Flint Cottage

Flint Cottage

Market Hall

Market Hall

The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum is an open-air museum in Singleton, West Sussex, England. The Museum covers 50 acres, with more than 50 historic buildings dating from the thirteenth to nineteenth centuries, along with gardens, farm animals, walks and a lake. The buildings at the Museum were all threatened with destruction but were carefully dismantled, conserved and rebuilt in their original form at the Museum. These buildings help the Museum bring to life the homes, farmsteads and rural industries of the last seven hundred years. Many buildings situated there are over four hundred years old, and still stand strong. Along with the buildings, there are "hands-on" activities, like cooking, and weaving, and a number of yearly activities, including glass painting, and bonfire nights. There are also extensive collections of artefacts relating to almost every aspect of Downland life, a predominantly rural community. Given the considearble scope and the oppotunity to touch most of the exhibits, this is an excellent site for the visually impaired (or just about anybody with an interest in our heritage).



Medieval building from Hangleton. The reconstruction of a flint cottage is based on archaeological evidence from excavation of the deserted medieval village of Hangleton. The cottage was probably built in the 13th century and abandoned in the 14th century. The main room has an open hearth and the inner room has an oven. The hall from Boarhunt dates from the late 14th century (1355–1390). It is a small but well-built example of a medieval open hall, with a cruck frame in the centre. The bay to the right of the entrance was probably a service room. The inner room beyond the hall is a conjectural reconstruction of the medieval solar. Bayleaf Farmstead from Chiddingstone. Bayleaf is a timber-framed hall-house dating mainly from the early 15th century. The central hall, heated by an open fire, is flanked at one end by service rooms and at the other by rooms for the owner and his family. With replica furniture and equipment, the farmstead is presented as it might have been in about 1540. Medieval house from North Cray. This building is a classic medieval hall-house of four bays, with a central open hall between service and solar ends. The timbers are painted red, following evidence that this was done when the house was originally built. It was probably built in the 15th century.


Medieval house from Sole Street. This medieval house has an open hall of aisled construction, giving low windows but a wider floor space. The cross wing at the service end is later than the hall and probably replaced an earlier medieval cross wing. Winkhurst Tudor kitchen from Sundridge. This early-16th century building originally formed part of a larger house, and was probably used as a kitchen for cooking, preserving and brewing. It is an excellent example of late-medieval timber-framed building construction. The modern extensions represent missing parts of the original house. It was originally built in the early 16th century — dendrochronology suggests 1492–1537. At ground floor level its two bays form a single room. One bay is open to the roof, indicating that a fire burned on an open hearth, blackening the roof timbers with soot. The other bay contains an upper room. The house is timber-framed, with wattle and daub infill to the frame. The roof is of crown post construction, typical of the late-medieval period in the South-East. Pendean Farmhouse from Midhurst. This timber-framed house was built in 1609. It has no open hall, but a brick chimney heats two of the ground-floor rooms and one of the upper chambers. This revolutionary change in house planning took place in the mid-16th century, but Pendean also has some medieval features such as unglazed windows.


House Extension from Reigate. This building dates from the early 17th century. It was built as a rear extension to a medieval house in Reigate High Street. It contains two main rooms with fine carved fireplaces and the remains of contemporary decorative wall paintings. The basement contains a workshop showing traditional painters’ materials. Poplar Cottage. This building was probably the home of a landless labourer, possibly a craftsman. It was built in the mid-17th century on the edge of Washington Common. It has one heated room, and the fireplace is in a smoke bay, an early form of chimney. House from Walderton. The flint and brick exterior dates from the early–mid 17th century, but inside are the remains of a medieval timber-framed building with an open hall. The middle room of the house shows the transition from a medieval to a 17th-century dwelling. Toll House from Beeding. Toll houses were provided on turnpike roads in the 18th and 19th centuries for the collection of tolls from passing traffic, the money being used to maintain the road. The house from Beeding was built on a new road established in 1807. The toll board outside the cottage came from Northchapel, near Petworth.


