Museum of English Rural Life

Museum of English Rural Life
Museum of English Rural Life (MERL)
University of Reading
Redlands Road
Reading
Berkshire
RG1 5EX
England

Website

www.reading.ac.uk/merl

E-mail

Event bookings and enquiries

merlevents@reading.ac.uk

Telephone

0118 378 8660

Fax

0118 378 5632

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.
Variety of British Farming - stained glass window of rural landscape with farmhouse, oasthouses, trees and a river plus fields of sheep and chickens.
baby changing facilities icon Food icon Guided tours icon Shop icon Library icon Study area icon Hearing disability facilities icon Visual disability facilities icon Wheelchair access icon

The Museum was founded in 1951 by the University of Reading. It was the first specialist museum of farming and rural life to be established in England and so was able to acquire large collections of high quality material at a time when mechanisation was bringing great changes to the countryside. It also played an important pioneering part in the formulation of procedures for the processing, cataloguing and conservation of such material. Today, the Museum is active at a national and international level in all aspects of rural museums.

The entire collection of this museum is a Designated Collection of national importance.

Venue Type:

Museum, Library, Archive

Opening hours

Museum exhibitions: Tues - Fri 09.00- 17.00, Sat & Sun 14.00 - 16.30
Library & archives: Mon - Fri 09.00 - 17.00

Museum, Library and Archives closed on bank holidays, between Christmas and New Year and at Easter.

Admission charges

Admission Free

Additional info

Guided Tours are available at weekends at 3pm and on Wednesdays at 2.30pm. Booking is recommended although not essential. Tours are available at other times by appointment.

The entire collection of this museum is a Designated Collection of national importance.

The Museum of English Rural Life is dedicated to the spirit of the English countryside and its people. It was founded by the University of Reading in 1951 at a time when the motorised revolution was changing the face of farming and sweeping away implements and techniques that had evolved over many generations.

Today, the museum is a national centre for the history of food, farming and the countryside, and continues with the task of recording and interpreting rural change. It is both a public resource and an academic research centre, preserving Designated collections of national and international significance. These comprise, in addition to the object collections, a library of over 50,000 books, archives of business and organisational records, and extensive photographic collections.

The collections cover the broad range of material relating to farming, rural crafts and industries, and country life. The bulk of the items date from the period 1850 to 1950. Pre 1850 farm tools and equipment are rare in England. Post 1950, the sheer range and size of farm machinery are inhibitors given the level of exhibition and storage space that we have available. This is why so much emphasis has been placed on reflecting this period through the two dimensional collections - especially the photographs and technical literature.

Collection details

Trade and Commerce, Toys and Hobbies, Social History, Science and Technology, Land Transport, Fine Art, Costume and Textiles, Archives, Agriculture

Key artists and exhibits

  • agricultural hand tools
  • farm wagons: there are over thirty in the collection
  • horse drawn ploughs
  • dairying equipment
  • livestock accessories eg horseshoes; veterinary equipment
  • land drainage material
  • country crafts and rural industries; the thatching collection, for example is particularly extensive as is that covering the woodland trades
  • woodworking and carpentry
  • country smocks
  • basketry; corn dollies
  • friendly society brasses
  • beekeeping equipment
  • animal traps
  • sewing machines
  • paintings and prints, especially of early nineteenth century livestock
  • Designated Collection
Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.

MERL Staircase Exhibition: Reading University College: WW1 & Beyond

  • 1 April — 31 August 2014 *on now

MERL Staircase Exhibition:
Reading University College: WW1 and Beyond.
• Funded by the Arts Council England and inspired by the University of Reading Memorial Book and Clock Tower Memorial, this exhibition reveals the stories of the men and women with connections to the then, Reading University College, who fell during the First World War. The exhibition also looks at the theme of War in a broader sense with interesting items from the Museum and Archive collections relating to other conflicts.
• 1 April 2014 – 31 August 2014

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children

Admission

This exhibition can be seen during MERL opening hours.

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl

MERL: Reading University College: WW1 and beyond: an exhibition

  • 1 April — 31 August 2014 *on now

Funded by Arts Council England and inspired by the University of Reading Memorial Book and Clock Tower Memorial, this exhibition reveals the stories of the men and women with connections to the then Reading Univesity College, who fell during WW1.

