Our guest blogger Vicki from Normal for Glastonbury recently visited the newly reopened Somerset Rural Life Museum Glastonbury.
Somerset Rural Life Museum reopened on Saturday 3 June 2017 following a major £2.4 million redevelopment that took 3 years to complete.
The exhibition space runs over three floors and is packed full of displays covering all aspects of Somerset Rural Life. From the past through to the present you can see what Somerset Life was all about. You can explore exhibitions from the 1800s onwards and discover more about the county’s heritage including its landscape, food, farming, working life, and crafts. Present-day Somerset life is represented by an exhibition of objects and photographs from Glastonbury Festival.
Before the renovation, one of my favourite parts of the museum was the farmhouse kitchen. I was pleased to see that it had been kept for it shows historic objects in the context in which they were used. The clever use of recorded sounds and voices gives you a sense that you are in a bustling household.
In the courtyard stands ‘Captain’, an amazing-looking horse sculpted from scrap metal by Harriet Mead. The old-fashioned tractor seemed to be a great hit with some visiting children. I was tempted to sit on it myself, as I love tractors, but I thought I’d better retain some dignity.
Across the courtyard is the Abbey Barn. It is one of only a handful of ‘Tithe’ Barns left in Somerset. It was built in the 14th Century to store ‘tithes’, a form of rent from the surrounding farms. Farmers were required to pay 10% of their crops to the church and this particular one was paid to Glastonbury Abbey.
A Great Place to stop for a cuppa and a piece of cake
My next stop was the Grain Store café, which is run by the owners of Glastonbury’s Abbey Tea Rooms in Magdalene Street (see my post ‘Tor’s Tour of the Tor’ for more!). There was a good selection on the menu and I chose a large, hot cappuccino and a tasty cheese scone.
If you just want a cuppa and cake or lunch you are welcome to drop-in to the cafe even if you aren’t visiting the museum. They are open year-round, Tues – Sun 10.00 am – 5.00 pm (last orders 4.30 pm) so it’s perfect if you are going for an afternoon walk up the Tor.
The Museum is Great for a Visit whatever the weather
There’s a good balance of indoor and outdoor space, so the museum is great for a visit whatever the weather. They have retained the lovely old orchard, which helps preserve some of the old and rare varieties of local apples, it’s also home to a traditional shepherd’s hut and the museum’s new Exmoor Horn sheep. In January you can come and join in their ‘Wassail’.
Within the museum is an award-winning learning centre that hosts events all year around. There are also a series of special exhibitions throughout the year. From now until the 2nd June 2018 there is ‘Echoes of War: The Somerset Countryside 1914–1918’. Using objects, archive documents, and photographs, the exhibition reveals how the First World War profoundly changed the county’s rural communities.
Video of the Museum
Most of the museum buildings are fully accessible, with a lift, accessible toilets and automatic doors.
Easter to the end of October: Tuesday – Sunday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm and Bank Holiday Mondays.
November to Easter: Tuesday – Saturday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm and Bank Holiday Mondays.
Last entry 4.30 pm.
How To Get There
The museum is within walking distance of the town centre on Chilkwell Street, Glastonbury, BA6 8DB. Glastonbury Tor is nearby and can be seen from the Farmyard, it is only a 10-minute walk away.
Parking for up to 40 cars is available on-site. Visitors paying full admission will receive a car parking refund on entry to the museum.
Before visiting the museum check out their website Somerset Rural Life Museum
Please see the other articles I have written for Middlewick on Roger Wilkin’s Cider Barn and St Margaret’s Chapel
Visit my blog Normal for Glastonbury, a humorous, affectionate, and informative chronicle of life in Glastonbury Town. All photos in this post were taken by Vicki Steward.