Whittaker’s Cottages from Ashtead. This pair of cottages was built in the mid 1860s, facing the newly opened Epsom-Leatherhead railway. They were built for rent and were occupied by agricultural labourers. One of the cottages has been left unfinished inside, to expose the timber-framed structure. The other has been furnished to a late-19th century date. Longport Farmhouse from Newington. Longport is a typical Kent farmhouse, with several periods of construction and alteration from 1500 to 1900. It was moved from the site of the Eurotunnel terminal, near Folkestone, in 1992, and is used as the Museum’s entrance, shop and offices. Tindalls Cottage was probably built between 1700 and 1725. Nearly all of the oak used in the timber frame was re-used from other, earlier, buildings. It is of the same general type as Poplar Cottage, with a gable-end chimney and a hipped terminal at the opposite end. In plan the cottage has two rooms within the main range downstairs. The outer room (the kitchen) contains a fireplace and bread oven and has a brick floor. The inner room (the buttery) is unheated and has an earth floor. There are two service rooms, both with earth floors, located within an outshot at the back of the house. The larger of these (the brewhouse) contains a copper or ‘furnace’. The smaller room was probably used as a ‘milkhouse’ or dairy. On the first floor there are two rooms, a ‘kitchen chamber’ (with a fireplace) and an unheated ‘buttery chamber’. A narrow staircase leads up to a further, small, unheated room called a ‘garret’ (not open to the public). Its name, ‘Tindalls’, derives from the surname of its occupants from 1748 to 1806. John Tindall (1) moved into the cottage in 1748 together with his wife, Ann. They had six children, including a still-born baby in 1758 and a son, Stephen who died in 1767 aged six. John died in 1766, and his widow continued to occupy the cottage until her own death in 1780. It was then occupied by their son, John Tindall (2), his wife Mary and their seven children. He died in 1806. The Tindalls were husbandmen, farming about 26 acres.


Twelve houses and cottages have now been re-erected at the Museum. The Hangleton cottage, Bayleaf, and the houses from North Cray, Sole Street and Boarhunt all date from the medieval period and have open fires, whereas Pendean, the house from Walderton, the house extension from Reigate, the Toll Cottage and Whittaker’s Cottages have chimneys of brick and stone. Poplar Cottage represents an intermediate phase in which a fire burns in a ‘smoke bay’. A direct comparison can be made between Bayleaf and Pendean. They are of similar size and represent two important house types in the region. In Bayleaf, as in the other medieval houses, the open hall and open fire are the central features of the building. The absence of a chimney was not due to a lack of technical know-how, but to the strength and persistence of the medieval pattern of life in which the open hall played a vital symbolic and practical role. Pendean was built less than a century after Bayleaf but its plan is radically different. The cross-passage entrance has given way to a ‘lobby entrance’ — an entrance lobby facing the side wall of the chimney stack. The central room is still the most important living room, equivalent to Bayleaf’s open hall, but the medieval buttery and pantry have become a single ‘inner room’ at the western end. At the eastern end Pendean has a kitchen with a cooking hearth and a built-in oven. In medieval houses cooking was done either on the open fire in the hall or in a separate kitchen building.


Working Buildings

Horse Whim and Open Shed. This thatched building, dating from the 19th century, houses a horse-driven mechanism for raising water from a well. Removal of a pin in the shaft allows the drum to revolve freely when lowering the bucket, with the speed of descent controlled by a brake. The open shed may have originally been a wagon or cart shelter but has also been used as a saw-shed, with the balk raised up on the tie beams. Windpump from Pevensey. The Pevensey windpump came from an old clay pit near Pevensey and Westham Station. This is a rare survival of a wooden windpump, a type which must have been quite common before the introduction of the more familiar American steel windpump, which in its turn has now almost vanished from the countryside. The upper part of the structure carrying the sails is supported on a centre-post held upright by sloping ‘quarter bars’. The body of the mill turns on this centre-post to face the sails into the wind. This is done automatically by a large rudder projecting at the tail. The sails, fixed to an iron cross on the front of the windshaft, are of the type known as ‘common sails’, in which canvas is stretched over a wooden frame. On some windpumps — at Glynde, for example — boards were used instead of sails. Power is transmitted from the sails and the windshaft to a vertical iron rod by cast-iron bevel gears. The iron rod passes down the hollow centre-post and, with another pair of bevel gears, drives a horizontal shaft below the post. On this shaft are fixed two eccentrics, which drive pump rods to cast-iron simple lift pumps, made by Thompson of Lewes.


