Discover and experience the sights, sounds and smells of the Weald & Downland Living Museum, and get a real taste of the lives our ancestors lived.
The award-winning open-air Museum is nestled in a 40-acre site in the South Downs National Park in Singleton, near Chichester. The Museum first opened its doors in 1970 and was founded by Dr J.R Armstrong MBE. It has since become one of the region’s top attractions, welcoming around 150,000 visitors every year.
Home to The Repair Shop, the Museum’s aim is to preserve historical buildings and keep traditional trades, crafts and skills alive for future generations through increasing awareness and education.
The Museum invites visitors to take a unique glimpse into its rural history and experience over 50 historic buildings and exhibits, which span over 1,000 years. These include a medieval farmstead, a working 17th-century watermill, and a traditional Victorian school and bakehouse.
The buildings seen today date from 950 AD to the 21st century and have been rescued from across the weald and downland region and carefully dismantled, conserved and rebuilt in their original historic form. Each showcases extraordinary examples of early architecture and the materials used in construction, and tells the stories of those who lived and worked in rural South East England.
All-year-round, visitors and Museum members can escape the hustle and bustle of modern life and enjoy the picturesque surroundings whilst exploring the historic buildings, enjoying self-led nature trails, walking their dogs in the beautiful woodland areas or simply relaxing with a cup of coffee by the millpond. The buildings are spread out across the rural landscape, making it a firm family favourite, bringing history to life and sparking the imagination and curiosity of children and adults of all ages, as they learn about the past and enjoy the great outdoors.
The interactive nature of the Weald & Downland Living Museum also boosts mindfulness. From demonstrations of how everyday activities such as cooking and milling were carried out in the past, to the range of traditional arts and crafts courses on offer, there is a chance for visitors to pause, reflect, slow down and even learn new skills.
Emma Keen, Head of Marketing & Membership, says:
“There is something very restful about the atmosphere at the Museum.
Our buildings and architecture give visitors a real connection to the past, and I think that leads us all to reflect and see our present with fresh eyes.
There’s also a chance to learn something, from historical facts to new skills, and people often leave with a real sense of achievement at having improved themselves.
It’s well-known that being outdoors can boost wellbeing, and there are few places more beautiful than the South Downs National Park to enjoy the fresh air and the natural world. It’s undoubtedly a beautiful place to work, and it’s very satisfying to see how happy and relaxed visitors are after their visit. It’s definitely something we aim to make sure continues for years to come.”
Alongside the rich variety of working buildings, the Museum is also a place of education, teaching different crafts and trades from across the region in the modern Downland Gridshell building, which was built in 2002 as a conservation workshop. Here you can also view fascinating collections, including over 15,000 historic artefacts – all reflecting different aspects of historic rural living such as domestic life, trade industries, agriculture and transport.
The Museum offers many learning journeys, with an extensive selection of courses and workshops available from leading experts who cover subjects in building conservation and heritage crafts and trades. As well as their award-winning adult learning programme, the Museum also offers two Master of Science (MSc) degrees in Building Conservation, and a well-established schools programme, which regularly welcomes school visits from across the South East region.
Throughout the year, the Museum hosts an array of events from the popular Historic Life Weekends to heritage exhibitions and family activities. There are also festive events such as tree dressing, and the opportunity to meet the traditional Green Father Christmas throughout December.
The opportunities are endless, from a great day out to short and single courses, as well as volunteering, memberships and more. Visit www.wealddown.co.uk for more information.
All photographs are copyright of The Weald and Downland Museum in Singleton, Chichester, West Sussex; www.wealddown.co.uk.