Weald & Downland Open Air Museum
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.
Museum, Garden, parklands or rural site
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.
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.
Social History, Industry, Archives, Architecture, Agriculture
Key artists and exhibits
- Designated Collection
Weald & Downland building archaeology weekend
- 10 — 12 July 2015
The Museum was founded to preserve and display examples of vernacular buildings from the south-east region of England. Each of its buildings has been carefully dismantled and removed from its original site before being re-erected at the museum. This process has required the analysis and recording of each building’s structure, which has contributed to the museum’s understanding of its own vernacular buildings as well as to the understanding of vernacular buildings more generally.
The exhibition will focus on the dismantling and recording of two key buildings within the Museum’s collection: a house from Walderton, West Sussex and Longport Farmhouse from Newington, Kent.
The associated trail will take visitors around the Museum’s site (including exhibit buildings and the Museum’s artefact store), highlighting aspects of building archaeology from carpenters’ marks on timbers, to ritual ‘deposits’ found in some of our buildings’ fabric upon dismantling.
Prices include Gift Aid (standard charges in brackets). Adults £12.50 (£11.00). Adults 65+ £11.00 (£10.00). Children 4-15 years/full time students £7.00 (£6.00). Under 4s enter for free. Family ticket of 2 adults + 2 children £35.00 (£31.00). Registered Disabled/single helper £5.00 each.
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.
- 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.
- Family friendly
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.
- Family friendly
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Weald & Downland Open Air Museum