The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum

On the 4th March 2016, at 6am (!!), our Third Year Special Subject group were already on the coach to Chichester, where we spent the day at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum. As our module is titled ‘Village Life in Later Medieval England’, a trip based around a peasant’s typical experience on a manor was extremely beneficial. The museum covers 50 acres of land with historic houses dating from the 13th century to the Victorian era. The buildings have been rescued from destruction, through careful dismantlement and conservation, and then rebuilt in their near original form on the site. These buildings allow visitors to envisage themselves in the homes and lives of societies hundreds of years ago.

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View of the Museum from Hangleton Cottage

On arrival, we were taken to a 13th-century cottage called Hangleton, here we spent the morning and afternoon cooking and eating! The food was taken from the common diet of a medieval peasant, including foods such as, homemade bread, pottage, ‘fish in a coffin’ (a few of the group gutted the herrings themselves and stuffed them!), cheese fritters and vegetable soup. We had an absolutely great time cooking on an open fire (a new experience for the majority of us) and getting a hands-on experience on a topic we had been learning about for 7 months.

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Inside Hangleton Cottage and the open fire we used to cook the food and heat the cottage
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Hangleton Cottage and the ingredients for our typical 13th-century peasant meal

We were supervised throughout the day by Helen Mybe, who educated us on the food we were making, the layout and function of the houses we visited and highlighted major events that occurred between the 13th and 15th centuries that affected the daily lives of the peasants.

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The late 14th-century house

In the late afternoon, our group was moved to a 14th-century house where Helen taught us about the medicine used by medieval societies. Before even entering the building, you could see the change in structure between this house and the 13th-century cottage. This helped us to understand the economic and social changes that occurred through the centuries we had been studying. The trip was extremely helpful for someone who benefits from visual learning and it’s safe to say, that everyone in our group, enjoyed the day immensely. The trip was the perfect balance between education and fun! Finally, we’d of course like to thank Miriam Muller for organising the trip.

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The group freezing to death in the late 14th-century house

By Bridie Lane-Williams, BA History


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