Superstitious in the countryside

Written by Nicola Minney. An active part in the make-up of rural England’s pysche has always been a degree of superstition. In agricultural communities, people’s lives critically depended on bountiful harvests and healthy livestock, as they still do, so the people would be vigilant for any and all signs of looming disaster, of portents and […]

‘I, Sheep’ and capturing the intangible countryside

In the countryside, time is strange. The pace of life may appear glacial, and as old as the hills. Our countryside might seem as static and carefully tended as a museum object. But rural places are also dipped in seasonality and drenched in constant change. They follow the repeating rhythm of the annual round. Sheep […]

Contested Countryside: Commons & the Cold War

This ‘Contested Countryside’ blog by Felicity McWilliams tells a story from the Museum’s newly acquired archives of the Open Spaces Society, Britain’s oldest national conservation body. It explores the disproportionate impact of a small group of West Berkshire Commoners on the US-USSR nuclear arms race in the 1980s. Greenham Common is an 855-acre gravel plateau […]

“Gambling with floods?” An immersive Sci-Art exhibition

In this guest blog, Dr Louise Arnal joins us to discuss her immersive SciArt installation “Gambling with Floods?”, which was exhibited at the Museum from the 1st to the 15th November 2019. Through a fusion of scientific and artistic practice, “Gambling with Floods?” invites its viewer to experience first-hand the complexities of forecasting flooding. How […]

Agricultural Shows in the Picture

As we enter the virtual showground and magnificent new website of The Greatest Online Agricultural Show to celebrate our friends in the virtual farming community, we wanted to post to our own blog to mark the moment. What better time for our curator Ollie Douglas to delve into the rich culture and history of agricultural shows? […]

Revealing the archives of the Open Spaces Society

Helena Clarkson, a Project Archivist at the museum, writes about our ongoing work with the fantastic archives of the Open Spaces Society, a registered charity dedicated to preserving commons across England and Wales. At the museum, we’ve made significant progress on an exciting project involving the collections of the Open Spaces Society, a registered charity that […]

A Land Down Under

Anthropologist and Collections Volunteer Paul Trawick continues his journey of subsoil discovery, exploring the role of land drainage on English farms. In his first post – What Lies Beneath? – he introduced us to these little-known systems. In this installment he elaborates further on their history and how they work… We have already seen how […]

What lies beneath?

Anthropologist and Collections Volunteer Paul Trawick has been delving into the role of field drains on English farms. These hidden gems offer an ingenious and indigenous way to reclaim ground, improve topsoil, tame groundwater, and achieve sustainable crop yields. But few of us even know they are there. In this, the first of several posts, […]

Revealing the Concealed: English Folk Culture and Superstition

During the late medieval and early Tudor era, when superstition about witchcraft and the supernatural was at its height, people in England sought new forms of protection, and, for some, new ways of inflicting harm. It was at this time that many turned to concealing objects. Often found close to entrances, including doorways and fireplaces, […]

A snap chat about new photos of country shows

The next exciting instalment of our current Land and Folk seminar series brings the story of photographer Arnhel de Serra’s ongoing project, The Country Show, to The MERL for the very first time (see here for details). This body of work has been over a decade in the making and is the result of his […]

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    The Museum reopened in October 2016, following a major redevelopment, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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    The Museum of English Rural Life

    University of Reading

    Redlands Road

    Reading

    RG1 5EX

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