Watermill from Lurgashall. This mill is for grinding corn, for flour and animal feed. The overshot waterwheel provides power for two pairs of millstones, a grain cleaner and a sack hoist. The oldest parts of the building probably date from the 17th century, but many changes were made to the machinery and the building during its working life, which lasted until the 1930s. Flour produced in the mill can be purchased there and in the Museum shop. Smithy from Southwater. This building is typical of many village smithies. It was built in the mid 19th century using inexpensive but sturdy construction. The smith’s work included making and repairing tools and equipment for farmers and craftsmen, as well as shoeing horses. Saw-pit shed from Sheffield Park. This 19th-century building provides cover for a permanent saw-pit and is typical of many such buildings in villages and on estates. Inside can be seen a range of tools used in the handling and conversion of timber. Saw-pits were certainly in use by the early 16th century and where the ground was suitably drained they eventually took the place of trestles. When the oak of the Weald provided the essential structural materials for ships, mills, barns, houses, and cathedral and church roofs, as well as being used for fuel, hundreds of sawyers must have been employed within the Wealden area.


Brick drying shed from Petersfield. At one end of this shed is a brickmaker’s bench. The rest of the building was used to stack ‘green’ bricks and tiles to dry before being fired. An exhibition in the building describes the history of brickwork in the region. This drying shed, which is 80 feet long, was built in 1733, and came from the Causeway Brickworks, near Petersfield. The brickworks closed down early in the Second World War — in common with many others — because the glow from the open-top kiln was an obvious landmark for enemy aircraft. Pugmill house from Redford. This brick and stone structure was built to house a horse-powered pugmill, in which clay was prepared for brickmaking in a small rural brickyard. Near the pugmill house is a horse ‘gin’, or engine, from Patching, Sussex, which was used for pumping water from a well. Joiners’ Shop from Witley. These buildings were built in the late 19th or early 20th century, and are typical of the small workshops that were once very common in towns and villages. The Witley joiners’ shop contains a practical educational display relating to building construction and associated subjects. This is open for schools by appointment and at other selected times for family use. The joiners’ shop belonged to the Mullard family of Witley. Originally it was the carpenters’ and joiners’ shop for a firm doing general building work, and a dozen men would have worked at the three benches inside. Latterly the firm concentrated on monumental masonry and coffin making. The bench nearest the fire was known as the ‘coffin bench’. It contains a small cubby-hole where the pot of pitch was kept, after being heated on the fire.


Smithy with Forge

Smithy with Forge

Medieval Shop

Medieval Shop

Plumber’s workshop from Newick. This building formed part of the premises of W.R. Fuller, Plumbers & Decorators. The business was first established in 1792 in the nearby village of Fletching. In 1817 it was moved to Burnt House, Newick, and again in 1888 to Red Brick House, just south of the village green. It was probably soon after this that the workshop was built. The builder was Mr. Clark Martin of Newick, who later emigrated to Canada. It was one of three workshop buildings tucked into a narrow space between the house and its boundary. The others were a painters’ shop where the paints were mixed, and a shop or showroom nearest the road, both of which were demolished in the 1970s. The building contains a plumbers’ workshop on the ground floor and a glaziers’ workshop on the first floor. It was prefabricated in sections which were bolted together on site — an early example of this method of construction. Medieval Shop from Horsham. Very little is known of the history of the building but its construction and plan suggest that it dates from the late 15th century. It formed part of Butchers Row, latterly known as Middle Street, and the last occupiers were Robert Dyas, Ironmongers. In most European cities and market towns, shops became increasingly common from at least the 14th century, either converted from market stalls or built in existing streets.


Treadwheel from Catherington. This late 17th century treadwheel and its small house have been moved from a farm in the village of Catherington, north of Portsmouth. The small timber building stood between the farmhouse and a complex of barns, and was in a very derelict condition. The wheel was built over a well reputed to be nearly 300 feet deep, and was in use until about eighty years ago. It has been reconstructed in working order and there is a well twelve feet deep for demonstration. Carpenter’s shop from Windlesham. On its original site the Windlesham carpenter’s shop stood in front of a small house close to the street. The glazed end faced the street and provided good light onto the workbenches. The windows are glazed with various sizes of panes, possibly off-cuts from the business. In the gable is a small aperture, closed by a shutter, through which ladders were pushed into the building for storage across the tie beams. The building is simply constructed on a rough timber frame. The main posts are dug into the ground rather than being placed on a sole plate. The frame is boarded with vertical boards, the joints being closed by a cover strip, and the structure was protected by a coating of tar. When the workshop was given to the Museum it was still equipped with many of the tools and materials that had been used by the carpenter. The benches were in position and some of the tools were still on their racks or in their boxes — much as it must have been left when Mr. Dale, carpenter and undertaker, the last carpenter to use the building, ceased trading.