The exhibition also looks at the theme of War in a broader sense with interesting items from MERL and the Special Collections relating to other conflicts.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children

Admission

Free during MERL opening hours. See the www site for times.

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl

MERL: Exhibition: The Art and Craft of Suttons.

  • 9 September — 23 November 2014

• The Art and Craft of Suttons
• Suttons was founded in Reading in 1806, trading at first as corn merchants under the name ‘House of Sutton’; later, the company began to sell flower and vegetable seeds. It grew to become a major international firm, as well as the pride of the town. This display shows just a few of the many thousands of Sutton's-related items held in the collections at MERL and explores what we might call the ‘Art of Suttons’ which attained full glory in the lavishly illustrated catalogues of the late 19th century.
• 9 September – 23 November 2014

• Normal opening hours (visit www.reading.ac.uk/special-collections for details)
• Free

Admission

Free, just drop in during MERL's opening hours.

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl

MERL: Exhibition: Huntley & Palmers: a Christmas selection

  • 25 November 2014 — 4 January 2015

• Huntley & Palmers: a Christmas selection
• This seasonal display shows off some of the visual delights in the University’s extensive archive of local biscuit manufacturer Huntley & Palmers.
• 25 November 2014 – 4 January 2015
• MERL and Special Collections Service, Redlands Road, Reading, RG1 5EX
• Normal opening hours (visit www.reading.ac.uk/special-collections for details)

Admission

Free, just drop in during MERL's opening hours.

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl

Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.
photograph of apples on tree

MERL: Weekly Make and Takes. Apple Pom Poms

  • 30 — 31 August 2014 11am-3pm *on now

Come along and have a go at making some apple pom poms!

For more information, please contact merlevents@reading.ac.uk or phone 0118 378 8660 or look at work site.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Admission

Cost: £1.00 per child.

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl

MERL: Family tours

  • 2 September 2014 From 2:30pm

Join members of our team of family tour guides for a fun, interactive 30 minute tour of the museum. Hear stories about what it was once like to live and work in the countryside.
26 August: Dolly the Dairy Maid and Maggie the Thatcher.
2 September: Maggie the Thatcher.
Free, no need to book, just drop in. Suitable for families of all ages.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Admission

Free, just drop-in.

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl

MERL: Toddler Time

  • 5 — 26 September 2014
  • 3 October 2014 10-11am
  • 7 November 2014 10-11am
  • 5 December 2014 10-11am

Come along with your little ones and enjoy songs, stories and activities based on the countryside. Every Friday in September at MERL: From Friday 3rd October, first Friday of the month in the Pop Up in the Learning Hub, Building 24 on the London Road Campus (parking and meeting at MERL).

Suitable for

  • 0-4

Admission

Cost: £2 per child. No need to book.

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl

MERL: Heritage Open Days tours

  • 11 — 12 September 2014 11am-12pm
  • 14 September 2014 3-4pm

As part of the National Heritage Open Days event, MERL is offering behind the scenes tours of our Victorian home, including a visit to the archive and rare book store (Thursday & Friday only) to see some of the hidden treasures.
Special afternoon for children on Saturday 13th September. See separate entry.
Free, but booking required by contacting merlevents@reading.ac.uk or phoning 0118 378 8660.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children

Admission

Free

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl

MERL: Heritage Open Day for families

  • 13 September 2014 3-4pm

Join us for a special behind the scenes tour of the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) and Special Collection's Victorian home and see some of our hidden treasures.

Suitable for

  • 5-6
  • 7-10
  • 11-13
  • 14-15
  • 16-17

Admission

Free, but please book by emailing merlevents@reading.ac.uk or phoning 0118 378 8660.

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl

MERL: Reading reads

  • 25 September 2014 5:30-7:30pm
  • 30 October 2014 5:30-7:30pm
  • 27 November 2014 5:30-7:30pm

MERL's Rural Reads book club is expanding its reach and drawing on Reading University's vast Special Collections for reading inspiration. Along with rural themed books, we have the potential to read anything from Ian Fleming to Mills & boon, chosen by you. Join in an informal discussion in the atmospheric setting of the beautiful Victorian Staircase Hall.

