Collecting Rural England

No. of Objects: 27

An image depicting the Collecting Rural England gallery.

Changes to this gallery

2nd October, 2023

It is six years since we redisplayed our galleries under the banner of “Our Country Lives.” In the meantime, we have continued to acquire material and now have an important collection of toy farm vehicles donated by collector, Peter Wade Martins. Over the last six months, a new display of these colourful and engaging objects has been created in the gallery which is was originally ‘Collecting Rural England’. Now almost complete, you can find out more about the new gallery at ‘Model Farming

This page now describes the previous gallery.

Explore our beginnings and step into a country SHOW

Indulge in a bit of theatre as we take you back to 1951, when the museum toured country shows collecting objects and the Archers radio show began.

We have recreated our original touring tent, complete with original objects collected in the 1950s, and invite you to offer your ideas about what we should record and collect from today’s countryside.

Country shows provided an opportunity for us to examine and collect our rural past but also looked to the future. Old objects were displayed alongside stands selling the latest technologies.

Some highlights of this gallery include an original 1950s banner with the Museum’s name, early objects from the collection and our classic ‘little Grey Fergie’ tractor.

The MERL Google Streetview Tour

What can I see


Sister Lavinia

Collecting Rural England


Machinery 100 Years Ago

Collecting Rural England


Listen to The Archers on an old wireless

Tune in to one of the 5 episodes available - or listen to Barwick Green, The Archers' famous theme tune

Fill in a catalogue card

Think about rural life today - what would you collect if you were a Curator at The MERL today?

Did you know families used to pick hops on holiday?

Hop picking holidays allowed city families to earn money. Pickers were paid with tokens, which were used in local shops or exchanged for wages.

Did you know

...Elizabethan mattresses were used for both childbirth and corpses?

Mattresses, plaited from sedges, were made to support a mother during childbirth or a corpse after death. After use it would have been burned.

Did you know used to sow seeds by fiddle?

Sowing by hand can be slow and inaccurate. Seed drills were developed in the 1800s to sow seeds quickly in a straight line at regular intervals.

Did you know

...Lady Eve Balfour (1898-1990) was one of the earliest organic farmers and co-founded the Soil Association?

Women continue to play a key role in this movement, with organic farms employing significantly more women than chemical farming.

Did you know

...Suttons Seeds invented the seed packet?

The local Reading firm, founded in 1806, popularised paper packets of seeds for gardeners.

Item from the Suttons Sees Ltd. archive collection

Did you know

...villages often used to run their own fire services?

The National Fire Service was only created in 1941.