Public Buildings

Animal Pound from Walton Heath. Generally, unclaimed strays became the property of the lord of the manor after a certain period of time, often twelve months.Pounds vary greatly in construction, from substantial stone-walled enclosures to simple post and rail fences. No longer in use, they are very vulnerable, and the simpler ones decay and disappear quite rapidly, their positions known only from early maps. This particular example was on the line of the M25 motorway. School from West Wittering. For some years before 1851 this building was used as a school for ‘six poor children from the parish of West Wittering’.It was financed and run by the Oliver Whitby Charity, which also ran the Bluecoat School in Chichester. The first record of a school at West Wittering occurs in the Trustees’ accounts in 1712, when the vicar is given credit for £1 14s. paid to Goody Light (also called Good-wife Light) for the schooling of six children for one year, and also 7s. 11d. for books. Market Hall from Titchfield. Market halls like this were once general throughout England. Among the earliest which have survived are several from the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The majority were timber-framed. Many were demolished in the 18th and 19th centuries, since they no longer served the purpose for which they were built and were occupying space needed for other uses. Many others were replaced by more solid buildings, with enclosed rooms taking the place of the open arcade.


Upper Hall from Crawley. The original site of this building was in Crawley, to the rear of a house on the east side of the old High Street. It had long been known locally as ‘the old barn’ and served as a store shed. The upper floor had formed a long hall which may have served as a meeting place for some public purpose. The ground floor was partitioned between the bays and these rooms may have served as stores or shops. An alternative possibility is that the building may have formed part of an inn, reflecting the importance of Crawley’s site on the junction of east-west and north-south routes. The original building was at least five bays long, but had been shortened at both ends. The three surviving bays have been restored as nearly as possible to their original form, but in order to make the building usable the windows have been glazed — originally they were unglazed, like all the other medieval windows at the Museum. The doorhead in the front wall is based on a surviving example in Crawley High Street. The roofs of this building and the Horsham shop are covered with Horsham slabs. This heavy laminated sandstone is found only in the Weald clay and was once quarried extensively both to the south and the north of Horsham. Within the triangle formed roughly by Horsham, Crawley, and Steyning, most buildings with any pretensions to a sturdy structure and a long life appear to have been roofed with this stone, including even small farm buildings such as granaries.


Building from Lavant. Demolition of this house had already commenced, when it was realised that the date of the building must have been considerably earlier than the date stone (1773) set in a blocked window in the front wall — the date merely recorded the year when the building had been repaired and altered after a fire. The brick shell must have been built during the first half of the 17th century, some hundred and fifty years earlier than the date stone. This shell proved to be a remarkably complete example of a type of brick construction fairly widespread in the region in the early 17th century. All the original windows and the two original doorways had been blocked up or altered, but the original design could nevertheless be determined. The building had been a residence since its reconstruction in 1773, but it probably was originally designed as an upper hall with an undercroft. Upstairs, the fine ovolo moulded brick mullion windows suggest an important upper room, and there was no sign that the first floor space had originally been partitioned. Downstairs the three small windows suggest that the ground floor may have been used for storage or some such purpose. The building was attached to the manor of Roughmere and might have been designed for some public purpose, such as a courtroom or meeting place.


Church from South Wonston. This ‘tin tabernacle’ or ‘iron church’ was built in 1908 to serve as a place of worship for the residents of the new village of South Wonston. The building is approximately 30 feet long by 15 feet wide, rectangular in shape with a tiny porch and vestry. A short extension to the roof at the east end, supported by shaped brackets, forms a cowl for a bell, with a pulley in the vestry for ringing. Bell frame from Stoughton. This bell frame came to the Museum from the 11th century church of St Mary, Stoughton, West Sussex. The bell tower, raised over the south transept in the 14th century, now supports a ring of five bells, following a refurbishment and the installation of a new steel bell frame which replaced the one now donated to the Museum. The bell frame has been re-erected beneath the shingled spire and is constructed of oak.


