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Museum of English Rural Life, Reading

(4.4/5 based on 85+ reviews on the web)
The Museum of English Rural Life is a museum dedicated to recording the changing face of farming and the countryside in England. It houses designated collections of national importance that span the full range of objects, archives, photographs, film and books.The museum is run by the University of Reading, and is situated in Redlands Road to the rear of the institution's London Road Campus near to the centre of Reading in southern England. The location was formerly known as East Thorpe House and then St. Andrews Hall.History of the museum and its siteThe museum's site was originally occupied by a house known as East Thorpe, designed in 1880 by Alfred Waterhouse for Alfred Palmer (of the Reading biscuit manufacturers Huntley & Palmers). Palmer was an important early benefactor of Reading University and in 1911 East Thorpe was extended to become St Andrews Hall, a hall of residence for women attending the university.The museum itself was founded in 1951, growing out of the university's long academic connections with agriculture. It originally occupied premises on the University of Reading's main Whiteknights Campus.St Andrews Hall closed as a hall of residence in 2001, despite some opposition from current and former members. The site was then redeveloped for the use of the museum, with the cost of £11m being shared by the university, the Heritage Lottery Fund and public donations. The redeveloped museum opened in 2005 and retains the original East Thorpe building, with the addition of an adjoining new building. The two contrasting buildings overlook restored gardens, providing a setting for a rural collection in an urban environment.
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Reviews
TripAdvisor
  • We always struggle to find cool things to do on wet weekends so casting around google for nearby museums, we stumbled across the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading. Only an hour's drive away from...  more »
  • My friend and I travelled up from Portsmouth having heard about the Ladybird book exhibition - that was almost disappointingly small, but the rest of the museum was so brilliant it didn't matter. The ...  more »
  • We were attracted to the Museum of English Rural Life by the Ladybird Books exhibition, which was really rather small in the end, but we left feeling we had found a (relatively) undiscovered gem. And ...  more »
Google
  • It was a nice museum pre-October 2014 and it remains a nice museum today. It is slightly bigger and stuff has been re-jigged around a bit and I understand the full collection is now on display. As someone who was very familiar with the old layout and displays, it isn't that different. As a family we have massively missed being able to use MERL and its garden over the past two years, its closure has been a big loss to local residents. Personally, I wish they had just left it alone and open! Blooming lottery funding!
  • A great museum and community archive/meeting place/resource, focusing on rural life across the UK and more locally in Berkshire. The fantastic facelift and re-organisation in October 2016 has definitely changed the MERL for the better.
  • Lovely new spacious building full of many rural tools and wagons.
  • We went here for a day out as a family. Very welcoming and I loved the atmosphere they had created! All of the family enjoyed - they are very accommodating.
  • A good family day out