- a thematic guide to Britain
best open air museums in the UK
of the Industrial Revolution, Britain today offers an exceptional
wealth of living history museums, recreating
the life and ways of its industrial and rural past.
page provides a selection of the most interesting and best open air
museums in Britain. In addition to those listed below, there are many
more, including about a hundred working steam
stately homes and castles with historic reenactments, local
museums, and other places where history comes to life.
Ironbridge Gorge Museum
Telford, west of Birmingham.
forge in the Blist's Hill museum
One of the very first sites selected by
UNESCO as a World Heritage site, the Ironbridge area, in the Severn
Valley to the west of Birmingham, is known as the cradle of the
It is here that the forgemaster Abraham Darby first had the
idea of transforming iron ore into iron using a process based on coal,
instead of using charcoal. This discovery revolutionized the
production of objects made of iron, which could henceforth be
manufactured in larger pieces, more easily and more quickly. Without
this, the industrial revolution would not have occurred.
The sector comprises ten Ironbridge
museums, the most famous of these being the Blist's Hill Open air
Museum, recreating life in the industrial and Victorian ages. With many
extras, and the rebuilding or conservation of old buildings from the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the site lets visitors discover
shops, homes and factories from bygone times. Displays include working
forges and steam-powered machinery, a historic pub, a Victorian
schoolhouse, and plenty more. This is a museum that will fascinate
visitors of all ages.
Black Country Museum
The Black Country Museum in Dudley , in the heart of the the West
Midlands, offers a similar experience, with over forty urban industrial
heritage buildings rebuilt on site. You can also take an old tram, or
travel by barge on the canal.
Beamish Open Air Museum
England - 8 miles southwest of Newcastle on Tyne
With its rebuilt streets, its costumed actors, its historic trams
trains and other vehicles, Beamish provides a remarkable trip back in
time to the heydey of the industrial north of England.
In the North of England, near Durham and
Newcastle, this substantial outdoor museum recreates the industrial
town and countryside of Beamish, on an area extending over 120
hectares. At Beamish visitors can discover the life and ways of the
inhabitants of Britain's industrial north - its miners, its engineers,
its ordinary folk and those who worked on the land. The museum includes
a small town rebuilt from scratch from typical buildings saved from
demolition, a period farm, a mine and mining village, as well
as an operating tram system. There is also a reconstruction of the
first industrial railways, with a locomotive from the early 19th
Some other air museums :
Quay, south Devon
South West England : Devon. Morwellham quay Museum:
Here a small industrial harbour has been restored to the way it used to
be, when the Southwest of England was a major player in the early
industrial age. Morwellham is part the Cornwall and West Devon mining
, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Irone
ore and other minerals were exported from Morwellham right back in the
Middle Ages. Volunteers bring to life the port, with its adjoining
George and Charlotte copper mine which is visited on a mine train.
There is also a great water-wheel.
South Wales : Big
UNESCO World Heritage site.
Here visitors can go down a real coalmine, 100 metres underground,
accompanied by guides including former miners. Big Pit is in the heart
of what was once one of the largest coalfields in Europe. It is now the
last "open" mine in the region. And what's more, entrance is
Sussex, near Arundel Amberley working
Covering 15 hectares , the museum presents the traditional industrial
and rural life of south east England. Extras, steam railway,
vintage cars, craftsmen at work.
to Kidderminster, west of Birmingham. The Severn Valley
Perhaps the most famous of Britain's the 100 historic railways, the
Severn Valley line lets people take a trip back in time along a
renovated railway. The historic steam trains travel a distance of 25 km
through the beautiful countryside of the Severn valley. The steam
engines and rolling stock date from the 20th century, and the stations
have been renovated to how they were a hundred years ago or more. The
line runs thanks to the enthusiasm of its many staff, members and
Sussex, near Chichester. The Weald and Downland
Covering 50 acres - over 20 hectares - this is an important museum of
rural England. Over 50 traditional buildings from the local area have
been assembled and rebuilt on this site, and many of them are furnished
as they were in the past. The museum runs a calendar of special events,
with living history reenactments, throughout the year.
Photo top of page: Horse and cart at Blist's Mill open-air museum,
history enthusiasts, Britain is a destination of choice not only for
its many top-notch historic monuments, but also on account of
its excellent open air museums or living museums,
where visitors can take a walk back in time to experience life in
enthusiasts and volunteers have restored old machines to their former
: Website photos and texts © About-Britain.com
except where otherwise indicated.
Blist's Mill forge photo © Ironbridge Gorge museum.
Beamish photo by Alexander Cunningham - licenced Creative commons 2.0
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