Weald and Downland Living Museum – Chichester, England - Atlas Obscura
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Chichester, England

Weald and Downland Living Museum

This open-air heritage museum illuminates centuries of historic English life from a West Sussex village. 

More than 50 buildings constructed between the 10th and 19th centuries constitute the Weald and Downland Living Museum, an interactive heritage site that provides an in-depth glimpse into southeast English history and architecture.

The museum was originally established as the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum in 1967, and officially opened in the fall of 1970. Sited across 40 acres in South Downs National Park, the museum was founded not only to increase public interest in the subject, but to rescue historic buildings slated for demolition or collapse in the region.

Homes, halls, and workshops from across Sussex, Hampshire, Kent, and Surrey were carefully dismantled and reassembled on-site, where they operate as they did centuries before. Whether you choose to grind grain in a 17th-century mill or sit by the fire in a medieval cottage, the Weald and Downland Living Museum breathes life back into these relics of village life.

You might also catch some of the demonstrations that take place throughout the buildings. Taste Tudor delicacies from the 16th-century Winkhurst kitchen, where hand-churned butter and traditional pastries introduce visitors to old-world recipes; learn about the evolution of blacksmithing, milling, and weaving; or partake in an old-world domestic chore, be it dying fabrics or doing the laundry.

Visitors can additionally wander through gardens, along a pond, and among farm animals. A permanent exhibition of artifacts can be seen in the Weald and Downland Gridshell, an award-winning building constructed to house some 15,000 objects, from horse shoes to wagons, as well as the museum’s conservation studios.

Know Before You Go

Visitors are welcome to interact with the buildings’ interiors by way of sitting on the furniture and touching domestic objects. Dogs as well as picnics are permitted on the grounds, and a café by the entrance offers a varied menu from local suppliers. A gift shop offers a curated selection of toys, books, clothing, and foodstuffs like flour produced on-site. In addition to a program of special events that take place throughout the year, the Weald and Downland Living Museum also hosts educational courses that teach adults about building conservation and traditional trades.

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