Reins and Harnesses

To make leatherwork for horses a lot of skill and a good range of tools are required. This craft often happened in towns and villages, with a good saddler in high demand. As well as working on the farm, horses were the main form of transporting both people and good across the country, and leatherwork [...]

Making Hurdles

This brake was used by a hurdlemaker when making wooden gate hurdles. It consists of a complex wooden frame supporting a toothed iron jaw. It was acquired from the 1951 Festival of Britain. Hurdle maker's brake (MERL 52/36)

Hurdle maker’s brake, circa 1951 This brake provided a frame on which to construct wattle hurdles from hazel rods. It is thought to have been displayed at the Festival of Britain. In the early 1950s, handmade hurdles were still in use for penning livestock but were becoming less common. Lightweight metal gates were growing in […]

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, […]

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 […]

Elite Cow

Waddingtons, Grade Up To Elite Cow board game, 1986 (MERL 2010/34)

Waddingtons, Grade Up to Elite Cow board game, 1986 This extraordinary game saw players attempt to ‘grade up’ their imaginary dairy cattle to pedigree status via Monopoly-style gameplay. They navigated the board collecting semen to improve their herd and in doing so it was hoped that real farmers might feel encouraged to focus on livestock […]

The Country Year

Painting showing people at work harvesting potatoes

Barry Evans and William Kempster, Designs for The Country Year, 1951 The MERL holds five of these preparatory artworks, originally part of a wider set. The series was reproduced at a larger scale in a ‘merry-go-round’ structure called The Country Year. This sat between exhibits focused on Country Life and Rural Crafts in the Country Pavilion of the […]

Horse Brass

Detail of Armac Brassworks, Festival of Britain horse brass showing date '1951'

Armac Brassworks, Festival of Britain horse brass, 1951 This horse brass is in the shape of the Festival of Britain logo designed by Abram Games. It was one of many popular items sold to commemorate the event, from tea caddy spoons to teapots, badges to biscuit tins. Brasses like this were originally made to adorn […]

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