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, […]

Get out … into the countryside

Have you noticed that the days are staying lighter for longer? Is spring just around the corner? Does the change in season make you think about spending time outside? If you are one of the 53 million people in the UK who live in an urban environment, you might want to ‘get out into the […]

The mystery of Joseph Arch’s plaster hands

One hand forms a light fist – the other relaxed, as though sleeping. The passing of years has given the plaster almost the colour of skin, the fingers looking almost nicotine-stained. The plaster-cast hands of Joseph Arch (10/11/1826-12/02/1919) are very personal objects. One theory for their existence is that they were cast in place of […]

‘Muscle Memory: the story of a pair of clogs’ by Hannah James

This year at the MERL Annual Lecture we presented ‘Muscle Memory’, a world-premiere performance from award-winning accordionist, singer and clog dancer Hannah James, developed in response to the collections at The MERL and the traditions that have helped shaped them. One of the key figures in the revival of English percussive dance, Hannah’s musicianship takes […]

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, […]

Volunteer retires after 23 years at The MERL

Staff and volunteers gathered for a special celebratory coffee morning honouring the sterling service of volunteer, Ron Butler, who is retiring after volunteering for an amazing 23 years at The MERL. The icing on the cake was that Ron was selected to receive the 2018 University of Reading’s Alumni Society’s Distinguished Volunteer Award. Ron and […]

Stepping out of time with Hannah James at The MERL Annual Lecture

Stepping out of Time, this year’s MERL Annual Lecture, is no ordinary lecture… This year, we are in for a treat as award-winning accordionist, singer and clog dancer Hannah James performs her new work, ‘Muscle Memory’, which we have commissioned as part our project Making, Using and Enjoying: The Museum of the Intangible, funded by […]

Why is a chicken wearing trousers?

The inclusion of an image of a chicken wearing trousers is one of the more surprising aspects of Richard Beale’s mathematical notebook. As usual with stories that go viral on the internet, conspiracy theories have already sprung up. Is it really a chicken? Is it really wearing trousers? Why do the trousers appear to be […]

Chicken in trousers? What’s next – a cow wearing wellies?

Tens of thousands of you have enjoyed a chicken in trousers from The MERL over the weekend. A series of amazing doodles in the margins of an old maths book went viral in a Twitter thread, which offered a peek into the world of an eighteenth-century teenager from Biddenden, Kent, as well as an amusing […]

Searching for the Extraordinary

Heritage Open Days (HOD) were approaching, and my fellow MERL volunteer Kaye and I were anticipating, as we do every year, the fun of taking groups of visitors around our lovely Grade 2 listed building, East Thorpe. It’s now home to The MERL admin. offices, the archives and the reading room, but in times past was the […]

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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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