project.  Please CLICK HERE for more information 


Funding Raised by The National Lottery - The team behind the Newton’s Place museum and community space project is celebrating confirmation of National Lottery funding worth £800,000. The award, made possible by National Lottery players and awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), means the Newton Abbot Town Council scheme is on target to open in approximately 18 months’ time.  PLEASE CLICK HERE for more information

Newton Abbot Town Council

Town Hall

Great Western House,

9 Devon Square,

Newton Abbot

TQ12 2HN

Tel: 01626 201120

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Opening Hours:

Monday to Friday

08:30am - 01:00pm and

02:00pm - 04:30pm 

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