West Country to World’s End: the South West in the Tudor Age
26 Oct 2013 – 2 Mar 2014
Celebrating the spirit of adventure and enterprise among the people of the South West during the age of the Tudors.
The Elizabethan Golden Age has long been recognised as a time of booming prosperity and new discovery, but lesser known is that many of the great innovators of the era hailed from parts of the West Country.
Devon 'sea dogs' included Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh and John Hawkins, whose mission to sail to World’s End brought them riches, glory and new dominions for the queen.
Meanwhile, Exeter's Nicholas Hilliard was establishing his artistic reputation with a series of miniature portraits of courtiers, while fellow Exonian Thomas Bodley re-founded Oxford University's library, later named the Bodleian in his honour.
Merchants in the south west were also experiencing success; many growing rich from developing overseas trade and setting up home in fashionable houses with fine furnishings.
The display includes original manuscripts and personal items that tell the stories of the West Country's Tudor residents, while a collection of art, local maps and other artefacts highlight the wider social and political issues of the era.
Noteworthy items include silver communion cups, often fashioned from melted down pre-Reformation chalices, by leading Exeter goldsmiths such as Richard Hilliard – Nicholas’ father – as well as portraits of Walter Raleigh, Lord Howard of Effingham and James I.