Bringing the Past Alive and Experiencing Days Gone by at Bygones, Torquay

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After looking at the Bygones website and seeing the range of exhibits they display I knew I was going to like Bygones. However, what I didn’t know was that after visiting, I would love Bygones! There is so much to see – you could honestly spend hours there reading all the historical information and looking at the detailed displays. Come with me and step back into days gone by…

Bringing the Past Alive

Bygones is a family run attraction in Torquay, Devon. Inside the unique museum you can learn how Bygones came to fruition and all about the 27 tonne railway engine that started it off! I found the story quite entertaining and enjoyed seeing pictures of the huge steam engine being put inside the old building! On arrival we met Richard who currently runs Bygones. Richard was super friendly and knowledgeable and gave us a warm welcome.

Shop Like Our Ancestors

After entering Bygones you step straight into the Victorian Era and are greeted by a large model of Queen Victoria. She sits centrally in her throne, reigning over a life-like street of Victorian shops.

You can walk around the multiple shop fronts and peer inside to see what goods are being sold. Shops on the street include a post office, bakery, general store, apothecary and my favourite the sweet shop! I loved looking inside the shops and seeing the old fashioned items on display – it really was like stepping back in time.

Inside the toy shop there were rows and rows of old fashioned wooden toys, dolls and teddy bears. I can imagine that if I’d of been visiting with older family members they would have recognised a few things! The sweet shop boasts shelves full of big containers full of sweets from days gone by. There are also old Cadbury chocolate bars – a firm favourite of mine today.  In the apothecary you can see potion bottles and pill boxes and even pots for leeches that used to be used to suck  the blood of unwell patients!

A Taste of Victorian Life

A glimpse into Victorian life is provided by realistic models and mannequins. You can see a traditional Victorian bedroom layout, a very old bath and the children playing in their nursery with their nanny.

If you like mannequins and dolls then there are plenty of them at Bygones. There’s a collection of very real looking dolls and dolls houses which hold incredibly detailed mini furniture.

Nathan and I enjoyed wandering through the public house and seeing all the old beer bottles and kegs. They just don’t make pubs that look like that anymore!

Visiting the Dentist and Going to Prison!

As we moved upstairs, we were met with the dentist! Now I’ll admit I’m not a fan of the dentist and so the lifelike scene of a person having their teeth extracted was not my favourite! Nor was the automated voice recording of the patient sitting in the chair! I swiftly moved past this section to admire the kitchen scene with old fashioned stoves, vacuum cleaners and even a cucumber straightener which I found rather amusing! I wonder why they don’t make those anymore!!

Bygones even has its own prison cell so visitors best behave! The prison cell is home to Babbacombe’s John Lee who was apparently imprisoned for murdering his boss. Information provided in the cell tells us John was sentenced to be hung in Exeter back in 1885. The tale goes that he wasn’t actually hung in the end but remained incarcerated for the next 22 years.There’s quite a lot of local tales and documentation on John and he is well known as the “man that couldn’t be hung”. You can read more about him here if you’re interested!


One of Nathan’s favourite parts of our journey through Bygones was the steam train and station area. Here, you step into a station booking office and wait on the platform with WWII evacuees. As part of the railway exhibit  visitors can explore and find out more about ‘Patricia’ the steam engine and even climb aboard to have a closer look.

Following the railway theme is the ‘railwayana’ section of the museum. This is heaven for train enthusiasts and incorporates twenty eight feet of working model railway. The model railway was actually under construction when we visited but you could still see the excellent existing display. I have been following the construction on the Bygones Instagram page.

Bygones has its own café should you fancy some refreshments on your visit. The café is set up like a train station and is adorned with railway memorabilia. Here, visitors can treat themselves to a wide selection of drinks, cakes, sandwiches and even a cream tea should they wish!

Penny Arcade

If you’ve read my recent post from visiting Exmouth, you will know Nathan and I like to visit the arcades and waste our money playing on the 2p slot machines and competing against each other in the 50p challenge. We were delighted when we came across the section full of old fashioned arcade games at Bygones – some of which were over 100 years old!

We were even more impressed when we found out we could change our modern day money into old pennies and have a play on some of the machines. We even won chocolate bars out of some! We played retro table football, traditional ice hockey and original pinball type machines.

Of course we couldn’t resist the grabber machines and came home with various lollies and quite a few bouncy balls! Nathan even has his fortune told – I wonder how true it will turn out to be! We spent quite a while in this section of the museum and had lots of competitive arcade fun!

