The Weald and Downland Living Museum
The Weald and Downland Living Museum first opened in 1967, and since then it has been a fascinating and peaceful place for people to visit. I first went when I was about eight years old. It was a school trip, and one of the best ones I can remember. A standout moment for me was sitting on a sunny slope enjoying a picnic and writing a postcard to my grandparents.
So, when I had the chance to go back all these years later, I was excited. Really excited. But, I was also worried – what if it wasn’t the same? What if the place had changed immeasurably and I no longer recognised any of it? Or, worse still, what if it hadn’t changed but it simply didn’t match up to the memories I had treasured all these years. Thankfully, I needn’t have worried. The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum is just as wonderful now as it was then.
Set in 50 acres of beautiful Sussex countryside, and located not far from Chichester, this award-winning museum has almost 50 different buildings set up on its site. Each building has been dismantled, transported to the museum, and then rebuilt just as it would have stood when it was first erected. Dating from the 13th to the 19th century, this is the one place in the UK where you can wander through buildings that real people have actually lived and worked in. Not only that, but the rooms have been filled with authentic furniture and materials, so that you can get a true sense of the place and the history surrounding it. You’ll find tools – particularly in the workshops – and farm buildings, beds, tables, and much more. In some houses there are guides who can answer your questions and, when we visited, we found a lovely lady who was making rugs in the kitchen of a Victorian farmworker’s cottage. It’s a surprising and unusual place with new and interesting things to be found around every corner.
The buildings include houses, schools, shops, and workrooms, and there is even a wonderful market hall dating from around 1783, complete with a one-room jail cell beneath.
In addition to the buildings which are without question the museum’s star attraction, there are also some beautiful, peaceful woodland walks that can be taken nearby and you can spot rare breed pigs, cattle, sheep, poultry and horses on site. There are various cooking demonstrations that take place throughout the year too, as well as shows and events, most of which can be found at http://www.wealddown.co.uk/whats-on. Beware while wandering though reader, the site is even said to be haunted…
By Easter 2017, the new visitor centre and waterside café will be complete, providing visitors with even more information and a relaxing place to enjoy a well-deserved treat – walk around this huge site for a day and you’ll have earned it.
The Weald and Downland Living Museum is a fabulous and full day out for the whole family. And, in case you were wondering, that sunny slope from my childhood is still the perfect place for a picnic and a spot of postcard writing.
*Please note that the museum is currently closed and will reopen for February half-term (20th-24th). Annual members continue to have access to the museum as a park during this time.
The Weald and Downland Museum
Singleton, Chichester, PO18 0EU