Pitstone Green Museum is a varied, sprawling and eclectic museum in Pitstone, Buckinghamshire, parts of which are living and open-air. Set in the Buckinghamshire countryside the museum is located in the buildings and the surrounding orchards of an 1831 farm. The Museum offers a fascinating and inexpensive day out for the family with many interesting displays and artefacts to see. Although the museum is basically a Rural Life Museum with many exhibits relating to farming, country life, trades and professions within a 25 mile radius of Pitstone, it has many other interesting exhibits, including three model railways, a 37 HP Crossley gas engine, stationary engines, vintage wirelesses, photographic and electrical apparatus and a WWII military aviation room. Highlight of this room is a full size reconstruction of a section of a wartime Avro Lancaster Bomber.
Brush Shop. Although not strictly a country craft, Mr P. R. Walton's Leighton Buzzard Brushworks made specialist brushes using semi-automatic machines. This process bridged the gap between brushes made entirely by hand and those produced by fully automated machines. There was an infinite range of brushes made for almost every purpose, for example the very wide brush for removing worm casts from golf greens. Plumbers Shop. The name 'Plumber' is derived from the Latin name for lead (Plumbum), the chemical symbol being Pb. Lead has been used for many years from Roman times through to the present day. Its greatest use was probably during the 1800's and the early years of the 1900's when lead pipe was used extensively in domestic water systems. Its other use was in weather protection on roofs and guttering and also for glazing, holding the glass in window frames. It's advantages is that it does not corrode and is soft, easily worked and can be easily soldered. In fact solder itself is composed mainly of lead with additional tin. Plumbers were expected to cover all aspects of lead use and in country areas, together with the blacksmith and carpenter repaired and maintained virtually all domestic, farming and trade equipment.
Vintage Radio Room. Radio waves were first identified at the end of the 1800's but it was Marconi that turned them from a scientific curiosity into a commercial success. The first transmitters simply consisted of a very powerful spark generator connected to an aerial. This system generated a signal similar to that produced by lightning. It was used to transmit Morse code, a series of dots and dashes that represented numbers & letters of the alphabet. With the development of the valve, a single frequency waveform could be transmitted, rather that the wideband signal generated by a spark. This signal could be then be modulated with an audio signal allowing speech and music to be sent. The first commercial radio stations appeared in the early 1920's. Many of the first wireless sets were made by amateurs due to the high cost of commercial sets. Many early engineering and wireless hobbies magazines carried plans for building your own sets and due to the simplicity of these early sets construction was well within the capability of DIY enthusiasts of the day. Crystal sets were very popular even though they could only drive a pair of headphones. They used no batteries (which were very expensive in those days) deriving their power directly from the aerial. They could be made with only a few simple components and a piece of crystal (Galena) that was capable of rectifying or changing the high frequency radio waves into the audio component of the signal that could be heard on the headphones. The Vintage Radio Room has exhibits that cover the whole spectrum of early radio up to the 1950's together with photographic and household electrical items. The first experimental television station appeared in the 1930's, using the Baird 30 line mechanical apparatus. Baird continued with his experiments when in 1935/36 two standards were transmitted, one the Baird 240 line and the other the Marconi 405 line. Due to an unfortunate fire and the more advanced Marconi system, the Baird one was dropped and the Marconi system became the black and white standard adopted until colour arrived. The museum has a rare and unusual 1936 receiver that could be switched between the 240 line baird and the 405 line marconi. It is in working condition but of course there are no commercial stations now transmitting those signals.
Print Room. First opened in the year 2000 the shop houses the complete collection of printing equipment that belonged to the late Mr. Hudgell. Mr. Hudgell had a small business printing trade and other cards for the local community. There is a fine Arab printing press circa 1890 and a small Adana press together with a vast collection of type of different typeface and size. Demonstrations of the various printing techniques are given on the Open days. Blacksmith's. The contents of the shop came largely from the Barney Brothers Blacksmiths shop at Stockenchurch. The Barney Bros. started work in about 1900. A society member living in Pitstone gave bricks from their garden wall to build the forge. It is a working forge and demonstrations are sometimes given on the Special Open Days. We tend to associate blacksmiths nowadays with shoeing horses but in the farming community they undertook almost any work using metal, from making and repairing farm implements to patching cooking pots. The many tools around the room were mostly made by the blacksmith himself from wrought iron. Where hardened carbon steel was required for cutting purposes, the favourite source of material was old metal files. Coke or small coal was used on the fire with the large bellows required to 'blow' the fire, giving the very high temperatures required to soften the iron or steel, enabling the blacksmith to bend, shape or when heated to the highest temperature, beat the metal together to form a 'blacksmith's weld'
The Big Barn is much earlier than the existing farmhouse and dates from the seventeenth century. Note in particular the construction of the roof and the height of the barn. The barn was used for storing sheaves of corn, cut during the autumn and thrashed to remove the grain during the winter months. The barn was filled to the roof and the doors high up on the outer wall were used when the lower levels were filled. If you look carefully you can still see the marks of hayforks on the high cross beams, made when the sheaves were piled to the top. Within the barn, on the left hand side are two alcoves with doors that lead to the outside yard. Within these alcoves, and extending across the width of the barn, were two wooden threshing floors. These were raised up some two feet above floor level. Threshing of the corn was carried out by hand on these floors, using flails, during the winter months to extract the grain from the cut corn. The remaining straw was used in the yard outside the alcove doors to feed and litter cattle kept there during the winter months. Hand operated winnowing machines were used to blow and sieve out the unwanted chaff and weed seeds from the grain afterwards. The barn now houses a display of implements and carts, many of which were actually used on the farm.
