One of the earliest collections to be housed in Torquay Museum were the finds accumulated by William Pengelly, a Cornish-born geologist and mathematician, from his cave explorations conducted between 1858 and 1880 in Brixham and Torquay.

The Fleet in Torbay and the presentation of a new colour to the Royal Navy aboard HMS Eagle, July 28-29, 1969 (PR22316.41)The Fleet in Torbay and the presentation of a new colour to the Royal Navy aboard HMS Eagle, July 28-29, 1969 (PR22316.41)

Pengelly systematically excavated the nearby Kents Cavern and discovered evidence which supported the new theories on evolution, laid down by Charles Darwin.

Throughout the span of the museum’s existence these collections have continued to grow, and it now has the foremost collection of Pleistocene mammal bones and archaeology in a regional museum in the UK, and the largest collection of animal remains from nearby Kents Cavern.

These collections help us to understand the origins of modern humans in Britain and they also contain considerable evidence of other human species, such as Neanderthals, that were living in Devon long before modern humans arrived.

Some of the finds from Kents Cavern are of international importance - most notably the fragment of human jaw (KC4) which is the oldest known piece of a modern human skeleton from North West Europe and dates from more than 40,000 years ago.

HMS Torquay in the Bay, on July 28-29, 1969 (PR22316.35)HMS Torquay in the Bay, on July 28-29, 1969 (PR22316.35)

There are also many stone tools held in the collection including some of the oldest handaxes ever found in Britain (probably dating to around 525,000 years ago).

• Photographs from Torquay Museum’s archive can be purchased by quoting their PR number to enquiries@torquaymuseum.org. The museum is a registered charity and the money raised from purchasing images goes to supporting vital work looking after the collections.