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Weald and Downland Living Museum 

The Weald and Downland Living Museum is an open-air museum in Singleton, West Sussex.

A group of buildings at the Museums Market Square Wealdanddownland

The museum covers 40 acres (16 ha), with over 50 historic buildings dating from 950AD to the 19th century, along with gardens, farm animals, walks and a mill pond.

The principal aim at the foundation of the museum was to establish a centre that could rescue representative examples of vernacular buildings from South East England, and thereby to generate increased public awareness and interest in the built environment.

The Museum principally promotes the retention of buildings on their original sites unless there is no alternative, and encourages an informed and sympathetic approach to their preservation and continuing use.

The buildings at the museum were all threatened with destruction and, as it was not possible to find a way to preserve them at their original sites, they were carefully dismantled, conserved and rebuilt in their historical form at the museum.

These buildings, plus two archaeological reconstructions, help the museum bring to life the homes, farmsteads and rural industries of the last 950 years. Along with the buildings, there are "hands-on" activities, like cooking, and weaving, and a number of yearly activities, including seasonal shows, historic gardens weekend and Tree Dressing.

The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum was launched in 1967 by a small group of enthusiasts led by the Museum's founder, the late Dr. J.R. Armstrong MBE. and It first opened to the public on 5 September 1970.

The principle of an open-air museum was well established in Scandinavia as a way to create a three-dimensional setting for explaining the way of living or working. Open-air museums allowed the buildings to give context to the techniques, equipment, furnishings, clothes and art of the period.


Aisled Barn


The barn was originally built at Prior's Leaze Farm, Hambrook, Sussex, in 1771. It has a timber frame of oak and elm clad with weatherboards, and a roof thatched with reed. The most characteristic feature of the Hambrook barn is the aisle, which continues round the ends as well as the sides of the building. The eaves thus form a continuous line except for the high barn doors, which were needed on one side to allow loaded wagons to enter. The barn houses an exhibition showing traditional building materials and building methods, including displays on bricklaying, glass work, lead work, iron work, tiling and thatching. During the repair of the barn the date 1771 was found scratched on an original rafter. The date was covered by a batten from the original thatched roof and probably records the date of construction of the building.

Barn from Cowfold


This timber-framed barn dates from the 16th Century and originally stood at Cowfold, Sussex and is a typical late-medieval example from the Weald. The timbers have been analysed by dendrochronology (tree-ring dating) which revealed that they were felled in 1536, so the barn was probably built soon after this. In the museum, it is sited to form a farmstead with Bayleaf farmhouse.

Bayleaf farmhouse

Bayleaf_farmhouse Bayleaf_farmhouse The Bayleaf farmhouse being dismantled

                                                                                                                                   The house being dismantled

Bayleaf farmhouse is a timber-framed Wealden hall house with a peg tile roof, dating from the early 15th century. The building has four rooms on the ground floor and two on the first floor. The house has vertical shutters to some of the windows, and a garderobe on the first floor. It was originally built at Ide Hill,  Kent, and was donated to the Museum in 1968 by the East Surrey Water Company as it was threatened with destruction by the creation of Bough Beech Reservoir. The building was dismantled in the winter of 1968–69.

Brick-drying shed


The brick-drying shed was originally located at the Causeway Brickworks, near Petersfield, Hampshire. It is 80 feet long, was built in 1733 and now houses an exhibition of traditional brickmaking. The Causeway 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. Another, more recent, drying shed from the same brickyard has been re-erected at the Amberley Working Museum.

Carpenter's shop


The carpenter's shop was originally built at Windlesham, Surrey, and dates from the late 19th or early 20th century. The building is constructed on a rough timber frame, with the main posts 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.

Cattle sheds


Five open-fronted cattle sheds have been re-erected at the Museum, which date from the 18th to 19th centuries.

The small, three-bay shed is from Lurgashall and is located near the Bayleaf farm house.

The seven-bay shed from Kirdford was originally joined at right angles to another of eight bays, together with a barn. It has been re-erected next to a shed from Goodwood, forming two sides of a yard.

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.

Charcoal burner's camp


The charcoal burner's camp was one of the original exhibits when the Museum first opened to the public in 1970, and charcoal burning was the first rural trade to be demonstrated. The camp exhibit shows the process of making charcoal. The kiln had to be watched whilst the charcoal was being produced, so the burner lived on-site in a hut.

The camp was recently refurbished and this was done with the advice of retired charcoal burners who had made charcoal using traditional earth covered clamps until 1948 and advised the museum on the camp's reconstruction.

Court barn


Court barn dates from the late 17th or early 18th century. It was originally built at Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire. It had the normal arrangement of a central threshing floor between the storage bays and there is an owl loft above the entrance. The building houses an exhibition on the use of lead in buildings and plumbing, stonemasonry and stained glass work. The barn was dismantled in 1976 and re-erected at the Museum in 1980. The work was funded by the Worshipful Company of Plumbers. The BBC TV series The Repair Shop is largely filmed in the barn.