The Big Barn was extended at the Mill Barn end when the present farm was built in 1831. Originally this end had no 'first floor' and was used just for increasing the storage area for the sheaves of corn. In 1902 the Windmill some short distance from the farm was damaged in a gale and a stone mill, driven by a portable steam engine was installed at the farm. The engine was outside the barn, driving the mill, through the end wall, via flat leather belting. A second mill was later installed to increase the capacity and a first floor added such that the grain could be fed direct into the millstones from above The grain was milled for animal feed. One of the large mills has had its cover (tun) removed for visitors to see the stones. The grain entered in the centre hole and as the upper (runner) stone rotated, the grain worked towards the outside where it passed down a chute, to be collected as meal (flour). The stones had channels cut in them to assist the process. The lower (bed) stone remained stationary.
Country Kitchen. This room is furnished mostly by items from the house of Garnett Williamson, a builder of Pitstone. He built two houses in Cheddington Road, near the Railway Bridge, and lived in one of them at the turn of the last century. His taste reflects his time, particularly the blue 'every day' china on the dresser. The black-leaded range provided the only heating available, as well as the source of hot water, the oven for cooking or baking, a method of heating the flat iron for ironing and warmth for drying or airing the clothes on the clothes horse. Lighting was by oil lamps until electricity arrived on the scene. Gas was not normally available, unless the property was close to a town or large village. Mains water and the mains sewer did not come to Pitstone until 1946 so wells, either inside or just outside houses were common and dirty water flowed into the stream that runs through the centre of the village.
Ivinghoe and Pitstone are typical Buckinghamshire villages in many ways but they also have something unique about them. For the first half of the 20th century, Mrs Roberts, the wife of the Brewery owner dominated Ivinghoe. She organised everything from the WI to the Amateur Operatic group. Pitstone was included in these activities on sufferance. Their pride was in the cricket team and the quality of the allotments. Most people worked as farm labourers and Pitstone Green Farm was an important employer. Extra money was earned 'in season' by fruit picking. The local plum, often known as the Aylesbury Prune, was a very popular fruit up to the Second World War and fruit was sent to all the big cities by railway and by road carrier. From the 1930’s till recently, life in both villages was dominated by the cement works, run for many years by The Tunnel Portland Cement Co Ltd, (known locally as Tunnel Cement ) which gave work over the years to many local people. Life became a constant battle with dust on windows and cars but still there was some sadness when the chimneys came down and the villages returned to a more rural atmosphere in the year 2000.
Carpenter's Shop. Many trades and professions used wood as their raw material with many specialising in different areas of construction. Example of these are the Cabinet Maker, the Wheelwright, the Joiner and several others. The carpenter could be considered as a general woodworker, called on to make and repair many items that may cover several trades. The majority of artefacts displayed are the more common hand tools. Two larger items of machinery, are a morticer for cutting square holes in wood and a power bandsaw. Wheelwright's Shop. The shop contains literally hundreds of tools used by local carpenters/ wheelwrights. They have been collected from various sources, including Mr. Heady's shop at Linslade, Bucks. They have all sorts of tools including common chisels, saws, planes and spokeshaves as well as the specialized tools used in the manufacture of wheels. The village wheelwright was often the local carpenter and was expected to turn out almost anything that was made of wood. One particularly interesting exhibit is a set of drawers containing pigments. These were ground up and mixed with oils to be used for painting the carts and wagons. Many farms or estates would have their own personalised colours, so identifying their equipment. The spokes of the wheels were fitted into a central hub, with the rim of the wheel being made up of several sections, called fellows. The large hoops lying against the exterior walls of the shop were the steel tyres that were heated to expand them, fitted to the wheel and then by pouring on water, shrunk on to the wooden wheels to give them strength and protect the wooden wheel from the road surface.
