Domestic Flowerpot

Quentin Bell, Decorated plant pot, 1951 (MERL 2010/69)

Quentin Bell, Decorated plant pot, 1951 This pot was made by Quentin Bell, the acclaimed art historian, academic, writer, and potter. It was produced in 1951 and dedicated to a member of household staff at a sprawling Sussex farmhouse called Charleston. It was in this rural locale that the maker’s parents—the painter Vanessa Bell and […]

Birds and Men

Detail of title page of Edward Max Nicholson, Birds and Men (London: Collins, 1951)

Edward Max Nicholson, Birds and Men (London: Collins, 1951) Published in 1951 and penned by conservationist Max Nicholson, Birds and Men was the seventeenth volume in the Collins New Naturalist series and the first of these influential texts to focus on birdlife. This iconic series is said to be the longest running of its kind, […]

Huge Wall-Hangings

Michael O'Connell, Diversity of British Farming Wall-Hangings, 1951 (MERL 63/18/9).

Michael O’Connell, Diversity of British Farming Wall-Hangings, 1951 This huge textile depicting Kent is one of nine sections—a key, an introductory panel, and seven landscapes—that formed a 46-metre long display in the Country Pavilion of the Festival of Britain. It was designed by artist Michael O’Connell and the panels made with the help of his […]

Tropical Teaching

Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture: Silver Jubilee 1951 (London: ICTA, 1951)

Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture: Silver Jubilee 1951 (London: ICTA, 1951) The Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture (ICTA) was founded in St. Augustine, Trinidad, in 1921. This booklet was published in 1951 to celebrate twenty five years since its establishment. Trinidad remained part of the British West Indies for the entire first quarter century of […]

Thatching tools

Festival of Britain thatching objects (MERL 52/82-83, 85-91, & 79/64).

Festival of Britain, Thatching tools, 1951 This set of tools was exhibited at the Festival of Britain, where it helped to tell the story of straw in the Country Pavilion. The display also included straw sculptures produced by celebrated maker Fred Mizen. His techniques were derived in part from the art of thatch finials— decorative […]

Another Animal Farm

Eileen Mayo, Animals on the Farm (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1951) (Children's Collection 630-May).

Eileen Mayo, Animals on the Farm (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1951) The images in this children’s book offered a vision of an old-fashioned and mixed farm economy, complete with heavy horses, poultry, cattle, goats, pigs, sheep, and other creatures. Along with the detailed text these images offered a nostalgic story of farming at a time when agriculture was undergoing […]

Chicken in a Basket

Ose poultry basket (MERL 60/770)

Poultry basket, Ose, 1945–1946 Mid-century craft expert Muriel Rose bought this poultry basket, or Ose, from Highland Home Industries in Edinburgh during the 1940s. It was one of many handmade items sourced by her on behalf of the British Council who at that time established a significant collection of rural craft objects. Much of this material […]

Ploughs and Progress

Model C17th Hertfordshire plough from Festival of Britain (MERL 52/68)

Set of model ploughs, Festival of Britain, 1951 These ploughs were part of a series of eight wooden models made for the Country Pavilion of the Festival of Britain. Six of the original set still survive. This section of the Festival focused largely on technical progress and there they were shown alongside the latest farm […]

Festival Landscapes

Peter Shepheard, Landscape design sketchbook, 1951 This sketchbook belonged to architect, planner, and landscape architect Peter Shepheard and dates to January to March 1951. During this time he was working on final plans for the South Bank Exhibition site of the Festival of Britain. His contribution included designing garden-type zones in association with the main […]

In Your Garden

Vita Sackville-West, In Your Garden (London: Michael Joseph, 1951) The writer and poet Vita Sackville-West was an influential voice in mid-century rural life. In 1939, the seeds of an idea began to germinate and she grew keen to establish a ‘White Garden’ in the grounds of her Sissinghurst home. These creative plans were interrupted by […]

  • Visit us

    Visit Us

    We are now fully open.

    Free admission.

    The Museum of English Rural Life

    University of Reading

    Redlands Road

    Reading

    RG1 5EX

    Plan your visit
  • Visit us

    Visit Us

    We are now fully open.

    Free admission.

    The Museum of English Rural Life

    University of Reading

    Redlands Road

    Reading

    RG1 5EX

    Plan your visit