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Weald & Downland Open Air Museum

Location

Sussex_west Map

OS Ref: SU 875 127

Last Visited: 2015


The Weald & Downland Open Air Museum near Singleton was launched in 1967 by a small group of enthusiasts, and opened to the public on 5 September 1970.

It covers a 40-acre site and has fifty exhibit buildings. There is a café, and there are walks in the woods to the south of the site.

For opening times, admission prices, etc., please see the official site detailed below.

Bayleaf Farmstead

Bayleaf Farmstead

Bayleaf Farmstead

A Bedroom

A Bedroom

Bayleaf Farmstead is an example of a Wealden House, a type found throughout Kent and Sussex.

When it was built in the early 15th century it was a high status property, and to this day Wealdens (such as this example in Smarden, Kent) are very desirable.

The Hall and the Hearth

The Hall and the Hearth

Unfortunately there was some sort of event happening around the front of the property, so I had to settle for a shot of the back. This does not show the characteristic over-hanging bays at either end of the property.

Inside, the replica furniture and equipment represents the house as it might have been in about 1540. In an age when chimneys could only be found in castles and abbeys, the hearth had to be sited in the middle of the room, well away from the wooden walls.

External Links and References

Poplar Cottage

Poplar Cottage lies at the opposite end of the scale to Bayleaf Farmstead. It was built on the edge of Washington Common near Steyning, probably by a landless labourer in the mid-17th century. It has a simple two-up two-down plan.

They could not afford a proper chimney, so instead there is a primitive smoke bay in the one heated room.

External Links and References

Tindalls Cottage

Tindalls Cottage

Tindalls Cottage

The Copper

The Copper

Tindalls Cottage of a similar plan to Poplar Cottage and was built about fifty years later. In this case the owners could afford the chimney from the outset, instead of having to wait nearly a century for such a luxury.

The name ‘Tindalls’ derives from the surname of the family that lived there for three generations between 1748 and 1806.

This is one of the museum’s most recent exhibits, having only arrived on the site in 2013.

External Links and References

Medieval Shop from Horsham

Part of a row of properties comprising the shop, the Upper Hall from Crawley and a medieval house from North Cray that, together with the Titchfield Market Hall form a street scene that the Museum hopes to develop into a market place.

The Medieval Shop originally stood in Middle Street, Horsham and was moved here in 1967 when the site was needed for redevelopment. Very little is known of the history of the building which appears to date from the late 15th century.

External Links and References

  • External Links

Titchfield Market Hall

Titchfield Market Hall

Titchfield Market Hall

The Titchfield Market Hall is a reconstruction of a type of building that would have existed in most English towns in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Gradually they fell out of use, and most were demolished during the subsequent centuries. Some, however, were adapted to other uses; for example the Guildhall in Much Wenlock. Others were rebuilt in stone, such as Whitby’s Town Hall.

In a few cases the buildings were moved to less valuable sites, and in the middle of the nineteenth century this was the fate of the Titchfield Market Hall.

External Links and References

  • External Links

Gonville Cottage

Gonville Cottage

Gonville Cottage

Gonville Cottage is different to all the other buildings on the site; the maturity of its garden gives it away. It is one of the few buildings original to the site, and having been built here in the 18th century.

It is used by the museum’s Historic Clothing Project, and on certain days they display some of the garments which they make for wearing and working in at the Museum.

Late nineteenth, early twentieth century furniture also makes a welcome change from the sparse medieval and Tudor interiors of the majority of the other buildings.

Gridshell

The Gridshell

The Gridshell

The Gridshell

The Gridshell

One of only two modern buildings on the site, the Gridshell, completed in 2002, is an award-winning example of what can be achieved using timber as a structural material.

Looking at all the medieval timber-framed buildings on the site, it easy to come away with the impression that it is an old fashioned way of building.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth as the vast majority of new homes are timber-framed with just a brick or breeze block outer skin.

The upper deck is used as a conservation workshop and training space. Downstairs are storerooms for the Museum’s collections of tools and artefacts.

External Links and References

  • External Links

    • Downland Gridshell
      More information from the official site.
      http://www.wealddown.co.uk/buildings/downland-gridshell/

Lurgashall Mill

Lurgashall Mill is a working corn mill that produces flour that can be purchased in the Museum Shop, and very good it is too.

Daring back in part to the 17th century, like all mills it underwent many changes during its working life, until it closed in the 1930s.

Only a boring landscape nerd would point out that there is no natural stream here, and that discreetly tucked away behind the trees is an electric pump that returns water from the tail race to the mill pond; so I shan’t mention it.

External Links and References

  • External Links

Plumbers' Workshop

The Plumber’s Workshop

The Plumber’s Workshop

The Plumber's Workshop

The Plumber's Workshop

The Plumbers’ Workshop was erected around the end of the nineteenth century for W R Fuller, Plumbers & Decorators of Red Brick House, Newick, just south of the village green.

The building was prefabricated, and the first floor was used as a glaziers’ workshop.

It took me right back to age ten and the school woodwork classroom. This was housed in a similar wooden shed with large windows.

All it needed was the pot of horse hoof glue simmering in the corner, a grumpy old man who never said anything, and us staring at blocks of wood and wondering what we were supposed to do with them. Happy days!

External Links and References

South Wonston Church

South Wonston Church

South Wonston Church

South Wonston Church

South Wonston Church

In 1829 corrugated iron was invented by Henry Robinson Palmer, and quickly became the building material of choice for churches, village halls, sports pavilions and the like.

With the expanding population and the religious revivals, large numbers of so called tin tabernacles were built towards the end of the nineteenth century.

In 1908 this prefabricated church was ordered from Humphreys Ltd of Knightsbridge, a manufacturer of iron buildings, for South Wonston, a new village created in 1892.

External Links and References

  • External Links

Toll House

The Tollhouse

The Tollhouse

The Toll Board

The Toll Board

I often wonder how much little buildings like this contributed to the growth of the railways. If (as is the case these days) the roads had been built and maintained at the tax-payers expense whilst the public had to pay to use the trains, would the railways have grown so quickly?

This example comes from Beeding, and served a road that was built in 1807.

The toll board, on the other hand, comes from Northchapel, near Petworth

External Links and References

  • External Links

Walderton House

The House from Walderton is one of the few brick and flint buildings on the site, which given how common such buildings are throughout Sussex, seems strange. It started life as a medieval timber-framed building with an open hall, and only gained its current exterior in the mid-17th century.

In the nineteenth century it was converted into a pair of semi-detached cottages, one half of which became the village post office.

External Links and References

  • External Links

    • House from Walderton
      More information from the official site.
      http://www.wealddown.co.uk/buildings/house-walderton/

Whittaker's Cottages

Also very different from most of the rest of the site are Whittaker’s Cottages.

They were built on a site that was once owned by an elderly agricultural labourer called Richard Whittaker. He sold it to the railway company building the line between Epsom and Leatherhead. They used part of it, and sold the rest to a local baker who built the cottages.

The cottages date from 1860. One is furnished accordingly; a pleasant change from all the medieval interiors. The other has been left unfinished inside with the timber-framed structure exposed; interesting, but not very photogenic.

External Links and References