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

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.

MERL: Museum family tours:

  • 29 May 2014 2:30-3pm

• MERL family tours
• Join members of our team of family tour guides for a fun, interactive 30 minute tour of the museum and hear stories about what it was like to live and work in the countryside.
• Tuesday 18th February, Tuesday 8th April, Tuesday 15th April, Thursday 29th May
(14.30 – 15.00)

Suitable for

  • Any age

Admission

The tour is free, so please just drop-in. The further information phone 0118 378 8660 or email merlevents@reading.ac.uk

Website

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

MERL: Rural Reads

  • 24 April 2014 5:30-7:30pm
  • 29 May 2014 5:30-7:30pm
  • 26 June 2014 5:30-7:30pm

• Rural Reads
• The MERL book club focuses on books with a rural theme, chosen by you. Join in an informal discussion in the relaxed and atmospheric setting of the Museum.
• 30th January, 27th February, 27th March, 24th April, 29th May and 26th June (17.30 – 19.30)

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children

Admission

• Free - £1.50 for tea and biscuits
• For more information contact: merlevents@reading.ac.uk 0118 378 8660 or visit: www.reading.ac.uk/merl to find the 'Book of the Month'

Website

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

Battle Hospital staff and patients 1917

MERL Seminar: Reading's First World War

  • 29 April 2014 1-2pm

When the announcement came that war was declared on Germany, few could have imagined just how profoundly this conflict would affect the lives of Reading’s people. Within months, the town had been mobilised towards the war effort as wounded soldiers began to arrive at hastily organised hospitals. Men and boys enlisted, leaving their loved ones to show fortitude at home.

Part of 'The Great War and the Countryside' seminar series marking a century since the outbreak of the First World War.The talks will reveal a range of narratives, including some connected with Berkshire and Reading. Others will chart the varied ways in which this terrible conflict came to impact upon the British countryside and beyond.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children
  • 18+
  • 16-17

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl/WW1seminars

MERL Seminars: The Origins of the First World War: an historical perspective

  • 6 May 2014 1-2pm

By Jolyon Lloyd, Independent Scholar

In July 1914, British foreign secretary Edward Grey penned the now infamous words ‘the lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.’ But what had impelled Britain and Germany to take up arms against each other? This talk explores the extensive scholarship investigating the origins of the Great War.

Part of 'The Great War and the Countryside' seminar series marking a century since the outbreak of the First World War.The talks will reveal a range of narratives, including some connected with Berkshire and Reading. Others will chart the varied ways in which this terrible conflict came to impact upon the British countryside and beyond.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children
  • 18+
  • 16-17

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl/ww1seminars

MERL Museums at night 2014: After Hours: 1951 Vintage Night

  • 17 May 2014 8-11:45pm

• MERL After Hours: 1951 Vintage Night
• For Museums at Night 2014, the Museum of English Rural Life will be turning back the clock to 1951, the year that the museum first began, and holding a fabulous 1950s vintage night. It will be a chance for visitors to dig out their petticoats and their winklepickers and come to MERL for an evening of live music, jiving, cocktails, vintage crafts alongside a fascinating display of some of the museum’s first acquisitions and against the backdrop of some fabulous 1950s film from the museum’s archive.
• Saturday, 17th May (8 til late)

Suitable for

  • 14-15
  • 16-17
  • 18+

Admission

•Cost £5 / £3 concessions (in advance)/ £6/ £4 concessions (on the door)
•Registration is preferable: To book a place please contact: merlevents@reading.ac.uk / 0118 8660 or visit: www.reading.ac.uk/merl

Website

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

MERL Seminars: Food Security in The Great War

  • 20 May 2014 1-2pm

By Dr John Martin, Reader in Agrarian History, De Montfort University

Prior to the outbreak of the Great War Britain produced little more than half of its food requirements. Yet during the war the country was neither starved into submission nor forced to endure the malnutrition which engulfed many other countries. This talk will evaluate the role played by the farming community in saving the country from starvation.

Part of 'The Great War and the Countryside' seminar series marking a century since the outbreak of the First World War.The talks will reveal a range of narratives, including some connected with Berkshire and Reading. Others will chart the varied ways in which this terrible conflict came to impact upon the British countryside and beyond.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children
  • 16-17
  • 18+

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl/ww1seminars

MERL: May Half Term: Palmer's Painted Glass

  • 27 May 2014 10am-12pm, 2-4pm

• Palmer’s Painted Glass
• Explore the beautiful Victorian home of biscuit manufacturer, Sir Alfred Palmer which was designed by Alfred Waterhouse and be inspired by its beautiful stained glass windows. Back at the MERL studio, decorate your very own piece of painted glass to take away and add some colour and Victorian splendour to your home. Suitable for children aged 5+.
• Tuesday 27th May (10.00 – 12.00 and 14.00 – 16.00)

Suitable for

  • 5-6
  • 7-10

Admission

• £3 per child.
• Booking essential. To book a place, please contact: merlevents@reading.ac.uk 0118 378 8660 or visit: www.reading.ac.uk/merl

Website

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

Bee

MERL: May Half Term: Bee Pots

  • 28 May 2014 10am-12:30pm, 1:30-4pm

Learn how to plant a bee-friendly garden and plant your very own pot to take away. Suitable for children aged 3+. Wednesday 28th May (10:00 – 12:30 and 13:30 – 16:00). No need to book, just drop in. For more information visit the web site, phone 0118 378 8660 or email merlevents@reading.ac.uk

Suitable for

  • Especially for children
  • 7-10
  • 14-15
  • 18+
  • 5-6
  • 11-13
  • 16-17

Admission

Cost: £2 per child.

