Watchet Boat Museum is located at the top of Swain Street next to the West Somerset Railway and Harbour Road Car Park. It is the first building on the right as you enter the town over the railway bridge.
The building that houses the Boat Museum was most probably designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Built in 1862, it was built 10 years after his death by his sons. The building started life as a goods shed built at the terminus of the Bristol and Exeter Railway. There are two identical goods sheds on the WSR one here in Watchet and the other in Williton.
The museum is accessed through Watchet Visitor Centre and has the same opening times.
Watchet Boat Museum is home of the Flatner, a local boat. The Museum celebrates the history of Flatner boats with photographs, displays and a number of full size local finds and fishing paraphernalia. There is also a collection of scale models on the mezzanine level.
The Flatner was used on the shores of the Bristol Channel, where the tides go out a great distance, exposing mud flats. A flatner is a double ended, flat bottomed boat with no keel designed to navigate such waters. Fishermen would go out when the flats were submerged but try to follow the channels running through the mud to minimise the chance of getting stranded as the tide ebbed.
There are interactive exhibits for children with a flatner play boat, ships wheel and navigation, pulleys and weights and children’s trails and activity sheets.
Volunteers in the Boat Museum regularly display rope making. This is an activity that can be joined in with and for a small donation you can take home a length of Watchet Rope. Outside the museum is a mechanical rope making machine which is run as a display on regular occasions. You can purchase a longer length of Watchet Rope in the Visitor Centre for use in your own projects.
The Museum is run by the Friends of the Flatner Association.
Admission is free but donations are gratefully received.
The entrance to the Boat Museum is in the Visitor Centre and is 3ft wide and on a level concrete surface. A monitor under the mezzanine level shows viewers the displays situated above, so there is no need to go upstairs! The museum objects are displayed mainly without cases and visitors are welcome to experience them through touch. The walkways between exhibits are over 3ft wide. There are large windows with natural light and no flashing lights. The background music is fully adjustable if visitors need the volume changed or turned off.
Why not check out the other great museums in Watchet?