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Weald and Downland Open Air Museum

Singleton, Sussex

Location Guide

The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum covers 50 acres (20 ha), with around 50 historic buildings dating from the 13th to 19th centuries, along with gardens, farm animals, walks and a mill pond. It is a very special place, and the buildings have been organised in a way that even on a busy day it would be an enjoyable day out.

The buildings have come from various locations around the south east, including Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and Kent and they were all threatened with destruction. They have carefully dismantled, conserved and rebuilt them on this site to their original form, including where appropriate having their interiors, gardens and outside space also recreated to a similar style of the period they would have been used. They help the museum bring to life the homes, farmsteads and rural industries of the last 700 years for this part of England.

This is a substantial collection of buildings including shops, crane, market hall, school, tread wheel, watermill, several farms, large buildings, and a windpump, a hollow post mill that was built in the mid 19th century. It was originally at Pevensey, Sussex and was marked on an 1860 map. The windpump was re-erected at the museum in 1975. It has 4 sails and is working.

The gardens show the herbs, vegetables and flowers grown to meet the needs of the rural households from medieval to Victorian times. Farmsteads not only have the farmhouse and buildings of the period, but also the traditional animals and rare livestock that would have been on them. They grow traditional cereal crops and vegetables in the fields and an authentic Tudor kitchen makes bread, pottage and sweetmeats which you may be able to sample.

There are also demonstrators carrying out traditional rural trades and crafts such as a blacksmith, carpenters and those who work with the shire horses in the fields. Some of the buildings have people who can explain how the property would have operated, or answer any of your questions and what life was like during the period the building was in use.

A list of daily activities also takes place, some of which only take place during certain times throughout the year. These include:

  • A working Watermill, Lurgashall Mill which produces stone-ground wholemeal flower used in the cafe and sold to local businesses as well as visitors. Operating everyday the museum is open.

  • Working Tudor Kitchen where you can discover what the kitchen around 1540 would have looked like, but also may get to see demonstrations of baking bread in the bread oven, brewing ale in the copper, or sluicing and scouring the kitchen from top to bottom.

  • Pendean Farmhouse and Dairy have demonstrations from May to September of butter and cheese making by hand.

  • Working Forge, Southwater Smithy, where volunteer blacksmiths carry out traditional activities from around the 1900's, on our visit in January they were making traditional nails.

  • The Court Barn, through exhibits tells the history of lead working, plumbing, stonemasonry and stained and decorative glass making for buildings. Throughout the year there are also demonstrations taking place by people skilled in these areas. These demonstrations are not regular so if this is the reason for your visit then it would be wise to check beforehand when the next demonstrations will be taking place.

  • On certain days of the week you will also find the gardeners working in the domestic gardens, the heavy horses being used to make hay, cut grass or carting items around the site, or even the working cattle working the farming strips as the far end of the site.

  • Woodland crafts are demonstrated at the Timber Yard.

The Windpump

There are also annual special events taking place including a Heavy Horse and Working Animals show, Steam Festivals, Tree Dressing and more. See their special events page for details of what activities are taking place this year.

The following is a quick tour of some of the buildings you can see on a visit.

You enter the site through the Longport Farmhouse, which was rescued from the site of the Eurotunnel terminus near Folkstone. It now houses the shop and entrance hall. It dates from several periods the earliest from the 16th century and the latest changes made during the 19th century. Once through this building you are guided to the Hambrook Barn where there is an introductory exhibition and video to the museum. Once through here follow the paths. Your first site is a view of the Singleton Valley with the Market Place to your left, a group of town and village buildings which have been shaped to reflect the market square at Alfriston in East Sussex, and to your right a millpond and a toll house. Follow the path to the Toll House.

The Toll Cottage is a two roomed building, where the room you enter acts as the day room and toll collection room of the toll keeper and the back room is laid out as his family bedroom. Toll cottages were built in the 18th and 19th centuries to collect tolls from passing traffic on newly constructed turnpikes and on the outside there was usually a large board giving details of the fees the users had to pay depending on their reason for using the road. From here through a gate you head towards the Market Square.

 

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At the centre of which is the Timber Framed Market Hall originally from Titchfield in Hampshire. This is a typically 16th/17th century construction and at street level there is an open space where goods could be sold or stalls set up by licensed traders. You can go upstairs and see inside the building which would have served as the town council chamber. Under the stairs there is a 'cage' or lock up, used for housing offenders. The square is surrounded by medieval shops from Horsham the earliest of which dates from the 15th century.

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The Market Square

Behind the square is the plumbers, joiners and carpenters workshops complete with tools and equipment. Also behind is a building with open sides which houses a horse-powered 'pugmill' which was used for preparing clay ready for brick making.

Just a short walk from the market place area is the 17th century water mill which is fully working and produces stoneground flour. You can go upstairs and see the corn being put into the hopper before going between the grinding stones and ending up downstairs for bagging. Whilst on the upper level you may also be passed by a bag of flour being winched up to the top of the building for storage. Outside is the mill pond which will probably have a number of ducks and coots taking up residence. At the other end of the mill pond is the wind pump. originally from Pevensey and just beyond amongst the trees is a medieval house from Sole Street, which is set up for picnics or eating snacks obtained in the cafe.

The Watermill

Before leaving this area walk back towards the Watermill and head down the path past the Saw pit, smithy, wagon shed and onto the impressive thatched Court Barn, to take in the exhibitions inside.

Thatched Court Barn, Wagon Shed and Stable

Walking back towards the market square around the back of it two cottages are on your right, it is worth taking a look inside. This is a pair of 19th century cottages with a shared brick chimney, known as Whittaker's Cottages, they came from Ashtead in Surrey . They would have been occupied by agricultural labourers and inside they have furnished one of them to how it would have been in the 1880's, whilst the other looks as though it has not been finished, and this has been left this way so that you can see how they were constructed and what materials have been used. From here carry on along the path past a very small building, which is in fact a little, one room school, built before 1851. It is from the parish of West Wittering and was built to only take 6 poor children, and has typical school furniture and equipment inside from the period.