Live Like a Solider

Dragging ourselves away from all the fun in the arcade, it was time to get a bit more serious and enter the world war displays. Here, there’s lots of information on the different bomb shelters and war time life. Visitors can enter a WWI trench to imagine what it would have been like to be solider in France in 1916.

There are so many exhibit items relating to the world wars and British history so history buffs would feel right at home here! There’s medals, uniforms, ration books and military memorabilia. A big display also shows information and artefacts relating to shipping and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O). I couldn’t help but burst into an impromptu rendition of “Royal Britannia” at the sight of the ship captain’s uniform and hats.

Fun in Fantasy Land

After reflecting on war time Britain and thinking about all the lives that were lost,  it was time to enter a totally different land – fantasy land! This is a wonderful, magical moving display which showcases famous landmarks and building from around the world. There are various buttons to press that make the model light up and move – it’s really a pretty sight to see!

And There’s More!

There is so much more to see at Bygones and lots I haven’t mentioned as I don’t want to ruin the experience for those hoping to visit. It’s hard to sum up such a unique and interesting attraction in a short blog post!

We finished our visit by exploring the extensive gift shop which is full of old fashioned memorabilia and fun souvenirs. You can buy retro mugs and tins, original coins and wartime prints. There’s puzzles, posters and stationery bits. We treated ourselves to some homemade crumbly fudge and the all-important postcards!

You can check out the Bygones shop catalogue and keep up to date with the various events they run over the school holidays on their Facebook and Twitter pages. Bygones recently ran an Easter egg event over the school holidays and offers a Victorian Christmas experience in December. I think visiting at Christmas time and seeing a Victorian Santa would add an even more magical touch to a visit.

Final Thoughts

We loved it at Bygones and really enjoyed the range of exhibits. I feel like I learnt things about the past and imagined how life would have been for my ancestors many years ago. I love attractions and museums that both entertain and educate you. I like the fact Bygones added to this and made us think and reflect on life as we know it.

Big thanks to Richard for welcoming us to Bygones and for providing us with such a fun and unique visit – we’ll be back!

*** Whilst entry to Bygones was provided to us free of charge, all comments and opinions are entirely my own***

Have you ever visited Bygones? What did you think? What exhibit do you think you’d like to visit most? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

72 Responses

  1. Such a great trip! Lots of ‘old’ things to see. I bet there’s plenty more antiques to be found so I bet visiting this place every year will be slightly different and have new items. Thanks to Richard for the free pass! P.s great to play the old games!

  2. Bygones honestly looks like one of the coolest places to visit. I would be especially interested to see the Queen Victoria & WWI section. I hope a place like this comes to the states!

  3. This place looks amazing! It looks so cool to explore the past and all these interesting items. It would be a lovely family day out.

  4. This is my kind of place. In my little town, we have about 20 antique stores (it’s what we’re known for) and I could roam about in them all day long. It’s fun to think back to the past and what it must have been like. Your photos are just stunning.

  5. I would love to spend the day at a place like this; all the history and stories of the people back then. The dolls might scare me a little but other than that I think it would be a lovely day. Thanks for passing on your adventure

  6. This is an interesting museum and I would really love to learn more about the Victorian history. Seeing all the old artifacts really make me exciting and curious!

  7. We have something similar near us and the kids love exploring how we used to live – this place looks fab and next time I am in Devon, will definitely pay a visit

  8. We have a few similar places here in Australia where you can experience a time long gone – some are great but a couple need to spruce up their displays to look as nice as this place. I love spending time wondering if life wasn’t just so much easier back then even though it was tougher!

  9. I find the Victorian Era so fascinating! This looks like a great day out and perfect to help little ones who are learning about Victorian times!

  10. Wow! I really enjoyed your article, I’m very interested in how people used to live before us. The taste of Victorian ages, the prison and the pub…all great pics to see and your writing is long enough to tell the story and short enough to keep it interesting 🙂

  11. I haven’t been to there before but it looks like something that I would totally go to. I love to learn about the history of the place that I visit.

  12. Bygones looks super cool with lots of history. I would be surely interested to see Queen Victoria & WWI section. Thank you for sharing the details, I might plan a trip here with my friends.

  13. This is really unique content! A tour into the Victorian Era, would love to explore the antique stores. Thanks for sharing this nice article.

  14. Wow ! That’s was fascinating! This post looked like a lot of work! Great job! Really appreaciate bringing us into the story of this trip:)

  15. I love that even the cafe is set up in accordance with the theme! It looks like a great place to visit. I love all the history that you can experience there.

  16. Lovely pictures! Really historic. I love to try the treasure island and other crane machines. What a great place to visit!

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