There are a host of other shops and collections including the dairy, lace making, the shoe shop, farming equipment, model engineering, farm workshop, G1 model railway, harvesting, old cart shed, grain silos, archaeology, Wags Wharf, the rack saw, meeting room, The Old Curiosity Shop, Science Room, 1940's room, Victorian Room, Colin Cook Collection, Book Binding and the Pottery Shop. The Pottery is an opportunity for anyone to have a go at the variety of activities on offer, leading to the pleasure of taking something home from the experience. On display is a basic momentum wheel which shows the principle behind its mechanism. These ealy, often homemade, wheels were used before electricity was available and some potters today still use similar wheels to throw pots as they feel more in control and they are much quieter than wheels with a motor drive. Demonstrations include throwing pots on the wheel, glazing items for Raku firing which results in interesting effects, including metallic lustre and crackle glazes, and hand building using air drying clay which can be painted when dry. Potteries were often established in villages to supply the locals with their needs of vessels, crockery, plaques, sculptures, bricks, tiles and special presents. Clay would have been dug from ridges in the Chiltern Hills, (which are remains of ancient rivers that once flowed across the chalk). This clay deposit often contains fragments of flint with sand and all these materials are used together for the formation of glazes to give pots their smooth and sometimes glossy surface. To fire the pots, wood from the local trees would have been burnt in kilns to fuse the clay and melt the glaze. The area was well supplied with trees to support this purpose.
The visitor can also try their hand at lace making. In total there are over 40 locations, for a map of the site click here. Most of the site is wheelchair accessible except for some of the older buildings which, by their nature, are not. There are toilets for the disabled as well as baby changing facilities. Parking is available. Refreshments are available. Assistance dogs are welcome, dogs must be on a lead. Most of the exhibits can be handled so this is a good site to visit for the visually impaired. Sadly, the site is only open on the following days as the museum is entirely staffed by volunteers: Easter Monday - 17th April, Sunday 2nd April, May Day Bank Holiday Monday 1st May, Bank Holiday Monday 29th May, Sunday 12th June, Sunday 10th July, Sunday 14th August, Summer Bank Holiday - 28th August, Sunday 11th September, Sunday 9th October.
Location : Pitstone Green Museum, Vicarage Road, Pitstone, Bucks. LU7 9EY
Transport : Cheddington (National Rail) then bus. Bus Routes : 50, 61, 164 and 167 stop close by.
Opening Times : See above for dates - 11:00 to 17:00
Tickets : Adults £6.00; Children (under 16) £2.00; Cash or Cheque only
Tel. : 01582 605464
Pitstone Windmill is a stands in the north-east corner of a large field near the parish boundary of Ivinghoe and Pitstone in Buckinghamshire, and belongs today to the National Trust. It is thought to have been first built circa 1627 as this date is carved on part of the framework. This is the earliest date to be found on any windmill in the British Isles. It should be remembered that such a structure would have had to have frequent repairs made to it, so it is quite possible the mill predates 1627. For many hundreds of years grain grown in the two adjoining villages was ground at the mill into flour. In 1874 the mill was bought by Adelbert Wellington Brownlow Cust, 3rd Earl Brownlow who owned the nearby Ashridge Estate. He subsequently let it to a local farmer, who ran a successful milling business from the mill. In 1902 the mill was seriously damaged during an enormous gale, damaging it beyond the price of economic repair. Around 1922 the derelict ruined mill was bought from the Ashridge Estate by a farmer whose land was close to the mill. In 1937 he donated it to the National Trust. However, it was not until 1963 that a band of volunteers began to carry out renovations at their own expense. In 1970, after an interlude of 68 years, the mill once again ground corn.
The design of the mill is what is known as a post mill. This means the whole superstructure of the mill rests on one main post. This post arises from ground level through brick and a foundation chamber; the post then acts as a pivot for the timber built structure above with the sails. Consequently, the upper section of the mill and sails could be turned towards the direction of the wind (reinforcements added in the 20th century now prevent the upper section from turning). The mill machinery in the upper rotating section was reached by a long flight of external steps. he Pitstone Windmill is reached from the car park by 100 yards of rough track. The round house portion of the windmill is accessed down a step and has restricted head room. The upper section of the windmill has 19 steps to the entrance and stairs, some steep, to other floors. It is only open on Sunday's through July and August.