Lion and Unicorn

Black and white photograph of a man with an eye patch and cap standing beside large straw sculptures of a lion and a unicorn, with trees in the background.

John Tarlton, Fred Mizen with Lion and Unicorn sculptures, 1951 These photographs by John Tarlton show celebrated straw craftsman Fred Mizen beside sculptures that he made for the Lion and the Unicorn pavilion at the Festival of Britain. These artworks welcomed visitors to a space devoted to the intangible qualities of Britishness, giving form to symbols of […]

51 Voices: from Protest to Performance

Last month, The MERL embarked on 51 Voices, a new year-long project celebrating the Museum’s seventieth anniversary in 2021. Throughout the year, we will be working with a range of writers, artists and different communities to give contemporary voice to fifty-one objects and archives in The MERL collection connected in myriad ways to our founding year. In the […]

Festival Logo

Blue, red, and white textile with Festival of Britain logo

Michael O’Connell, Festival of Britain logo wall-hanging, circa 1951 In 1948, the graphic designer Abram Games won a competition to create a logo for the Festival of Britain. His successful design featured Britannia, bunting, union jack colours, and a compass shape. It combined national pride and the idea of a seafaring superpower with the homely […]

Model pub

Aerial view of small ceramic model of mock Tudor public house

Danbury Mint, Model pub from The Archers radio serial The long-running BBC radio serial The Archers was first broadcast nationally on 1 January 1951, the same day that very first objects were accessioned into The MERL collection. Designed as a way to communicate the latest farming techniques to the agricultural community, it told the story […]

Sheep bell

Metal sheep bell with handle, seen on its side with clapper visible

Whitechapel Bell Foundry, Sheep bell used as theatre prop, 1950s The Whitechapel Bell Foundry closed in 2017, after more than four centuries of continuous trade, and 250 at the same site. At around the same time they made this bell they also cast a special bell for the 1951 Festival of Britain. The closure of […]

Model thresher

Detail of a small dark wooden threshing machine mechanism with cogs and workings visible.

Barrett, Exall & Andrewes, Model threshing machine, 1847 This is a scale demonstration model of a type of four-horse-powered threshing machine, used after harvest to separate the grains from the stalks of cereal crops. This object was the second item to be listed as part of The MERL collection. It was given by Reading Museum […]

Giant Teapot

Michael Cardew, Large teapot on iron stand, 1940s This enormous teapot was designed and made by Michael Cardew at Winchcombe Pottery, Gloucestershire. It was part of the British Council’s craft collection and is probably the same iconic teapot that featured in the exhibition of Modern British Crafts held at the Museum of Modern Art, New […]

Miller’s Wagon

Meadcroft of Welwyn et. al., Miller’s wagon, circa 1880 This wagon was acquired by the Museum in 1951. Its survival is testament to the mid-century drive of collectors who sought to rescue rural heritage. Vehicles like these came under threat during the interwar period when other modes of transport came to the fore. This was […]

  • 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