See Larger Image Whittaker's Cottages

 

Next is a collection of farm buildings included a mobile shepherd hut, stables, a horse whim (a horse powered winding engine for a well), an open shed storing wagons, thatched granary raised on saddlestones and cattle sheds before you get to the Bayleaf Farmstead. This is a timber framed hall house dating from the early 15th century and has been furnished in line with what a middle ages working farmhouse would have looked like. Downstairs you have a large room with a fire burning in the centre of it, very smokey, and behind a table laid ready for a meal. Upstairs is a bedroom with a 4 poster bed and pull out bed underneath and a garderobe, which is of some amusement to younger children, as it is the 'privy' which is basically a box with a hole in and anything deposited in it goes straight outside. Outside there is a barn and farmyard, with resident cows and chickens.

 

The Shepherd Hut>>

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See Larger Image Bayleaf Farmhouse See Larger Image A Granary

In this centre part of the site is also the Tudor Kitchen which is housed in the first building to have been built at the museum, Winkhurst. This building is dedicated to Tudor cooking, and inside you will find a bread oven, large copper for brewing ale as well as demonstrations of bread making and sweetmeats on some days.

At the far end of the site there are a number of houses from earlier periods in history and each one you can take a step back inside and step back in time. During the winter months there may also be fires burning in the hearths of some of them to help warm you up. Pendean Farmhouse has a fully furnished interior and outside a pigsty and garden.

Pendean Farmhouse

Taking a walk back through the woods you may get to see charcoal burning and coppicing being carried out in traditional ways and when you reach the timber yard there are saw benches, saw pits, machinery and a very large crane. Once through the wood the path continues back towards where you entered the site, but don't rush some of the best panoramic views of the site can be observed from here. Only two more buildings to see, the first being the Tread wheel and it's house which is believed to date from the early 17th century. The tread wheel was designed to raise water from a deep well, and as this version is smaller than most donkey wheels it is felt it may have been driven by a man or boy.

The Large Crane at the Sawmill

The very last building is the Gridshell, which houses the museums supporting collections and is the conservation workshop on site. Like the other buildings at this museum it is built of a timber, it is an oak structure, but unlike the other buildings here this one is totally modern and uses the most modern building technology of today in its construction. There are guided tours around this building each day.

A full list of all buildings with information on each in a Wiki article.

As you walk around the site look out for the various animals including, the shire horses, Tamworth pigs, sheep, geese, chickens, cows and a cat.

When visiting this site you need to allow at least half a day, but a day would be better if you want to take in as much of the history as well as get some good photographs.

Our visit took place during January and it was frosty, but we wrapped up warm and spend a good three hours here taking in the history, animals and some of the activities that were in place that day.

We have produced a gallery to go with this guide, so take a look at some of what we saw.

The following pictures taken by others were during the summer months, and from these you can see the difference a little green on the trees, and plants in the garden can add. Definitely a site for all seasons.

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The Village Centre
 Weald and Downland Museum

Photo by
 
Martyn Pattison

 

See Larger Image Photo by
Chris Gunns

See Larger Image

Photo By
Margaret Sutton

See the Gallery for more pictures


Further information Grid

 

Location:

Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, Singleton, Sussex

Ceremonial County: Sussex

Grid Reference:

SU873128

Map Link:

Google

Aerial photo: Google Aerial 

Route(s):

 

Best Times to Visit:

Anytime, in fact different times of the year will give different photo opportunities. Allow at least half a day for your visit, but if you can make it a whole day for a fabulous day out.

E-mail:

office@wealddown.co.uk

Website:

www.wealddown.co.uk    

Daily activities

Focus on buildings

Other useful websites:

Wiki         Windmill world  (windpump)

Nearby Locations:  
Other Relevant pages:

Weald & Downland Gallery

Living History Section

List of Living History Museums

Living history museums introduction

 

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Planning Grid

Location:

Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, Singleton, Sussex

Grid Reference:

SU873128

Getting there:

Situated at Singleton, 7 miles (11 km) north of Chichester, on the A286.

Access:

Just off the A286, on left after leaving Singleton going west.

Parking:

Free parking in their own car park

Facilities:

shop, tearoom, and on busy days at the Tudor Kitchen.

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Many old buildings in beautiful settings, animals, wildlife, gardens.

What to take:

Wrap up warm on a winter visit, it's quite an open site.

Nature highlights:

 

Address:

Weald & Downland Open Air Museum

Singleton

Chichester

West Sussex

Postcode:

PO18 0EU

Telephone:

01243 811363

Opening times:

Open All Year. Closed 24th & 25th December.

Jan-Feb Wed, Sat & Sun only. Mar-23 Dec, Open Daily.

10.30am-6pm During British Summer Time

10.30am-4pm rest of the year.

Special events list

Charges:

Adults 9.50, 60+ 8.50, Child (4-15) & full time students 5, Under 4 Free, Family 2+3 26, Registered disabled and helper 3 each. Car parking is free.

Photo Restrictions:

No restrictions for non commercial photography.

Other Restrictions:  
Special Needs Access: They have a map showing the areas which are wheelchair friendly and giving details of access. Click here for details.
Special Needs Facilities: 3 disabled parking spaces, 3 toilet blocks have wheelchair access.
Children Facilities:  
Dogs Allowed: Yes, but must be kept on a lead

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.

 


By: Tracey Park Section: Living History Section  Windmill Section Key:
Page Ref: Weald_Open Topic: Living History Last Updated: 07/2011

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