To find the 'book of the month' or more information contact merlevents@reading.ac.uk or phone 0118 378 8660.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children

Admission

Free; £1.50 for tea and biscuits.

MERL: Archives and Texts Seminars

  • 27 October 2014 5:30-6:30pm
  • 24 November 2014 5:30-6:30pm

An interdisciplinary research series co-organised by the Departments of English and Modern Languages & European Studies. This autumn term will focus on the University of Reading's Special Collections.
Contact details of the co-ordinators; Sophie Heywood s.l.heywood@reading.ac.uk and Alison Martin a.e.martin@reading.ac.uk

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children

Admission

Free, come along to the MERL Conference Room.

Website

http://archivesandtexts.wordpress.com

MERL: The Big Draw

  • 30 October 2014 10-11am, 11:30am-12:30pm, 1:30-2:30pm, 3-4pm

Work with the University of Reading art students to help make beautiful hoardings to be used while MERL is closed for Heritage Lottery funded redevelopment work to take place. During this session, attendees will design large format art inspired by MERL's collections using mixed media and the Print Studio's fantastic printing presses. Location: The Print Studio and room G10, Art building L04 London Road Campus. Parking and meeting at MERL reception.

Suitable for

  • 7-10
  • 11-13
  • 14-15
  • 16-17

Admission

Cost: £3 per child. Please book by emailing merlevents@reading.ac.uk or phoning 0118 378 8660.

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl

MERL: Takeover Day: MERL Youth Forum Launch

  • 21 November 2014 4-6pm

• This year’s Takeover Day will see the launch of the MERL Youth Forum. Open to anyone between the ages of 14 and 25, members of the Youth Forum will work collaboratively on a number of exciting and interesting projects that will fall into the running and future planning of the MERL for a new generation. Come along to find out what’s involved.
• Friday, 21 November
• 4 – 6 pm
• Conference room, Museum of English Rural LIfe
• Free, refreshments provided.
• Booking required. To find out more contact Rob Davies on r.j.davies@reading.ac.uk

Suitable for

  • 14-15
  • 16-17
  • 18+

Admission

Free, refreshments provided.

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl

photograph of British press chauffeurs drinking the King's health at their Christmas dinner

MERL: Country Lives Wartime Christmas Party

  • 14 December 2014 2:30-4pm

Meet a land army girl, a nurse, a farmer and other characters from the period and they will tell you what Christmas was like during the First World War and how life had changed for them.

There will be a children’s activity and festive refreshments, along with entertainment drawn from our Special Collections archives and of the period. Suitable for children aged 5 and above.

Suitable for

  • 5-6
  • 7-10
  • 11-13
  • 14-15

Admission

Cost: £3.00 per child.

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl

Resources listed here may include websites, bookable tours and workshops, books, loan boxes and more. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all.

INTERFACE : INTERnet Farm And Countryside Explorer

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl/interface/

Illustrated internet resource on farming, country people and the countryside, designed for a range of users; with sections on
livestock, dairying, rural crafts, country women, the changing landscape, mills and the mechanisation of farm machinery.
Includes Key Stage 2 Victorian Village quiz.

Creator

  • Museum of English Rural Life

Free schools sessions

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl/LearnatMERL/merl-schools.aspx

The Museum of English Rural Life offers an imaginative, experiential programme that brings excitement and interest to a museum visit. We believe that a museum visit should be cross-curricula and 'not just history'. Our collections and garden allow us to offer a school programme that explores objects and collections covering National Curriculum science, maths, art and literacy, as well as history.

How to obtain

Sessions are free, but must be booked in advance. Contact the Learning Manager at merlevents@reading.ac.uk or call 0118 378 8660

Toddler Time at MERL

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl/whatson/merl-familyevents.aspx

Come along to Toddler Time at The Museum of English Rural Life and enjoy rhymes, songs and craft activities based on objects in the collection or the garden. Activities take place on term time Fridays, 10-11am and 13.00-14.00, and are suitable for children 2-4 years old and their carers. £2 per child, accompanying adult free.

How to obtain

£2 per child, accompanying adult free. There's no need to book. Contact merlevents@reading.ac.uk for more details.

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