The Museum of English Rural Life explores the history of the English countryside and its people. The museum is free to visit and is one of the best things to do in Reading. Whether on your own or with friends and family, discover our  galleries, research our collections, refresh in our café, browse our shop, or relax in our garden.

We are a part of the University of Reading and work with Reading Museum as the Arts Council England-funded Museums Partnership Reading.

What's on



  • July 27 - January 30, 2022
  • Museum opening hours
  • Free



  • October 1 - January 31, 2022
  • Museum opening hours
  • Free


Events and workshops;

  • October 23 - November 30
  • Normal opening times
  • £4

Did you know families used to pick hops on holiday?

Hop picking holidays allowed city families to earn money. Pickers were paid with tokens, which were used in local shops or exchanged for wages.

Did you know

...Elizabethan mattresses were used for both childbirth and corpses?

Mattresses, plaited from sedges, were made to support a mother during childbirth or a corpse after death. After use it would have been burned.

Did you know used to sow seeds by fiddle?

Sowing by hand can be slow and inaccurate. Seed drills were developed in the 1800s to sow seeds quickly in a straight line at regular intervals.

Did you know

...Lady Eve Balfour (1898-1990) was one of the earliest organic farmers and co-founded the Soil Association?

Women continue to play a key role in this movement, with organic farms employing significantly more women than chemical farming.

Did you know

...Suttons Seeds invented the seed packet?

The local Reading firm, founded in 1806, popularised paper packets of seeds for gardeners.

Item from the Suttons Sees Ltd. archive collection

Did you know

...villages often used to run their own fire services?

The National Fire Service was only created in 1941.

Did you know


Our Country Lives - Latest Blog Posts

Our blog explores the people, places and issues of the historic and contemporary English countryside and rural life, uncovering and exploring our collections, the exciting activity around the MERL and the people we with.

The lives of sheep and cows

Michael McHugh introduces the FIELD project, and shares how the team are exploring the lives of sheep, cattle, and farmers.

Confessions of an award-nominated Museum Studies teacher

Hear from Dr Rhi Smith about the University of Reading's Museum Studies courses, and learn about her very exciting nomination for a Times Higher Education award!

The reading room is home!

We are pleased to announce that we will be re-opening the reading room in its usual space from Tuesday 23rd November 2021.

This means that we will have capacity for up to ten researchers a day, with full access to the books, journals and pamphlets in the open access library.

Opening times will remain the same: Tuesday-Friday, 9.30-12.30 and 13.30-16.00 (we will close for an hour at lunch).

Bookings and requests for material must still be made in advance. Find out how to do so on our reading room page. We recommend visiting this page to familiarise yourself with the most up-to-date procedures to avoid disappointment.

We will have the windows open to provide ventilation (bring extra layers on cold days) and we ask that researchers please continue to wear face coverings throughout their visits.

Thank you for your patience over the last couple of months while essential building work took place. We know that this has caused inconvenience to many of our researchers.

Plan your visit to the reading room.

Join Our Community

Friday, November 26th, 2021 at 9:31am
We're truly honoured to have been recognised for our work on climate change with a #QueensAnniversaryPrize.

This award is a testament to the efforts of our researchers focused on climate impact and adaptation 🌍

Read more:
#PlanetPartners #QAPrizes2022
  • The Museum of English Rural Life

    University of Reading

    Redlands Road


    RG1 5EX

    Need directions?