Farm Buildings

Aisled barn from Hambrook. This barn was probably built c1771. The tall doors lead onto the threshing floor, on which sheaves of corn were threshed by flail. The rest of the barn was used to store the unthreshed crop and the threshed straw. The barn houses the Museum’s Introductory Exhibition. Granary from Littlehampton. This granary was probably built in 1731. The timber frame is mainly of elm infilled with brick, and the building is raised on sixteen stone staddles to protect the grain from damp and vermin. It is an unusually large example, with a usable loft. Barn from Cowfold. This timber-framed barn dates from about 1536. Its main purpose was storage and threshing of arable crops, such as wheat, oats, rye and barley. It has been linked with Bayleaf Farmhouse to form a typical late-medieval Wealden farmstead, with a yard for cattle on one side and a stack yard on the other.


Cattle sheds from Sussex. Open-fronted sheds provided shelter for cattle kept in yards. Originally these sheds each formed part of a farmyard group, with barns and other sheds around a foldyard. They were built in the late 18th or 19th century. Cattle were kept on traditional farms for their manure as much as for dairy products, calves and meat. To produce manure that could be collected and used as fertilizer, cattle had to be kept either in cow-houses or in foldyards. The yards were bounded by walls or buildings, and the buildings were often open-fronted sheds in which the cattle could shelter. Hence they are known as cattle sheds or shelter sheds. The sheds provided shelter under which the animals could feed, and they usually contained feeding racks. The animals were generally not tethered in the sheds, but free to enter or leave at will. Five open-fronted sheds have been re-erected at the Museum. The shed from Goodwood has a shepherd’s room in one end, suggesting that the shed and the yard may have been used for sheep as well as cattle. This shed now contains a display of horse-drawn farm implements. A shed from Rusper forms part of the Museum’s working-horse stables, and a shed from Coldwaltham is next to the charcoal burner’s camp.


Wagon shed from Wiston. This small shed was built close to the farmyard to house carts and wagons needed on the farm. It probably dates from the 18th century. Court Barn from Lee-on-Solent. This timber-framed barn was probably built in the late 17th or early 18th century. It had the normal arrangement of a central threshing floor between the storage bays. There is an owl loft above the entrance. Stable from Watersfield. This timber-framed and weatherboarded stable probably dates from the late 17th or 18th century. It contained standings for four or five horses or oxen. In the lower end of the stable is a horse-powered chaff-cutter. Chaffcutters are used to cut straw and hay into short lengths for mixing with horsefeed, and previously cattlefeed, during the winter months. Whilst numerous examples of hand-driven chaffcutters exist, horse-powered cutters are more unusual. The horse, in a trace harness connected to the wooden shaft, walks around the horse gin (located outside the stable) causing the large crown wheel to revolve and turn the pinion and drive-shaft at a much increased speed. The drive speed is increased still further by means of an increasing ratio, also located outside the stable. The drive then operates the chaffcutter. By way of the long wooden feedbox, the hay or straw is fed between two revolving toothed rollers. These force the feed onto the large flywheel on which are bolted two blades, which cut the straw or hay to the length required. The chaff then falls to the ground, where it is shovelled into sacks ready for use.


