A Great Visit To Weald and Downland

posted in: Blog, UK | 24

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!

Me and mum outside a 17th century house at the museum

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.

Toll house
Me and Dad inside the tiny toll house

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 Toll House
Outside the toll house

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.

Outside the buildings
Me and mum outside three buildings including my favourite – the medieval townhouse

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.

The forge
Learning about blacksmiths with a volunteer

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.

More from us:

Fotheringhay, the birthplace of Richard III

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


24 Responses

  1. ERFmama

    What a wonderful post!! I LOVE open air museums! This is def. one I will have to have a closer look at for next year.
    If you ever travel to Holland I can recommend the Archeon, it’s a huuuge open air musem that takes you from the stone age to present time complete with actors and story tellers at every sight. 🙂

    • Jess

      Thank you very much! I really enjoyed visiting the museum and would love to go to Holland – it’s definitely somewhere I would like to visit with friends when I am older…

  2. Lisa Goodmurphy

    Enjoyed your write-up, Jess! We love visiting open-air museums – they can be such a fun way to learn about history particular when there are hands-on activities available.

    • Jess

      Thank you! I have always loved open-air museums, as they allow you to experience what it felt like in olden times.

  3. Erica Price

    I do love this sort of open air museum – not heard of this one before, but I’ll keep it mind for next time we are in the area.

  4. My Family Ties

    What a great place to visit I love the idea of open air museums, and that you got to sample the biscuits made from their own milled flour is brilliant!

    • Jess

      It was a really lovely idea, and they were sublime! It was a shame that no one was making flour when we visited, but it was fascinating to see all of the machinery.

  5. Joanna Imran

    Beautiful place, and I love the fact that they have these different activities – I know kids are not always interested in the strictly historical aspect of the museum 😉

    • Jess

      Thank you for the comment! We had such a nice time, and I learnt a lot about living conditions throughout history.

  6. Lucy Dorrington

    There is a very similar open-air museum with different buildings through time in St Fagan’s in Wales, I’ve been a few times with the children. If I’m ever up that way, I will have to pay a visit and see how they compare!

    • Jess

      We had an amazing time! I have never heard of St Fagan’s, but if it is anything like Weald and Downland it is certainly worth visiting.

  7. Jaime Oliver

    aww this looks fab i love finding out about the past and i am super nosy so this would certainly tick my must visit boxes 🙂

  8. kara

    I haven’t been there since I was at school but its looks like it hasn’t changed a bit. Will have to take the kids and relive some memories

  9. Ting at My Travel Monkey

    Oh thanks Jess for taking me on a trip down memory lane. I went to Weald and Downland on a school trip back when I was 13. So a long time ago! I remember being really fascinated by the museum. I think I had a picture if me outside the Toll House, too! Great write up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *