Why the Folk?

Written by Dr Ollie Douglas, Curator of MERL Collections Here at The MERL we like short, snappy titles. We are especially fond of rurally-themed four-letter words. Nothing too crude, of course. We prefer wholesome, nostalgic words linked to our collections. MAKE. MILK. WOOL. Even UNIT sort of fits the mould. Based on these criteria alone, […]

Autumn is Here: Grab Your Mattock, People!

September. The darker nights are drawing in, casseroles will soon be making a triumphant return to our kitchen tables, and mattocks are having a moment. That’s right, mattocks. The ultimate Autumn tool for farmers everywhere. But what are these mysterious tools, and why have they been so important to agriculture through the ages? What’s the […]

Life of the People

Written by Chip Colquhoun, storyteller and author Last summer I was invited to the MERL to take part in a workshop for the Museum of the Intangible project, and was asked to produce a creative response to the collections. This project is all about exploring the potential of intangible cultural heritage (ICH) and creative and […]

The Land Girl’s Lament: Tracking a mystery poet

This is the story of trying to find a lost land girl. It began when a poem recently arrived at the MERL (reference D DX2222, to be exact). It is written by a Land Girl who talks of both the perceptions and the reality of what a land girl does. The person who gave us […]

Town and Country: William Shenstone & Leasowes Park

Written by Adam Koszary, Project Officer for Our Country Lives. How interdependent are town and country? How do they rely on each other, and where does one end and the other begin? It is a theme we’re exploring in great detail for Our Country Lives and, considering around 90% of English people live in urban areas, a […]

Stereotypes and slaughter: Why are horror films set in the countryside?

Written by Adam Koszary, Project Officer for Our Country Lives. The countryside is terrifying. When you’re not being offered as human sacrifice you’re either being forced to knife-fight your own wife and son to the death, getting eaten by the local wildlife or being pushed off a cliff by a psychotic caravaner from Redditch. Or, at […]

Dog Carts: Travel in style

Written by Adam Koszary, Project Officer. In my mind the idea of a dog cart is fairly funny. The idea of, say, a Pug or a French Bulldog pulling along bespoke, miniature carts is absurd, endearing and yet a little unsettling, like performing animals at the zoo. They are also some of my favourite objects […]

Coopering in the MERL collections

Since May I’ve been working on the Reading Engaged project to research content for the new galleries which will form part of MERL’s redevelopment project, Our Country Lives. True to my passions as ever, I’ve been taking the opportunity to focus on researching craft, as we’re hoping to dedicate a large part of one of […]

Our Boneshaking connection to cycling

Written by Adam Koszary, Project Officer. At the moment of writing, 198 lycra-clad men from across the world are cycling through the Cambridgeshire countryside. They’re riding the best bicycles in the world (with the best thighs in the world), aiming for a finish line at Buckingham Palace, the prize of a yellow jersey and a […]

Biscuit recipe of the week: Threadneedle Street biscuits

In case you need biscuit-baking inspiration, we’ve been digging in our library and  archives for examples of biscuit recipes you might not have come across before. Our Librarian has managed to find several interesting recipes in the rare books collection, such as Lemon biscuits and Drop biscuits from  ‘The London Art of Cookery’ by John […]

  • Visit us

    Visit Us

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

    Free Admission

    The Museum of English Rural Life

    University of Reading

    Redlands Road

    Reading

    RG1 5EX

    Plan my visit