Jess, who’s 13, writes: During our stay at the Spread Eagle Hotel and Spa, our family visited Weald and Downland – an open air museum in Singleton, near Chichester. I was very excited to visit as we do not normally go to open air museums, yet the dismal weather looked as though it was going to ruin our day. Luckily, we had a fantastic time, and the museum exceeded my expectations!
Weald and Downland is a museum that doesn’t just look at how people lived throughout history, it uses buildings and building practises to show how accommodation and life has changed. Its 40-acre site was really pretty despite the rain, and we are sure that it would have been stunningly beautiful in the sun.
The museum is mainly outside, and consists of over 50 British buildings from most time periods. These buildings would have been demolished if it were not for the museum, and have all been restorated to look how they would have been hundreds of years ago.
Our visit started by going through an exhibition on different types of stone, the geographical landscape in the area and the lives of people who worked in some of the buildings. This was certainly interesting, but I cannot remember much about it – perhaps this is because the buildings we went to next were so fascinating.
The first building we visited was a toll house. This house was built in Beeding in 1807 and had a large toll board outside. We got to go inside the house and look at the furnishings. I was amazed by how cold it must have been, how little space there was and how much the fire got up your nose! There was a very kind and helpful man inside, who answered all of questions, told us about the history of the house and explained what all of the different objects inside were used for. We realised that it must have been very difficult for people to tell if the people inside the house were keeping some of the toll money for themselves, as there was not a clear documenting system…
The second house we visited at Weald and Downland was probably my favourite building of them all – a 15th century medieval house from North Cray. Although there was no one inside to give us information, there were folders with pictures in and diagrams on one of the walls. These told us what the different rooms were used for. What was so special about this house and the entire museum was that we were able to walk pretty much anywhere; this is a major change from most museums and made us enjoy our experience a whole lot more.
Other highlights of our trip were trying the delicious biscuits made with flour created at the watermill, learning about blacksmiths at the smithy and walking up the stairs in the market hall, allowing us to look at the beautiful site from above.
We decided not to eat at the museum as it was very cold and there was no heating, but there was a good option of food at reasonable prices.
Overall, Weald and Downland is a fantastic open air museum – it’s unique, interesting and really allowed me to think about life in olden times. There was a lot of walking involved and it was quite muddy at times, so I recommend bringing good shoes. I really enjoyed it and think that children of most ages will too – there are animals, interactive displays and there is loads of space to run around.
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An adult ticket for the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum is £11, and the price for a child (aged 4-15) is £4.50. A full list of prices can be found here.