Shaping the Land

No. of Objects: 1

An image of a timber wagon in the first gallery of the Museum of English Rural Life.


Begin your visit by stepping into this atmospheric space to experience the sights and sounds of the woods, wildlife and the weather.

A timber wagon stands alone here, reminding us of how trees once dominated the landscape and that clearing them was the first step in creating the English countryside that we know today.

This gallery sets the scene for the rest of the Museum, and shows how the countryside is shaped by nature and by human activity: season after season, year after year.

The MERL Google Streetview Tour


Lose yourself in the seasons

Our animation of the changing seasons is a hit with young and old alike. Watch as our rural scene shifts from the fresh young shoots of Spring through to the snowy solitude of Winter.

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.

Did you know

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

The National Fire Service was only created in 1941.

Did you know