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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Black Eyes and Lemonade

Cover of exhibition catalogue for Black Eyes and Lemonade (GREAT EXHIBITION--12/06)

Exhibition catalogue, Black Eyes and Lemonade, 1951 This catalogue listed the contents of a quietly influential exhibition held as part of the Festival of Britain. An eclectic range of items were assembled by artist and author Barbara Jones, the creative force behind the show. The displays made a powerful statement about the importance and vitality […]

Cotswold Tradition

Exhibition catalogue, The Cotswold Tradition, 1951 This catalogue reveals that some of the many objects given to The MERL by writer H. J. Massingham in early 1951 were almost immediately sent on loan to an exhibition at Cirencester Park. This display was part of a significant regional strand of the Festival of Britain and was […]

Women’s Institute

Pinkneys Green Women’s Institute Banner, circa 1951 (MERL 2007/48/1-2)

Pinkneys Green WI, Women’s Institute Banner, circa 1951 The National Federation of Women’s Institutes was established in 1915. Since that time it has come to play a significant role in the social, cultural, political, and creative life of rural England. This striking textile banner was hand-stitched by members of the Pinkneys Green WI in around […]

51 Voices: A growing understanding

This January, 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. […]

Queer Constellations: an interview with Daniel Baker

From the 6th July, two artworks by Daniel Baker, Copse and Canopy, will go on display at The MERL as part of our latest display, Queer Constellations. Daniel is a Romani Gypsy born in Kent: an artist, curator and theorist, he holds a PhD on the subject of Gypsy aesthetics from the Royal College of […]

Buildings Of England

Nikolaus Pevsner, Cornwall (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1951) Published in 1951, Cornwall was the first of The Buildings of England series. It would eventually cover the whole country and reach a total of 46 volumes, standing as a classic and widely-acclaimed interpretation of the the architectural and cultural history of the counties. The series drew to a close in […]

  • 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