The crane was made by John Smith Ltd of Keighley, Yorkshire, in 1900 and was originally installed at a farm in Alton, Hampshire. It is rated at 5 tons capacity and is worked by hand. It forms part of a reconstructed timber yard.



The granary was built in 1731 at West Ashling, Sussex. It has a timber frame filled with bricks, and a thatched roof. The building measures 20 feet (6.10 m) square, which makes it one of the larger granaries. It is built on sixteen staddle stones as an anti-vermin measure.



The Gridshell building

The Weald and Downland Gridshell was constructed in 2000–2002. An innovative design built primarily to create an accessible store for the Museum's rural life collection, it also houses the Museum's conservation workshops, and an exhibition area is in the foyer.



This medieval hall house was originally built at Boarhunt, Hampshire, in the 15th century.[22] It is of cruck frame construction, with brick walls and a thatched roof. The building was rescued in 1971. Photographs show that the house was extended to about double its original size but only the medieval section of the house was dismantled and re-erected at the Museum. The hall is about 17 feet (5.18 m) square in plan, with a service room at one end. The other end of the original building was lost due to various extensions and alterations over the centuries. The reconstructed building contains about 30% of the original timbers, which would normally prevent its reconstruction. An exception has been made in this case as the surviving original timbers are well distributed, and because of its unique cruck frame construction.

Horse Whim


The horse whim is housed in an open-fronted thatched shed that was originally at Charlwood, Surrey. It was used to raise water from a well. The horse whim was originally built at West Kingsdown, Kent.

House, Lavant


This house dates from the 17th century. It originally stood at Lavant, West Sussex. Externally it has been restored to its 17th-century appearance, but it has a modern interior. The building is used as an education room for school and youth visits to the Museum[

House, Walderton


This house was originally built at Walderton, Sussex. It has a timber frame dating from the 15th century, with flint external walls added in the 17th century. It has a thatched roof.

House extension

This building was the rear extension of a house in Reigate, Surrey, added in the 17th century. It has two carved fireplaces and there are the remains of wall paintings. This building is not currently open to the public.

Joinery shop


The joinery shop was originally built at Witley, Surrey, and dates from the late 19th or early 20th century. It houses an exhibition on building construction.

Longport Farmhouse


The Longport Farmhouse is a typical Kent farmhouse and was formerly located at Folkestone, Kent, but was threatened by the construction of the Channel Tunnel. The earliest part of the building dates from 1554 and was originally attached to a medieval hall, which no longer exists. From the late 16th century through to the early 20th century various extensions and alterations were made. The farmhouse was dismantled in 1992 by a team from the Museum and the Canterbury Archaeological Trust and reconstructed in 1995. During the reconstruction the museum tried to reconstruct faithfully the historic building as it came into the 20th century, with all its phases of alteration. However, the 17th-century chimney stack was not reconstructed, but was dismantled and recorded in such a way that it could be reconstructed in the future. In leaving it out the Museum created an open space in the building to allow it to serve as the Museum's entrance and shop, and to better demonstrate the historic development of the farmhouse. The farmhouse also serves as offices for the Museum.

Market Hall

The Market Hall

The Market Hall

The Market Hall dates from the 17th century and was originally built at Titchfield, Hampshire. It has a lock-up on the ground floor and the first-floor room served as the town council chamber.[31] When the Market Hall was dismantled and re-erected at the Museum, it was the second time that had happened. The building had been moved from its original location in the centre of Titchfield to another site in the mid-19th century.

Medieval house, North Cray


This medieval hall house was originally built at North Cray, Kent. It is timber-framed with a peg tile roof. The external timbers are painted red.

Medieval house, Sole Street


This medieval hall house was originally built at Sole Street, Kent. It has a timber frame and peg tile roof. The building is used as a restaurant and tea room.

Medieval shops


This building dates from the 15th century and houses a pair of shops. It was originally built at Horsham, Sussex. The three-storey building has jettied upper floors. It is timber-framed with a peg tile roof and peg tiles to the upper floors on at least one side. The upper floors serve as the Museum's library and are not normally open to the public.

Open shed


The open shed dates from the 18th century. It was originally built at Charlwood, Surrey. It served as a cart shed and also a saw shed. The shed was dismantled in 1999, the work being partly funded by the British Airports Authority. When it was reconstructed at the Museum in 2000, the horse whim from West Kingsdown, Kent, was installed.

Pendean farmhouse


Pendean farmhouse

This hall house was originally built at West Lavington, West Sussex[ in 1609. Instead of an open hall there is a central chimney with fireplaces on both ground and first floors. It retains some features from 16th-century practice, such as unglazed windows. The building has a timber frame, with brick infill to the ground floor and wattle and daub infill to the first floor. It was re-erected at the Museum in 1975, but the discovery of a postcard of the building at its original site showed that the chimney had not been reconstructed correctly. The chimney was rebuilt in January 2001 to a more accurate profile. The house is furnished in period style.

