The archives of The Museum of English Rural Life are a leading resource for the study of the history of British agriculture, the countryside and rural society.
The collections range from papers of individual farms and large estates through the institutional archives of major countryside organisations to the trade records of agricultural firms, as well as over a million rural photographs, films relating to the countryside, tens of thousands of engineering drawings, personal records and journals of farmers, farm workers, land girls and evacuees.
Caring for millions of individual documents, photographs and volumes, we are an Accredited Archive Service and a Place of Deposit for Public Records. The MERL Collections as a whole are Designated as outstanding by Arts Council England.
These include substantial archives of agricultural engineering firms such as Ransomes, seed producers such as Suttons, and trade literature. The records of many landscape architecture businesses are also in our collections.
Records of organisations / societies
Our records of hundreds of individual farms across the UK, recording day to day farming routine, date back to the 17th century. There are particular strengths in smaller farms, the southern parts of England and the period after 1850. We hold the records of some larger estates such as the Wellington Estate in Hampshire.
In addition to the above, we hold collections of documents – large and small – relating to rural crafts, research and innovation, and individuals from authors to collectors. Examples include the memoirs of children evacuated to the countryside during the Second World War; research papers of scientists Hugh Macdonald Sinclair and R.G. Stapledon, and the historian W.E. Tate; and documents from the author H.E. Bates and the poultry expert David Scrivener.
Photographic and film collections
With more than a million images and hundreds of motion picture films, we are one of Britain’s largest specialist sources for images and footage of farming and rural life.
- Search the collections via the catalogue
- These collections are for consultation via the Reading Room
- Please contact us about your research.
- For digital access services see: https://collections.reading.ac.uk/visit-us/digital-access/