Aisled Barn

Aisled Barn



Hay barn from Ockley. This oak-framed hay barn with a tiled and hipped roof stands on eight posts and is almost square in plan. The sides are open to allow air to flow, with the exception of four-feet deep weather-board fixed at the top of two opposing sides. This hay barn is currently home to the threshing machine, which can be seen in operation at their Autumn Countryside Show each October. Threshing loosens the edible grain from the inedible chaff that surrounds it. Traditional threshing was carried out by beating the grain with a flail on a threshing floor or making donkeys or oxen walk in circles on the grain on a hard surface. Industrial threshing methods began circa 1786, with the invention of the threshing machine attributed to a Scotsman named Andrew Meikle. The sheaves are taken out of the corn rick using a pitch fork at threshing time and are passed, by people, from the rick to the top of the threshing drum. The feeder then cuts the string around the sheaf, which is then fed onto two flat canvass belts – these hold the stems of straw between them as they pass into the machine. Inside the drum there are two rotating drums with metal fingers, which knock the grain from the ears and remove the flag leaves from the stems by means of a combing action. The straw continues its journey between the belts until it emerges from the back of the drum. The combed stems flow down into a trusser, which then gathers the stems into a bundle and again ties the bundle (with two strings this time), before ejecting it automatically from the trusser and onto the floor. It is now called a bundle of Combed Wheat Reed. The bundles are then picked up, loaded onto a cart or trailer and taken to the barn. Here they are unloaded and stacked, awaiting use for thatching a building. There are approximately 220 bundles of Combed Wheat Reed in a tonne and it is worth in the region of £1,000 per tonne.



Agriculture. Considering the landscape and area of the country that the Museum occupies, it is unsurprising that the artefact collections holds a significant amount of agricultural and related implements and machinery. Most items have been donated singly or in small groups by farms and retired farmers from across the region. However, one of the most important groups of material we have came from Mr Stevenson of Furnace Farm, at Coleman’s Hatch in the Ashdown Forest, during the 1980s. The collection of farming implements which they were given were wide and comprehensive, together with a significant number of wheeled vehicles and equipment. What was particularly significant about Mr Stevenson’s farm was that he used horses as his main form of motive power right up until the early 1980s; a tractor was present, but was mainly used as a stationary engine to drive the threshing machine. The majority of the smaller items and hand tools are displayed in the Gridshell Store, whilst the large number of horse-drawn equipment items are housed in various locations across the Museum’s site. A significant number of the horse-drawn implements are kept in working order, so that they can use them in their agricultural operations with their team of working heavy horses.


Building Parts, Methods & Materials. Click link for full list. Building Trade Tools & Equipment. Nowadays the majority of tools seem to come either with an electrical lead or battery pack and often profess to carry out a multitude of tasks rather than one. Very little however is a completely new invention, so searching through these artefacts will bring the visitor into contact with a specific tool for whatever task could be imagined. Tools which are often works of art in themselves – look closely at a carpenters plane and imagine the hours of work and skill which went into its production compared to the mass injection of plastic which now seems to be the norm; and this only to produce a tool, a starting point for the craftsman to begin his construction work. Tools and equipment were not simply throw-away items which enabled the unskilled to do anything they wished. They were things of value. Not only monetary in themselves, but a source of a craftsman’s income and as such, objects to be cared for and to be understood, studied in order to be used correctly to produce works which are often sadly missing from today’s world.


Domestic & Lifestyle. Some groups of material that they have included within this part of the collection could be included elsewhere, crossing neatly-defined boundaries as they tend to do. Running in parallel to the Museum’s main research collection, they have a smaller ‘Use’ collection which consists of historic material, but which is intended for handling, demonstrations or general ‘use’. These items run the risk of being damaged or worn out but as they are all either duplicate or unprovenanced, their historical value is quite low. As educational tools however, their value is high. Land Management. With the rapid progression of technology, man is increasingly having an impact upon the landscape he occupies although this may becoming slightly tempered by our increased awareness of our actions. This is not a modern phenomenon however. As iron age earthworks testify, man has always left his mark throughout the ages in a whole host of different ways, from specific projects and constructions to the more passive actions of simple survival, whatever we do changes the landscape we live in. In such a rural area as this, man’s impact on the landscape is not as obvious or as dramatic as those in urban areas, nevertheless it has, and continues apace. The processes of agriculture which have been a staple of man’s activity for millennia, have shaped the landscape in a myriad of ways, and many other activities associated with his endeavours for survival have also shaped our landscape to that which we occupy today. Virtually all of the implements which fall under this category are hand powered rather than mechanical and cover the last 150 years or so; activity with similar tools would of course occurred before this although the high level of wear and tear to which the implements were subject dictates that little from before this period survives.


