The Museum of English Rural Life

merlThe Museum of English Rural Life houses the most comprehensive national collection of objects, books and archives relating to the history of food, farming and the countryside.

The Museum of English Rural Life was established in 1951 and grew out of the University’s long tradition of academic excellence in agriculture. It pioneered a new field of museum activity and rapidly accumulated material relating to the great social and technological changes taking place in the countryside at the time, represented above all by the switch from horse power to the tractor.

Over the years, the collections have grown to encompass specialist holdings of books, archives, photographs and film so that the Museum operates as a national centre for the history of food, farming and the countryside.

In 2005, The Museum of English Rural Life moved to new premises. The redevelopment was funded by a £10.76m capital campaign, which was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the University, several major Trusts and Foundations and members of the public.

The new museum is now located in the heart of Reading and housed in a grade II listed building, formerly a University hall of residence. Originally designed by Alfred Waterhouse as the home of Sir Alfred Palmer (Huntley & Palmers biscuits, Reading) an adjoining new building, designed by Niall Phillips Associate, has been added. The two contrasting buildings overlook imaginatively restored gardens and create a perfect setting for a rural collection in an urban environment.

The Museum’s exhibition gallery is a light, open space teeming with objects and designed to draw out some comparisons between village-based society of a century ago and our globalised, high-tech and perhaps unsustainable world of today.

Telephone: 0118 378 8660