Weald & Downland Open Air Museum

Weald and Downland Museum
baby changing facilities icon Food icon Shop icon Library icon Study area icon Wheelchair access icon

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
Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.

Narrative Cloth Exhibition

  • 21 — 27 September 2015

An exhibition of new contemporary artworks by three artists from the Department of Fine Art, University of Chichester, Rachel Johnston, Victoria Brown and Shirley Chubb.

The artworks have been inspired by the Museum’s Historic Clothing Project as well as a range of documentary sources used by the Museum’s social historian, Danae Tankard, to investigate 17th century provincial clothing. The artists have each responded to the idea of narrative in these documentary sources – in other words, the stories the documents reveal about clothes and their wearers.

The exhibition will be open from 11am – 5pm from Monday 21 September to Saturday 26 September and 11am – 6pm on Sunday 27 September. Entry is included in the regular museum admission price.


Normal admission charges apply.



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.

Woodyard & Charcoal Weekend

  • 27 — 31 August 2015 *on now

For five days the traditional early 20th century earth clamp will be built, tended and then dismantled on Bank Holiday Monday.
Woodland management demonstrations will also be held throughout the event.


Normal admission charges apply.



Open Air Theatre: Mr Stink

  • 31 August 2015 6-8:30pm *on now

Watch the fabulous characters from the infamous novel by David Walliams come to life in Heartbreak Productions’ adaptation of Mr. Stink for the outdoor stage. Mrs Crumb (or “Croooombe” as she would have it) is throwing a garden party for her high-achieving daughter, Annabelle. Desperate to appear as posh as possible, Mrs Crumb has organised sweet stalls, croquet and old fashioned party games with the aim to impress everyone. All ages are invited to come along, join in the organised fun and get to know the Crumb family and their community.

One party-goer, however, has not been invited and he happens to be an extremely stinky, homeless gentleman. This doesn’t put off Mrs Crumb’s eldest daughter Chloe. Often overlooked, Chloe and her inquisitive imagination soon put the wheels in motion for an unforgettable tale of friendship. On a perfectly average afternoon, two restless souls unite on a bench in an average English town – one of them the lonely 12 year old Chloe and the other an incredibly smelly homeless man. Oh, and let’s not forget his loyal dog, the Duchess. Acting upon her curiosity and responding to her kindness, Chloe and Mr. Stink forge an extraordinary and rewarding friendship that takes them to the heady heights of live television and Downing Street via a garden shed.

An outdoor show packed with fun, humour and a heart-warming message, Heartbreak Productions’ adaptation of Mr Stink is suitable for the whole family to enjoy together.


Tickets are £12 for adults, £8 for children, or £35 for 2 adults and 2 children. To purchase tickets call 01243 811021 or email courses@wealddown.co.uk.



Brewing & Harvesting Weekend

  • 5 — 6 September 2015

An introduction to traditional brewing skills – transforming barley and hops into ale and beer – and using other produce harvested in our traditional fields and gardens.


Normal admission charges apply.



Women’s Institute Centenary Event

  • 8 September 2015 10:30am-6pm

Showcasing everything that the WI does best, activities will run throughout the Museum site on this special day.

Arts & Crafts Through The Ages

Fifty WIs from West Sussex will create their own displays, commemorating the year in which they were each founded. Displays will comprise a selection of craft items, including a flower arrangement, decorated 8” cake and A Child’s Dress (knitted, sewn or crocheted). The displays will be judged prior to the opening and awarded prestigious prizes. Every WI in West Sussex is invited to apply for a table-top display and successful applicants will be sent the full criteria. To apply for a table, please download an application form here. Refreshments will be available.

Creating a Sketchbook

Deborah Harwood, owner of The Textile Space and West Sussex Woman of the Year in Arts 2014, will be presenting ‘Creating a Sketchbook’, an inspirational seminar on how to start a sketchbook for all your creative ideas, thoughts and plans. Tickets for this seminar are limited and should be purchased in advance – call Kate on 01243 811207 to book.

100 Years of Inspiring Women

The WI’s enduring ethos is that of inspiring women. This display will feature the most inspiring women from each decade since the formation of the WI, s nominated by WI members. Visitors will have the opportunity to vote for their own most inspiring women from each decade.


Normal admission charges apply.



Historic Clothing Day

  • 27 September 2015

On Sunday 27 September 2015 we will be holding the fourth in our annual series of study days. The theme will be clothing history from circa 1500 to circa 1900. The subjects that will be covered over the course of the day include Henry VIII’s wardrobe
fashion in late 17th century Sussex
18th and early 19th century dress and accessories from the Olive Matthews Collection, Chertsey Museum
the dress of the 19th century poor
and our own Historic Clothing Project.

Our specialist speakers this year are Professor Maria Hayward from the University of Southampton
the museum’s social historian, Dr Danae Tankard
Keeper of Costume at the Chertsey Museum, Grace Evans
Dr Vivienne Richmond from Goldsmiths, University of London
and historic clothing designer, Barbara Painter.

There will be time during lunch and at the end of the day to explore displays and demonstrations around the site. The work of the Museum’s Historic Clothing Project will be on display together with a series of new contemporary art works that it has inspired, created by three artists from the Department of Fine Art at the University of Chichester.


The day is pre-ticketed: £50 for adults and £40 for Museum Friends. Contact 01243 811021 or email courses@wealddown.co.uk.



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



Autumn Half-Term Family Activities

  • 26 — 30 October 2015

Wonderful seasonal activities and fun for families. Play conkers, make a mini Guy Fawkes and much more.


Normal admission charges apply.



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



Candlelit Walk

  • 27 November 2015

Explore the Museum by candlelight and learn about the lives of our rural ancestors. A guided walk starting at 5pm, finishing with mulled wine and mince pies.


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



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.