The MERL is open in line with government guidelines for indoor attractions. For updates, please check out our COVID-19 updates blog.

Whilst we are unable to accept group visits at the moment, due to lockdown restrictions, we are happy to take future bookings (from Autumn 2021), which can be changed if circumstances mean you are unable to visit as planned. 

The information is for groups visiting once restrictions have been lifted. We will be reviewing the situation as government advice changes and may adjust maximum numbers etc in accordance with regulations. If you would like to plan a group visit for 2021 or beyond, please contact us at to discuss your requirements.

We welcome groups! From Uniformed Groups to WIs, U3As and the Travel Trade, we can customise a group visit to meet your needs. We are proud to be a member of Tourism South East, winning a Bronze Award in the Small Visitor Attraction of the Year at the 2019 Beautiful South Awards. We are also an Ambassador on the Great West Way, and encourage visitors to explore Reading and everything it has to offer. We can work with partners across Reading to combine your visit with other activities, such as a visit to Reading Abbey or a river cruise.

The Museum of English Rural Life’s intriguing galleries tell the story of an important part of England’s history, exploring countryside, identity, environment, technology, culture and health. Exploring the galleries, you’ll discover stories that fascinate, surprise, and reveal the heart of rural England past and present.

To ensure you have enough space to explore the galleries, advance booking is essential for all groups of over 10 people. To avoid disappointment we recommend booking as far ahead as you can.


Celebrate our 70th Anniversary with us online! As you can’t visit at the moment, we are launching a new ‘Virtual Group Visit’ via Zoom. You’ll be joined online by one of our Welcome Hosts who will explore the galleries via a selection of objects that feature in our 51 Voices project.

Contact us for more details at


All groups are met by a Welcome Host. After a short introduction to the Museum by your Host, you will be free to visit the galleries at your own pace. Your Host will stay with your group to answer questions and provide fascinating insights into the stories behind the displays. You’ll soon love the collections as much as they do!

Choose a package below, and then add optional extras such as lunch or a themed talk to enhance your visit.

Further details are available in FAQs and useful for Group Visits. Please read this before completing the form below.

People on a group visit at The MERLStandard Group Visit

Groups of 10-15 people (recommended max group size)


  • an introduction to the Museum by a Welcome Host, if required.
  • Reserved car (3 spaces max) or minibus parking in the MERL carpark.
  • Use of a private space, subject to availability.
  • Refreshments not included. You are welcome to buy refreshments in the MERL café. A selection of English teas, quality coffee, cakes, sandwiches, salads and snacks are available. To avoid queuing and guarantee availability, you might prefer to book the Blackbird Package below.

£5 suggested donation per person.

*New* The Blackbird Package

Groups of 10-50 people


  • An introduction to the Museum by a Welcome Host* (additional hosts must be booked for groups of over 15 people (£15 per host)
  • Reserved Minibus parking in the MERL carpark or coach parking on the University Whiteknights Campus (drop-off at The MERL)
  • Exclusive use of The Studio, adjacent to the cafe and welcome area for up to 3 hours.
  • Tea, coffee and cakes served in The Studio.

£10 per person

Additional Extras

Customise your visit to with these optional extras to suit the needs and interests of your group.

Welcome Hosts*


All groups of up to 15 people can be met by one Welcome Host. An extra host per additional 15 people must be booked.


£3-8 per person

Add a sandwich, salad or buffet lunch (sandwiches, crisps and fruit). Must be booked in advance.
Details of the options available are in the Information for Groups.

Themed Talk or Tour

From £35

Our expert staff or volunteers can provide informative talks on a variety of themes relating to the museum and collections. You can also book a special themed tour.

Talks and tours currently available:

Extraordinary Women of the MERL and University of Reading Special Collections (30 minute talk)
Revolting Men – The Story of the Swing Riots (30 minute talk)
Power & Protest Tour: This is themed tour through the museum galleries focussing on displays relating to people power and protest. (Allow one hour after your introduction to the museum.)

Room hire

From £35

Use of a private space is included in the Blackbird Package. if you wish to extend your visit for a meeting or event, we have a variety of rooms and spaces for hire. Costs are available on request.

Evening Visits

Charges vary

You can book a visit during normal museum opening times. (9am to 5pm, Tues to Fri and 10am to 5pm at weekends). Evening visits can be arranged, subject to availability. Contact us for details of charges.


If you are interested in having one of our expert volunteers come to your venue to deliver a talk to your group about the museum, its history and collections, please download our Information for Outreach Requests.

If your group is having to meet via Zoom due to the current situation, and you’re looking for speakers to join you online, contact us at


Please view the FAQs and useful information for Group Visits which provide additional useful information before completing the form below.

Please note your booking is provisional until you have received a confirmation email from our Programmes Assistant. If you have any questions please contact us at