Kent Life (Formerly the Museum of Kent Life.) is an English open-air museum located at Sandling, next to Allington Locks, on the east bank of the River Medway. Sir Garrard Tyrwhitt-Drake bequeated the Cobtree Manor Estate to Maidstone Borough Council in 1966. A part of the estate was Sandling Farm, on the banks of the Medway. In 1984 a decision was made to restore the derelict farm as part of a rural life museum. The museum opened to the public on July 6, 1985. At the museum, various aspects of farming are recreated. There are two small hop gardens, growing Fuggles and Goldings hops. Apple and plum orchards, a herb garden, a soft fruit garden and various livestock, they showcase and breed traditional farm animals, with their free-range livestock including sheep, cattle, pigs, horses, donkeys, goats, poultry, rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, ducks, geese and, most recently, alpacas. All animals are housed in historic outhouse barns.
The museum has a variety of buildings, most of which have been dismantled and re-erected at the museum. The barn. A five bay barn dating from the eighteenth century and originally at Vale Farm, Calcott, near Sturry. The barn has an oak frame and a thatched roof. It was dismantled in 1984 and re-erected at the museum in 1989. The chapel. The chapel is a timber framed building clad in corrugated iron (a tin tabernacle). It was originally built in 1897 in Cuxton and was donated to the museum in 2000 when a new chapel was built. Old Cottage and Water Street Cottage. Originally called Old Cottage and Water Street Cottage, these cottages stood at Lenham. The Grade II listed building were threatened by the building of the Channel Tunnel rail link. The builder of the link offered the cottages to the museum, along with the funding for their removal and re-erection. They were dismantled in June 1999, and re-erected between January 2000 and March 2001, opening to the public in July 2001. These Second World War cottages display the typical home of a wartime housewife; as furniture and fittings were in short supply and rationed, these properties took on a 1930s style. The Second World War home is even complete with sticky tape on the windows to reduce shatter, and an Anderson shelter in the back garden.
Petts Farmhouse. A late-eighteenth-century farmhouse. Petts Farmhouse is a Grade II* listed building. It is timber-framed encased in weather-boarding. Plain tiled roof with ridge stack off-centre to left. 2 storeys and garrets; irregular 3-window front, casements. Panelled door off-centre to left with small pentice hood. Petts farmhouse was originally located four miles from Kent Life, and has now been restored to its Victorian splendour – just be warned to keep an eye out for the ghosts that roam here. Sandling Farmhouse. Sandling farmhouse is one of the original farm buildings. It was the home of George Brundle, the last tenant of the farm until his death at 98 in 2001. The building dates to the sixteenth century, and has links to Sir Thomas Wyatt. Today, vintage chic is displayed throughout the 1950s homestead. An exhibition in the attic details the history of the house and its various owners, as well as a snapshot of life in the 1950s.
Forge. A blacksmith's forge has been recreated at the museum. The granary. A nineteenth-century granary from Boxley Grange Farm, Boxley, was dismantled in March 1993 and has been re-erected at the museum. A set of Hopper huts from North Frith Farm, Hadlow was dismantled and re-erected at the museum. These huts are built of brick, with internal fireplaces. A set of hopper huts with a wood frame clad in corrugated iron has been constructed, along with a cookhouse and privy. A hopper hut was a form of temporary accommodation provided for hop-pickers on English farms in the 19th and 20th centuries. Before the days of mechanised farming, hop picking was a labour-intensive process, requiring a vastly greater number of people than were available locally. Whole families (including children who could have been at school) from London, particularly the south-east and east of London, would leave their homes and spend their time working in the Wealden hop-fields of Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire. By the 1870s, the South Eastern Railway and the London Chatham and Dover Railway were running Hop Pickers' Specials to transport Londoners to the towns and villages at the start of the season. Similar trains were run to serve the pickers in Herefordshire and Worcestershire. An estimated 250,000 hop pickers from London were travelling to Kent by the early twentieth century.
Oast. One of the original farm buildings. The oast originally had four kilns, two round and two square. Hops had last been dried here some time before 1925. The two square kilns were demolished in 1935 and the stowage was damaged in a fire in 1951. The oast was restored in 1984, both round kilns and one square kiln being restored with cowls. The oast houses a reconstruction of a village store, being the interior fittings of a general store in Hawkhurst. Shepherd's Hut. A shepherd's hut from Acton Farm, Charing was presented to the museum in 1994. Tack Room. A tack room has been recreated at the museum. The tearooms are housed in one of the original farm houses. The Village Hall. Of similar construction to the chapel. The old village hall from Ulcombe was donated to the museum in 1997. It was dismantled in October 1997 and re-erected, opening to the public in June 2000. The Wagon Store and Forge. The wagon store building was purpose built at the museum in 1993. The re-created forge is at one end.
Most of their buildings have wheelchair access, with the exception of the first floors of the historic buildings. There are interpretation books on the ground floor of each period home which give details about the upstairs of the buildings. They have fully accessible toilets at four locations around the site: the Car Park, behind Sandling Farmhouse, the Tea Room Court Yard and the Village Hall. There is a dedicated car parking area near to the entrance of the attraction. On special event days this area is extended. They have two wheelchairs available to hire completely free of charge. They can be reserved in advance by calling 07519 102272. All carers come FREE. Please be aware that our site is located on a gradual slope, with flat areas at both the entrance and kiddies play areas and the Village Green located at the top of the slope. Assistance dogs are warmly welcomed. Small bags are available in the Gift Shop and there are numerous bins located around the site for correct disposal. he Kentish Lady sails from the centre of Maidstone, just five minutes’ walk from Maidstone West, 10 minutes from Maidstone East, and a few minutes from the Fremlin Walk Shopping Centre. The boat drops off 200m walk from Kent Life. This is a seasonal service - please check their timetable before you visit.
Location : Kent Life, Lock Lane, Sandling, Maidstone, Kent ME14 3AU
Transport : Maidstone East (National Rail) then bus (155). Bus Routes : 155 stopsoutside
Opening Times : Daily 10:00 to 16:00
Tickets : Adults £6.95; Concessions £5.95; Children (3 - 15) £5.50
Tel. : 01622 763936