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 […]

Sister Lavinia

Photograph showing interior of Lavinia Smith's Downside House taken by Henry Owen Vaughan (MERL P DX2049 PH5_43)

Henry Owen Vaughan, Photographs of Miss Smith’s Museum, 1937–1943 These photographs were taken in the village of East Hendred during the late-1930s and early-1940s by the Reading-based amateur photographer Henry Owen Vaughan. They show a private home and museum at Downside House, which belonged to Lavinia Smith, sometimes referred to as ‘Miss Lavinia’ or ‘Sister […]

Clockwork Tractor

Ferguson, Demonstration model, circa 1949–1951 (MERL 2014/16/1-8)

Ferguson, Demonstration model, circa 1949–1951 This model tractor was designed to demonstrate how the innovative three-point linkage technology on Ferguson tractors worked. This unique mechanism featured on the iconic TE-20 tractor or ‘little grey Fergie’ and made for a vehicle that was more stable and adaptable. Models like this enabled Ferguson agents, technicians, and distributors […]

Machinery 100 Years Ago

People at the Museum tented display (D MERL/D1/61)

At the Royal Agricultural Show in Cambridge in 1951 people flocked to see the Museum’s display of Machinery 100 Years Ago. This old equipment sat only metres away from the very machines that threatened its existence. The countryside was steeped in history yet desperately in need of modernisation.


Turnwrest plough (MERL 55/786)

In its early years the Museum of English Rural Life toured the nation’s many country shows, picking up objects from farmers and the public and using its collections to show rural communities about the past. This old horse-drawn plough was displayed at the World Ploughing Championships in Shillingford, Oxfordshire, in 1956. Other stands at this […]

Ferguson Tractor

A black and white photograph of a Ferguson tractor sitting in the old museum galleries on Whiteknights campus, University of Reading.
This Ferguson Tractor was found as a mess on a scrapheap by a retired teacher at Rycotewood College. He enlisted the help of students to repair and restore the tractor to working condition. At a later date, it was purchased by The MERL with the help of the Science Museum. The tractor was probably manufactured [...]
  • Visit us

    Visit Us

    The Museum is now fully open, following a major redevelopment, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

    Free Admission

    The Museum of English Rural Life

    University of Reading

    Redlands Road


    RG1 5EX

    Plan my visit