Exploring the Rich Heritage at The Museum of English Rural Life


Situated in the heart of Berkshire, UK, The Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) stands as a captivating testament to the country’s agricultural past. With its extensive collection of artifacts, immersive exhibits, and diverse range of events, this museum offers visitors a unique opportunity to delve into the rich heritage of English rural life. In this blog post, we will explore the fascinating history and highlights of MERL, making it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and curious minds alike.


Origins and Purpose

The Museum of English Rural Life was founded in 1951 by the University of Reading as a way to showcase and celebrate the vital role of agriculture and rural life in the development of the nation. Initially, the museum served as a repository for the University’s extensive collection of agricultural artifacts, but it soon expanded its scope to encompass a wider range of topics, including social history, rural crafts, and the changing landscape of the countryside.


The Collection

One of the key attractions of MERL is its remarkable collection, which spans over 25,000 objects. From vintage farming machinery and tools to traditional crafts and rural household items, the museum offers a comprehensive insight into the lives of the people who lived and worked in the English countryside. Visitors can explore a vast array of exhibits, including traditional farming implements, historic photographs, folk art, and even a reconstructed village store.


Highlights and Exhibitions

MERL boasts a range of permanent and temporary exhibitions that bring the history of rural life to life. The “Our Country Lives” exhibition is a journey through time, showcasing the changing landscape of the countryside and the impact of agricultural practices. Visitors can explore the evolution of farming techniques, the role of women in rural life, and the challenges faced by farmers throughout history.
For those interested in the intricate world of crafts, the “Crafting the Countryside” exhibition explores the skills and creativity of rural craftsmen. From traditional blacksmithing and woodwork to intricate lace-making and embroidery, this exhibition offers a glimpse into the mastery of rural artisans.


Engaging Events and Activities

MERL offers a variety of events and activities designed to engage visitors of all ages. From hands-on workshops that teach traditional crafts and skills to talks and lectures on various aspects of rural life, there is always something happening at the museum.
Children are not left out either, with interactive exhibits, storytelling sessions, and family-friendly activities that make learning about rural history an enjoyable experience for the whole family. The museum’s picturesque garden also provides a tranquil space to relax and explore nature, with seasonal events such as nature walks and gardening workshops.


Community Involvement and Research

Beyond being a museum, MERL actively engages with the local community and researchers. The museum collaborates with local schools to offer educational programs and workshops, fostering an appreciation for the heritage of rural life. Additionally, researchers can access the museum’s extensive archives and library, which house a wealth of information on various aspects of rural history.



The Museum of English Rural Life in Berkshire, UK, stands as a testament to the importance of agriculture and rural life in shaping the nation’s heritage. Through its extensive collection, immersive exhibitions, and engaging events, MERL offers visitors a unique opportunity to explore the diverse aspects of rural history. Whether you have a passion for farming, craftsmanship, or social history, a visit to this captivating museum is sure to leave you with a deep appreciation for the lives of those who worked the land.