Poplar cottage


Poplar Cottage

Poplar cottage is a small timber-framed, thatched building dating from the 17th century. It was originally built at Washington, Sussex. The building dates from between 1550 and 1630. It was donated to the Museum in 1982 and carefully dismantled in that year. It was re-erected in 1999. Work on re-erecting the building began on 10 April 1999, the timbers having been prepared over the previous winter.[43] The outside wall of the smoke bay was infilled with sandstone, whilst the rest of the building was infilled with wattle and daub. The roof was thatched.

Plumber's workshop


The plumber's workshop dates from the late 19th century and was originally built at Newick, Sussex. The upper floor served as a glazier's workshop.

Pugmill house

Pugmill_house Pugmill_house

This brick- and stone-built building originally stood at Redford, Sussex. It housed a horse-powered pug mill, which was used to prepare clay for brickmaking.

Saw-pit shed


This 19th-century shed was originally built at Sheffield Park, Sussex. It houses a range of tools used in the conversion of trees to finished timber.


School School

This building dates from the 19th century, and was used as a school for educating poor children in the early part of that century. It was originally built at West Wittering and is of brick and flint construction with a tiled roof.



The stable dates from the mid-18th century and was originally built at Watersfield, Sussex. It is timber-framed, clad in weatherboarding and has a peg tile roof. The building can house up to five horses or oxen.

Shelter shed


The open-fronted shelter shed was originally built at Coldwaltham, West Sussex



The smithy was built in the mid-19th century. It was originally at Southwater, Sussex.



The treadwheel dates from the early 17th century. It was probably not worked by a horse due to its size. The treadwheel is housed in a small timber-framed building with a thatched roof and was originally built at Catherington, Hampshire.

Toll cottage


The toll cottage is typical of those of the 18th and 19th centuries. It originally stood on a road built in 1807 at Upper Beeding, Sussex. It has been set up with a recreated tollgate and milestone.[

Upper Hall


This building dates from the 15th century and has a long, open room on the first floor, which probably served as a communal meeting place. It was originally built at Crawley, Sussex, behind Tree House—the old manor house of Crawley. The building was threatened with demolition due to an extension to an office building. Of the original four bays, two complete bays remained, plus a third of another. The original building would have been some 36 feet (10.97 m) long. The original roof covering would have been Horsham Slab, which was replaced when the building was re-erected at the Museum. Only the centre part of the present building is the original. The ends are modern reconstructions replicating contemporary practice. The building is used as the Museum's library and meeting place and is not normally open to the public. The Worshipful Company of Drapers donated £5,000, which was used to part-fund the dismantling and re-erection of the building at the Museum

Wagon shed


The wagon shed dates from the 18th century. It was originally built at Wiston, Sussex.



The watermill dates from the early 17th century, and was working until 1935. It is in working order, and flour from the mill is sold in the Museum shop. The mill was originally built at Lurgashall, Sussex, to serve Petworth House and Park. At one time it may have been used in the grinding of bark for use in the tanning process. In 1968, the derelict mill was damaged by floods, causing the millstones to fall through the rotting floors.

The mill was originally powered by a tributary of the River Rother. At one time the mill had two waterwheels, each working two pairs of millstones. The 12 feet (3.66 m) diameter overshot waterwheel, which was originally cast at Cocking Foundry for Coster's Mill, West Lavington, drives the two pairs of millstone, a sack hoist and flour dresser. The machinery in the mill was installed in 1911. The mill was donated to the Museum in 1973 and carefully dismantled, at which time evidence was found of a previous use of the site as a Hammer mill. Re-erection and restoration of the machinery took seven years.

Whittaker's cottages


Whittaker's cottages are a pair of timber-built cottages under a slate roof. They were originally built at Ashtead, Surrey. One cottage is furnished in 19th-century style and the other is unfurnished to better show its construction



The windpump is a hollow post mill that was built in the mid-19th century. It was originally at Westham, Sussex

Winkhurst kitchen

Winkhurst_kitchen1 Winkhurst_kitchen

This 16th-century building was originally part of a larger building at Sundridge, Kent. It is timber-framed with a crown-post roof. The building dates from between 1492 and 1537. It was the first building acquired by the Museum. Dismantled in 1968, it was re-erected at the Museum at a site that later proved to be unsuitable. Therefore, it was decided that the building should again be dismantled and re-erected at another site within the Museum, with modern extensions designed to allow the building to be better interpreted by visitors. The building was dismantled in December 2001 and reconstructed for the second time between February and May 2000 The interior of the building has been re-created as a working Tudor kitchen.

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