The Museum of Dartmoor Life originated as a charitable trust which was founded in 1978 to establish a museum for Okehampton and the North Dartmoor area. In 1979 the trust purchased the freehold premises which the museum still occupies. The museum was first opened to the public in 1981 before the buildings had been renovated, principally to raise public awareness and encourage donations to the collection.
Three major building development and conservation works during the 1980s and gallery refurbishments in the early 1990s provided increased space and facilities for displays, events, research and storage for the growing collection.
The museum premises consist of a three-storey former warehouse/mill and two ranges of buildings which were originally used for domestic and industrial purposes, all of which date from the early 19th century. The mill houses the museum while most of the range buildings are used as The Victorian Tea Rooms and let privately. The buildings are set around a cobbled courtyard which provides open-air seating. At the rear of the museum there is a car park and 19th-century waterwheel.
The museum’s core collection was transferred from a private museum at Clannaborough Farm, Throwleigh. It consisted mainly of farming and social history material from northwestern Dartmoor and set the tone for the collection’s future development. The theme ‘Dartmoor Life’ was adopted in 1982.
Three major building development and conservation works during the 1980’s and gallery refurbishments in the early 1990’s provided increased space and facilities for displays, events, research and storage for the growing collection.