Rural Trades & Crafts. Although rural areas are inextricably linked with farming and agriculture there are a whole host of other, often related activities which were the mainstays of the rural economy. These activities, many of which have now virtually disappeared, were the source of identity for the people who lived and worked in rural areas, often generating the ‘personality’ of an area, place and people names, stories and music. It is proof that many of these trades and crafts are indeed in major decline due to the large numbers and variety of items which they have been given over the years. Each group of items or workshop collection, whilst a valuable addition to their artefacts, represents one more craftsman of firm which is no longer in operation. Transport & Wheeled Vehicles. It is only the last 50 or 60 years that horse power (and to a somewhat smaller extent, oxen) has begun to play an increasingly diminished role as a form of motive power on farms and indeed in many other aspects of our lives and work. In rural areas in particular, the horse was the engine which powered everything. It ploughed, sowed and harvested, it transported crops and goods and even performed recreational duties for those who were able to afford them. The range of vehicles which were produced to be hauled by animals was huge. There was a vehicle for every task and some that were manufactured were so specialised as to be fairly unique. The collection they have there at the museum covers both of these groups, and included important, everyday work vehicles which were the mainstay of the rural economy, to the rarer examples generally used for more selective occasions.


There are different domestic demonstrations on most days in the exhibit houses – dairying and cooking, spinning or weaving, the preparation of natural dyes for wool and linen, using herbs to make medicines and cosmetics, cleaning and laundering. Several of the houses are furnished with replica items to recreate historic domestic interiors; you are welcome to sit on the chairs, touch the bedding and handle the domestic objects. They also have a programme of rural craft demonstrations (such as blacksmithing, milling, pole-lathe turning and scything) and occasional demonstrations of traditional building techniques (such as lead working, stonemasonry, lime slaking, thatching or wattle-and-daubing). They often have spinning demonstrations in different houses – Hangleton, Boarhunt, Bayleaf, Walderton, Poplar and Gonville – using spinning methods appropriate to the period. In the Tudor kitchen they prepare and cook the type of food that would have been eaten by the occupants of Bayleaf farmstead in the 1540s. You can taste much of the food: hand-made butter and cheese, griddle bread cooked over an open fire, fried ‘chewits’ (pastry filled with spinach, onion and other vegetables), pottage made from seasonal vegetables (including many older varieties) and herbs or – to our palates – unfamiliar combinations of sweet and savoury (such as beef and prune pottage with walnuts). Learn more about demonstrations in Winkhurst Tudor kitchen here. They also run day courses on subjects such as herbs, meat preparation, Christmas food and domestic household activities. The Museum Historic Clothing Project was started in 2007 and a needlework group was formed to work on making replica historic clothing in as authentic a way as possible – clothes which could be worn on the Museum site at certain times as part of the interpretation of their domestic buildings, and which could be a tool to discover more about how textiles and clothing were used and worn in the past. Find out more about the Historic Clothing Project here.


Shire Horses

Shire Horses

Historic Garden

Historic Garden

Shire horses can be seen hauling carts and helping with haymaking and harvesting, and Sussex oxen are being trained to pull a cart and plough. Woolly-faced Southdown sheep graze the downland turf and, in spring, lambs are folded in traditional sheepfolds. Sussex light hens (plus Sid, the cockerel) peck in the straw around the Tudor farmstead and stables, and Embden geese graze in the apple orchard. Two pigs, usually Tamworths, are lent to the Museum in the warmer months. They are housed in an enclosure opposite Tindalls Cottage – you can see them from the spring until the autumn. Traditional cereal and root crops, hops and flax are grown in the Museum’s fields and around the Tudor farmstead. In the late summer, the wheat is reaped and stacked in traditional stooks, before being threshed at the Autumn Countryside Show using a steam-powered threshing machine. The separated grain is used to feed the chickens, whilst the combed wheat reed is used as thatching straw for some of the Museum’s buildings. Traditional farm buildings – such as barns, stables, sheds and granaries – house agricultural vehicles and farm machinery is also on display. You will find a display of late 19th and early 20th century farm vehicles and machinery in the Vehicle and Implement Gallery next to Whittaker’s Cottages. There are also a number of wheeled living vans (such as the shepherd’s hut above the sheepfold) on display around the site.


