Weald & Downland Open Air Museum

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.
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.
Weald and Downland Open Air Museum Shepherds Hut

Experience Shepherding and Shepherds’ Huts

  • 11 — 12 April 2015

This is a two-day display of shepherds’ huts – once a familiar sight in the countryside, with their corrugated iron roofs and iron wheels – which were used as the shepherd’s home during lambing when their cast iron stove provided essential warmth to newborn lambs.

It will include the Museum’s collection of traditional agricultural wheeled huts, plus newly converted examples and inspirational new builds. Shepherds’ huts have enjoyed a recent revival as modern moveable space – ideal for home offices, playrooms or holiday accommodation.

Meet the Museum’s Southdown sheep and their lambs, and see sheep-related activities including the blacksmithing of crooks, spinning, gate hurdle making, mutton cookery, plus fascinating free talks. The renowned Copper family will be singing Sussex folk and shepherding songs during the afternoon of the Sunday 12th April. In addition, David Morris will be signing copies of his book Shepherds’ Huts & Living Vans over the weekend.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly


Normal admission charges apply.



Weald & Downland Food & Folk Festival

Food & Folk Festival

  • 3 — 4 May 2015 10:30am-5pm

The very best of the South East’s produce, crafts, books and plants will be showcased at our spring event. Enjoy cookery classes and demonstrations, traditional folk music, dancing and storytelling. There will be lots of tasty samples to try before you buy!

Suitable for

  • Family friendly



The Museum at Night 2015

  • 15 — 16 May 2015 9-10:30pm

Starting at 9pm, join a guided walk through the Museum site, stopping to visit some of our houses and discover how the people who dwelt there in the past would have lived during the hours of dusk and darkness.

How did they light the dark? What did they do in the evenings? What did the darkness mean to them?

Tickets cost £15 per person. Pre-booking is essential. To book tickets please call 01243 811021 or email courses@wealddown.co.uk.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children


£15 per person



Wood Show

  • 20 — 21 June 2015 10:30am-5pm

Wood has formed a part of many of the Museum’s shows since the 1980’s and this two-day event celebrates the many traditional uses of wood.

Visitors will enjoy a range of wood craft demonstrations, a working wood yard, teams of heavy horses carrying out forestry tasks, exhibitors and displays. From the Museum’s own timber-framed buildings to crafted bowls, furniture, tools, toys and other wood products – there will be plenty to see, do and buy.

New biennial event.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly



Rare Breeds Show

  • 19 July 2015 10am-4pm

Four legs, furry legs, feathered legs…come and see cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and poultry in this delightful agricultural show for rare and traditional breeds. With prizes at stake, and classes for young handlers, it is one of the biggest shows of its kind in the South East and hugely popular with visitors and exhibitors alike. Plus craft and trade stands with a countryside theme.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly



Vintage & Steam Show

  • 15 — 16 August 2015 10:30am-5pm

All the bustle and excitement of a traditional Steam Festival, with full-size and model steam engines on display and working around the site.

Vintage & commercial vehicles, classic cars, including a Jaguar Enthusiasts Club display. Living wagons will be on show, alongside working steamrollers, steam lorries, model boats and a miniature railway.

Take a ride on the ever-popular steam-powered carousel gallopers and visit the traditional vintage fair. With vintage music and a themed tea tent, local crafts and traditional demonstrations, plus continuous arena displays throughout the weekend.



Autumn Countryside Show

  • 10 — 11 October 2015 10:30am-5pm

Experience the sights, sounds and smells of the countryside at harvest time.

At this beautiful time of year, experience teams of heavy horses ploughing the fields and vintage tractors at work. Enjoy a steam-powered threshing demonstration alongside falconry and dog displays together with a fun dog show in the main arena. See woodland and rural craft demonstrations as well as thatching and traditional competitions thoughout the weekend. Also browse and buy gifts with a countryside theme at the many craft and trade stands.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly



Christmas Market at the Weald & Downland Museum

Christmas Market 2015

  • 14 — 15 November 2015 10:30am-4pm

Find that perfect gift and enjoy a great day out.

This bustling Christmas Market is located in and around the Museum’s historic buildings, with over 130 stands selling arts, crafts, food, unusual gifts and much more, you will be able to browse and buy at your leisure.

As well as the craft and trade stands, there will be hot chestnuts to ward off the winter chill, and other tasty seasonal treats to sample and buy, including a delicious hog roast and festive music around the site. Visitors can also enjoy meeting the Museum’s working horses that will be on site throughout the weekend.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly



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.