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Weymouth Timewalk PART II: Entering the Past

August 2, 2018

 With a clever use of storytelling, Weymouth's atmospheric Timewalk attraction featured some unique hosts. Stepping through various historical eras, visitors would encounter the nine lives of the same cat, Ms. Paws. These different incarnations were often fully costumed and always full of character, revealing each scandalous detail of their surroundings.

 

Entrance to the Timewalk

 

 We meet Ms. Paws at the entrance, flying a time-travelling barrel. This model was added in a 1999 update of the attraction:

 

A photograph by Stuart Morris beside a design by Farmer Studios

 

Even earlier concepts for the entrance feature by Farmer Studios

 

Left to right: A picture from the entrance counter by Stuart Morris, a design by Farmer Studios, a picture of a bar scene set up behind the counter

 

 The entrance room reflected the feel of an old brewery, with wispy Roman numerals floating about the walls. However, a slide from the Weymouth Museum archive shows how the entrance area was originally very plain:

 

 

 In sketches by John Sunderland, we see 'remodelling' notes about changing the entrance to make it more exciting. Here, he considers changing the counter location and adding a traditional seaside theme:

 

 

 The entrance room was eventually redecorated in 1999; this design includes seating around an elaborate water feature which was never included:

 

 

 Farmer Studios produced further ideas, with the central aesthetic being the final pick:

 

   

 After paying at the counter, visitors would follow the Roman numerals up the stairs to a seating area; they would wait here for up to a minute, before a light-up sign welcomed them to open a door and begin their journey through time!

 

Clockwise from left: A design for the seating area by John Sunderland, a picture of the stairs by Stuart Morris, a picture by visitor Loz Hurley, a picture by visitor Chris Tyas

 

The Beginning: Ms. Paws and Mr. Cross

 

 Visitors step into a dim, musty room full of local artefacts. With the brewery archivist Mr. Cross sleeping at his desk (the animatronic would rise and fall with each snore), the Timewalk's mascot cat Ms. Paws welcomes visitors and opens a portal into the past! She does this by speaking magic words in her Dorset accent- a huge clock lights up and the hands begin to spin backwards, accompanied by mystifying music. The wall behind the clock opens like a door and visitors step into the shadowy passage behind it.

 

“Well if you're gonna stay, keep the noise down 'cause you'll wake Mr. Cross. If you wake him up, he'll be pretty cross, I can tell you.” 

 

Pictures by Loz Hurley

 

 As seen in the designs above, Farmer Studios considered the idea of having an opening wall that took visitors into the past, while John Sunderland developed the idea of the archivist's busy office. To the left is Mr. Cross' sculpt in the workshop!

 

 Our cat host, Ms. Paws, was not always a woman, but originally a “very old”, scrawny male with black fur.

 

 

 After making this design, John transformed Paws into the Timewalk's most memorable character:

 

 

 Today, this room has been completely taken out, but if you look at the ground, you can still see the paw prints that led visitors into the past and the track where the wall would open:

 

Picture by Liam Findlay

 

 If you visited the Timewalk yourself, do you remember the first stop in your journey through time? If not, PART III will reveal all as we take a look at the scariest scenes! Part I is here if you haven't seen it yet.

 

 Unless otherwise stated, imagery in this article is from the wonderful Weymouth Museum archive. All concept designs are also stored there.

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