We have been meaning to visit the Bakelite Museum in Williton in Somerset for absolutely ages. Rumours that it may be about to close its doors finally got us there this week.it is a wonderfully eccentric place and you can enjoy it in a variety of different ways. The fact that it is housed in a more or less intact disused watermill is one, that nostalgia factor is big and then there are the plastic objects themselves – not just Bakelite but a wide range of earlier and later materials.
Every surface in the building is crowded with products made of plastic from toys to radios and televisions and a huge variety of tablewares. Nothing found has been rejected it seems. Broken pieces nestle alongside ones in a better state and duplicates are celebrated. Seven Bush DAC90 radios sit in an arc on one of the huge wooden mill-gears. Numerous thermos flasks decorate another. There are rows of picnic sets and hoards of egg-cups.
It is cold and curiously still and silent. You want the radios to crackle into action and the hair-dryers to buzz. The atmosphere is relieved by Patrick Cook the proprietor’s transistor radio on the cafe table outside and the sounds of visitors conversations.
Outdoors the theme changes to transport and the car park includes a yellow Trabant and Reliant and two splendid caravans. The smaller fibreglass van is charming and fully kitted out with plastic accessories.
A selection of other design icons and curiosities include two Itera plastic bicycles. These were a Volvo project designed by Claes Nordenstam and produced from 1982-5. Sadly, they didn’t take off – the colour probably didn’t help?