Website

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

MERL Village Fete

  • 31 May 2014 10am-4pm

• MERL Village Fete
• MERL's annual Village Fete will be on the theme of food this year, so come along and join in the fun! With cooking demonstrations, Morris dancing and Stave dancing, local food growers and producers, cream teas, hog roast, live music, arts and crafts, traditional games and much more.
• Saturday, 31st May (10.00 – 16.00)

Suitable for

  • Any age

Admission

•Cost: £2.50 per adult/ children free
• Find out more on our website at: www.reading.ac.uk/merl/villagefete

Website

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

MERL Seminars: Open Spaces After The Great War

  • 10 June 2014 1-2pm

By Professor Keith Grieves, Professor of History and Education, Kingston University

This talk explores the interplay of remembrance, recreation and reafforestation after the war, examining the effects of military service and sacrifice on the preservation of scenic landscapes in the 1920s.

Part of 'The Great War and the Countryside' seminar series marking a century since the outbreak of the First World War.The talks will reveal a range of narratives, including some connected with Berkshire and Reading. Others will chart the varied ways in which this terrible conflict came to impact upon the British countryside and beyond.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children
  • 18+
  • 16-17

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl/ww1seminars

MERL: Whiteknights Trail Studio Trail 2014

  • 14 — 15 June 2014 11am-6pm

• Whiteknight’s Trail Studio Trail 2014
• A walking tour of artists’ studios in the University of Reading area and MERL will host a number of artists during the weekend. MERL is one of the few venues serving refreshments, so come along for tea and cake or bring a picnic to enjoy in our beautiful garden.
• Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th June (11.00 – 18.00)
• Various locations in Reading, including MERL

Suitable for

  • Family friendly

Admission

• Free (refreshments available)
• For further information contact: www.studiotrail.co.uk

Website

http://www.studiotrail.co.uk

Berkshire Yeomanry

MERL Seminars: 'Be you Berkshire?': The Berkshire Yeomanry During WW1

  • 17 June 2014 1-2pm

By Captain Andrew French, Assistant Honorary Curator, Berkshire Yeomanry Museum.

The Berkshire Yeomanry was greatly expanded after the Boer War. It recruited from towns and countryside throughout the county including areas now in Oxfordshire. This talk explores the links between a regiment and its community, revealing the stories of some who served between 1914 and 1916, in the United Kingdom, Egypt, Palestine, France, and Flanders.

Part of 'The Great War and the Countryside' seminar series marking a century since the outbreak of the First World War.The talks will reveal a range of narratives, including some connected with Berkshire and Reading. Others will chart the varied ways in which this terrible conflict came to impact upon the British countryside and beyond.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children
  • 18+
  • 16-17

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl/ww1seminars

MERL: Adult Learners Week

  • 18 June 2014 2-4pm

• Adult Leaners Week:
• A behind the scenes event for anyone interested in finding out what it is really like working in a museum and archive. From collection management to public engagement, access all areas during this unique event and learn about MERL’s lifelong learning opportunities.
• Wednesday, 18th June (14.00 – 16.00)

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children

Admission

Cost: £1 including refreshments
• To book a place please contact: merlevents@reading.ac.uk 0118 378 8660 or visit: www.reading.ac.uk/merl

Website

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

MERL Seminars: Food, Diet and Consumption on the Home Front During WW1

  • 24 June 2014 1-2pm

By Dr Nicola Verdon, Reader in Modern British History, Sheffield Hallam University

In early 1918 government investigators were sent to examine the conditions of employment in English agriculture. This talk explores one important theme to emerge from the report: food, diet and the standard of living amongst rural labouring families.

Part of 'The Great War and the Countryside' seminar series marking a century since the outbreak of the First World War.The talks will reveal a range of narratives, including some connected with Berkshire and Reading. Others will chart the varied ways in which this terrible conflict came to impact upon the British countryside and beyond.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children
  • 18+
  • 16-17

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl/ww1seminars

MERL Seminars: Eggs Enlisted?: Egg production and the impact of war

  • 1 July 2014 1-2pm

By Professor Karen Sayer, Professor of Social and Cultural History, Leeds Trinity University

Policy makers began to view egg-production as a profitable pursuit even before the Great War broke out. During wartime itself, eggs were collected via schools, drawn into charitable efforts, and used to raise funds for the wounded. Following the war, poultry farming came to attract many ex-servicemen. This talk will explore and untangle some of these histories.

Part of 'The Great War and the Countryside' seminar series marking a century since the outbreak of the First World War.The talks will reveal a range of narratives, including some connected with Berkshire and Reading. Others will chart the varied ways in which this terrible conflict came to impact upon the British countryside and beyond.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children
  • 18+
  • 16-17

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl/ww1seminars

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.

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

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

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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