There are six delightful period gardens at the Museum, which have been recreated to show the transition of gardens from the early 16th century through to the late 19th century. Each garden represents the period and social status of the house to which it is attached, with each garden containing the herbs, vegetables and plants that would have met the needs of the rural household. The earliest gardens are purely utilitarian, but as we move through the centuries and social levels some plants begin to be grown for their aesthetic qualities – the first beginnings of decorative planting and display on the public face of the garden. The historic gardens are at Bayleaf farmhouse, Poplar Cottage, the Toll House, Whittaker’s Cottages, house from Walderton, and Pendean farmhouse. Herbs were widely grown. As well as growing them for culinary purposes, ordinary country folk used herbs to make medicinal remedies, and a great deal of knowledge of domestic plant remedies was passed on from one generation to the next. Folklore played an important role: herbs such as St John’s wort were taken into the home to protect against evil spirits, a rosemary bush grown close to the dwelling helped to keep the witches out, and Vervain by the doorstep attracted lovers! They grow several heritage varieties of vegetables in the period gardens, many of which closely resemble the original varieties. Some of the vegetables grown are: Skirrets (a multi-rooted winter vegetable similar in taste to parsnips): introduced to Britain from East Asia in the 15th century, but fell out of fashion in the late 17th century. Broad bean varieties include Martock, thought to date back to the 13th century, Crimson Flowered, dating back to the 18th century, and a Victorian variety called Bunyard’s Exhibition. Carlin peas, which date back to the 16th century. Pink fir Apple potatoes, one of the oldest varieties still in existence.


The site is set on sloping ground and is steep in places. Access around the site is on rural surfaces; mainly rolled or loose chippings, which are in keeping with the nature of the site and buildings. Some paths are cobbled and their surfaces may cause some difficulty for visitors who use a wheelchair or have impaired mobility. They suggest that, if possible, visitors using wheelchairs should use those with wide tyres as this makes access easier and smoother. The use of a powered wheelchair or four-wheeled mobility scooter allows access to the majority of the open areas of the site. To enter or exit the site on the level, there is an automatic pedestrian gate into the Museum from the car park, activated by a 4-digit code number, which you can ask for in the ticket office. This gate is suitable for users of wheelchairs or four-wheeled mobility scooters. With prior permission, vehicles carrying people with limited mobility can drive to the far end of the site via the access road and park in the designated area. From here you will be able to explore the far end of the Museum site on foot, by wheelchair or mobility scooter. To arrange this, please call first at the ticket office for a vehicle pass, you will then be directed to the most appropriate route. Download their accessibility map here.


The introductory exhibition in Hambrook barn has level access, as does Court Barn, which contains exhibitions on leadwork, masonry and glazing. The brick drying shed from Petersfield, with its exhibition on historic brickwork, and the pugmill and smithy have level access. All of these buildings are situated around the lower picnic area of the Museum, near the lake. Access to the counter area of the café and the indoor seating area in the hall from Sole Street is without steps but uneven. Further out on the site, the displays on farms and farmstead, and regional geology and land use, in the cattle shed from Redvins Farm, Goodwood have level entry. A few of the buildings are inaccessible to those who need to use a wheelchair – this is due to the high thresholds of the doorways. The following buildings have single step and raised threshold entry to the ground floor: Whittaker’s Cottages, Poplar Cottage. The following buildings have internal staircases to the upper floors: Whittaker’s Cottages, Poplar Cottage, Bayleaf Farmhouse, Pendean Farmhouse, Titchfield Market Hall, Watermill from Lurgashall, Medieval house from North Cray, Tindalls cottage from Ticehurst. Each of these houses contains an album of photos showing the upper storey of the building. The toilet block by the Museum entrance has a separate wheelchair accessible toilet with level access. The toilet block behind the Market Square has a separate wheelchair accessible toilet. The toilet block near Bayleaf Farmstead has level access but no separate wheelchair accessible toilet. Assistance dogs are welcome.


Location : Weald & Downland Open Air Museum, Town Lane, Singleton, West Sussex PO18 0EU

Transport : Chichester (National Rail) then bus (Stagecoach 60). Bus Routes : Stagecoach 60, the Museum is a 5-minute walk from the Grooms Yard stop, Singleton.

Opening Times : 29 Feb - 27 Nov Daily 10:30 to 18:00;   Outside BST 10:30 to 16:00.   28 Nov - 31 Dec. click here for what's on

Tickets : Adults £11.50;   Seniors £10.50;   Disabled/single helper £4.50;  Children (4 - 15)/Students £6.00.

Tel. : 01243 811348