Weald & Downland Open Air Museum

Weald and Downland Museum
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Our ancestors’ homes and the way they built them, their animals and the way they raised them, their crops and flowers and the way they grew them… at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum visitors discover how the people of south east England lived over the last 500 years. And it’s all set in 40 glorious acres of the South Downs National Park.

At the heart of the Museum’s collection are 50 historic homes, farms and workplaces that have been rescued and restored as far as possible to their original form. To demonstrate how the original occupants may have lived, many of the houses contain reproduction period furniture, plus the tools and utensils of everyday life. There is an operational 17th century watermill and a working Tudor kitchen complete with costumed cook.

Children enjoy discovering the differences – and similarities – of our ancestors’ homes and workplaces compared to their own. They will love the open space, walking through the woods, meeting the traditional breed farm animals and watching the Shire horses.

The Museum keeps alive the skills and traditions of the countryside with demonstrations of countryside crafts and skills, and special events throughout the year.

Venue Type:

Museum, Garden, parklands or rural site

Opening hours

3 Jan - 27 Feb Winter season. Wed Sat & Sun only.
16 Feb - 20 Feb Half term week. Open Daily.
28 Feb - 22 Dec Main season. Open Daily.
23 Dec - 25 Dec Christmas holiday. Closed.
26 Dec - 28 Dec Tudor Christmas. Open daily.
29 Dec - 1 Jan 2016 Open for Christmas. Open daily.
Opening hours: BST 10:30 - 18:00. Remainder of the year 10:30 - 16:00.

Admission charges

Adults gift aid £12.50 (standard £11.00)
Adults gift aid 65+ £11.00 (standard £10.00)
Children 4–15 years / Full time students gift aid £7.00 (standard £6.00)
Family (2 + 3) gift aid £35.00 (standard £31.00)
Children under 4 years Free
Registered disabled / single helper £5.00 each
Free car parking


  • Museums Association

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

Over 45 buildings, illustrating the development of buildings in Kent, East and West Sussex, Surrey and eastern Hampshire, have been reconstructed on the Museum's site. They include four medieval houses, seven later houses and cottages (including Tudor and Victorian), a medieval shop, agricultural buildings and craft and trade workshops. The Museum's buildings, together with the expertise gained in dismantling and reconstructing them, are essential for the study of the vernacular architecture in south-east England and of timber framed building. Each building has been carefully reconstructed to a particular period in its history and provides insights into aspects of working domestic life. The primary collection of buildings is supplemented by important collections of building parts, craft and building tools and agricultural equipment. The Museum offers an extensive programme of lifelong learning based on the collections. The Museum's new open-access conservation workshop and artefact store has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and will provide a permanent base for training in historic building conservation.

Rescued from destruction, the buildings have been carefully dismantled, conserved and rebuilt to their original form and bring to life the homes, farmsteads and rural industries of the last 500 years. Wander through these exhibits at your leisure - a majestic timber framed farmhouse from Kent; a striking market hall from Hampshire; a Victorian school; a medieval shop; carpenters, plumbers and brickmakers workshops; barns; a granary and a tread wheel from the South Downs. Many of the interiors have been furnished, recreating the way the buildings were used by their owners centuries ago: seven historic gardens show the herbs, vegetables and flowers grown to meet the needs of rural households from medieval to Victorian times.

See bread, pottage and sweetmeats being prepared in the working Tudor kitchen, you may even be invited to sample the results! Pause at the working water mill where stone ground flour is produced daily, experience a recreated Tudor farm, enjoy a picnic by the millpond or a walk in the woods. Delight in the company of our rare and traditional breeds of farm livestock - working horses, cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry. See traditional farming in action and heavy horses at work. Demonstrators regularly show their skills and everyone you meet will be happy to talk about how people lived and worked. Discover the skills of the early carpenters, find out about traditional building techniques and learn how we help to conserve rural crafts.

Hens peck in the straw, woolly faced sheep chew the downland grass and Shire horses work in the fields. Enjoy the rhythm of the traditional countryside and unspoilt landscape. For a complete contrast visit the Downland Gridshell, the museum's workshop and store for supporting collections - in an amazing award-winning architectural tour de force, the first timber gridshell in Britain. Tours daily at 1.30pm. Children will enjoy the freedom to roam in safety and gain hands-on experience of the museums buildings, gardens and animals.

Collection details

Social History, Industry, Archives, Architecture, Agriculture

Key artists and exhibits

  • Gridshell
  • Designated Collection
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.

Tree Dressing 2015

  • 6 December 2015

A magical occasion for all the family celebrating the importance of trees in our lives.

Join in traditional songs and dances. Bring a jam jar and turn it into a lantern, then join the procession illuminated by hundreds of lanterns and dress the trees as darkness falls.


Normal admission charges apply.



Museum at Christmas

  • 26 — 28 December 2015

Traditionally decorated houses reflect the spirit of Christmas throughout the ages – from Medieval to Edwardian times. Period music, historical demonstrations, traditional food and drink, plus crackling open log fires will bring history to life so visitors can discover how our rural ancestors celebrated Christmas.


Normal admission charges apply.



Winter Half-Term Family Activities

  • 15 — 19 February 2016

Put on your winter woolies and wellies, and warm up with a week of creative activities and countryside skills, including outdoor trails, arts and crafts to inspire all of your family!

Wet weather will not spoil play as we have plenty of areas under cover. Activities will include: make a bird pudding, weaving, rag rugging, badge making, lino printing, winter scavenger hunt and Victorian household chores.

The Museum’s historic buildings are fascinating places to explore. Learn how food was prepared without modern technology in the Tudor kitchen. See how our watermill works using a very topical natural resource and buy a bag of grain for the hungry ducks on the millpond! Look out for the Shire horses and cattle, and the traditional breed farm animals including sheep, chickens and geese.

Most activities are under cover and will run from 11am – 3pm. Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times. The lakeside café will be open, plus there are indoor and outdoor picnic areas. Dogs on leads are welcome and there is ample free parking. Please wear clothes and shoes that are suitable for playing outdoors.


Normal admission charges apply.



Easter at the Museum 2016

  • 25 — 28 March 2016

Visitors to the Museum can step back in time and experience the Tudor (and traditional) Easter celebrations of ordinary folk.

Our fun-packed schedule offers activities for the whole family to enjoy: Easter cooking in the Tudor kitchen, egg painting, bonnet making and a traditional Bonnet Parade on Easter Monday.

The Bayleaf farmstead with its adjoining Winkhurst Tudor kitchen offers an impressive backdrop to the Easter activities. The long-established Good Friday Bake in the Tudor kitchen will begin the weekend’s celebrations, with the firing-up of the bread oven. On Easter Saturday, historic preparations for Easter will be demonstrated.

Easter marks the start of the Museum’s main season, when the rejuvenating powers of the longer days and warmer weather can be enjoyed against the stunning backdrop of the Museum’s South Downs location. In addition to the traditional entertainment, visitors can meet the Museum’s new spring lambs and, enjoy refreshments from the Café.


Normal admission charges apply.



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.

Building Materials - Getting to Grips


A hands-on gallery of building construction aimed at KS2 Science, Design and Technology.

How to obtain

Contact the Schools Service on 01243 811459 or email schoolbookings@wealddown.co.uk for more information.

Weald & Downland Open Air Museum
West Sussex
PO18 0EU







01243 811363

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.