Discovering the Landscape #22: Treasures Exhibition in our Staircase Hall

We’re delighted to share with you our current Staircase Hall exhibition:

Discovering the Landscape: treasures from the collections of the Landscape Institute

Floral world and garden guide edited by Shirley Hibberd. London: 1876.

Floral world and garden guide edited by Shirley Hibberd. London: 1876. RESERVE–635.05


Where? Staircase Hall, Museum of English Rural Life, Redlands Road

When? Wednesday 13 January – Friday 1 April 2016 (during our opening hours)

What? This display will showcase a selection of important archive materials and books from the Landscape Institute collections, including rare books dating from sixteenth century to the present day. See stunning sketch books, fascinating photographs and beautifully illustrated book plates and fold out plans.   

How much? Free!

So what are you waiting for?  Pay us a visit and take this special opportunity to explore our Landscape Institute collections with us.


Stowe : a description of the magnificent house and gardens of the Right Honourable Richard Grenville Temple… embellished with a general plan of the gardens, and also a separate plan of each building, with perspective views of the same  by B. Seeley. London : 1769.

Stowe : a description of the magnificent house and gardens of the Right Honourable Richard Grenville Temple… embellished with a general plan of the gardens, and also a separate plan of each building, with perspective views of the same by B. Seeley. London : 1769. MERL LIBRARY RESERVE–2800-STO


The Landscape Institute was founded in 1929 as the Institute of Landscape Architects.  As the Royal Chartered institute for landscape architects, the institute works to improve the planning and design of the urban and rural landscape, accredit university courses and promote the professional development of landscape architects.

The Institute built up a collection of library books and archives relating to the practice of design and management with the purpose of creating a national landscape collection.  The library was formally established in 1967.  Acquisition of the archival collection began in the 1990s, as landscape architects died and their collections were bequeathed, donated, or actively collected by the Institute.

Access to the collections was initially for Institute members only, but over time researchers and the wider public have been using the collections in all manner of work.  The MERL library and archive teams are working to make this large and varied collection freely available to the public once again.

The library contains books and journals on topics including landscape architecture, garden history and landscape and urban planning.

The archive contains a variety of material relating to the Institute’s history and the collections of individual landscape architects and their practices, such as Geoffrey Jellicoe, Peter Shepheard, Sylvia Crowe and Brenda Colvin.

We hope you enjoy this display of treasures from the collections, including rare books and archives.

The exhibition will also be moving up to the University Library later in the year (Wednesday 6 April – Friday 1 July).  It also featured on p. 14 of the University of Reading Spring 2016 Events Guide.

As ever contact us on for further information or click here.

Written by Project Librarian: Claire Wooldridge

Discovering the Landscape #20: James Corner speaks at joint MERL and Landscape Institute Annual Lectures

Written by Claire Wooldridge (Project Librarian: Landscape Institute)

James Corner speaking at MERL and Landscape Institute Annual Lecture, University of Reading's Great Hall, 22 October 2015

James Corner speaking at MERL and Landscape Institute Annual Lecture, University of Reading’s Great Hall, 22 October 2015

Yesterday evening cutting edge landscape architect James Corner – renowned for designing New York’s much loved High Line and the South Park Plaza of London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – delivered a fascinating lecture in the University of Reading’s Great Hall.  This was a highly successful joint venture between MERL and the Landscape Institute, serving as the annual lecture for both organisations.  Corner was introduced by the University of Reading’s Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Steven Mithen and the President of the Landscape Institute, Noel Farrer.

Pop up exhibition of treasures from the LI collections prepared by MERL Archives and Library staff

Pop up exhibition of treasures from the LI collections prepared by MERL Archives and Library staff

Pop up exhibition of treasures from the LI collections prepared by MERL Archives and Library staff

Pop up exhibition of treasures from the LI collections prepared by MERL Archives and Library staff

Corner delivered an excellent lecture to a packed audience.  Drawing upon a wide range of themes relating to landscape architecture, Corner spoke about how Jellicoe and Ian McHarg had influenced his early ideas on landscape and the nature of the relationship between architecture and landscape architecture, where landscape design can be most successful when considered as the first element of construction of large scale building projects.  Corner’s talk was illuminated by his use of many striking images including photographs of one his most significant and well known projects, the New York High line, alongside diagrams and graphic illustrations of other projects he and his team are involved in, such as waterfront projects in Seattle and Hong Kong.

Pop up exhibition of Jellicoe material from the LI collections prepared by MERL Archives and Library staff

Pop up exhibition of Jellicoe material from the LI collections prepared by MERL Archives and Library staff

A key theme of Corner’s talk was the importance and relevance of public spaces to people’s lives; be these spaces urban or rural, or in private or public realms.  The landscape architect can influence how people move through a landscape, the public space people inhabit and how they interpret, use and interact with that space.

Getting the Great Hall ready for the lecture

Getting the Great Hall ready for the lecture

Members of the Landscape Institute and FOLAR (the Friends of the Landscape Library and Archive at Reading) enjoyed a packed day here at MERL, which included (in addition to the public lecture!) a meeting of the LI Council, the LI’s AGM, representation from FOLAR and a FOLAR run duplicate book sale and two pop up exhibitions highlighting treasures and Jellicoe material from the LI collections curated by MERL Archives and Library staff.  The Great Hall also hosted a MERL pop up shop before and after the lecture, with James Corner signing copies of his books after the lecture.

FOLAR duplicate Landscape Institute Library book sale in the Great Hall

FOLAR duplicate Landscape Institute Library book sale in the Great Hall

FOLAR banner in the Great Hall

FOLAR banner in the Great Hall

Behind the scenes library tours

Behind the scenes library tours

The unrivalled library and archive of the Landscape Institute are currently being made available at the Museum of English Rural Life.  For more information contact us on

Discovering the Landscape #13: From garden space to masterplan

Seminar series round up: Written by Claire Wooldridge, Project Senior Library Assistant: Landscape Institute

Our captivating landscape inspired seminar series has drawn to an end.  We’re delighted the series has been so well attended; a testament to the speakers and to the fascinating subject matter.

If you attended any of the talks (or were unable to) and want to find out more, you can get in touch with us by emailing

Highlighted below are a few of the items from our collections which were mentioned in the talks:


Audience for LI seminar

Audience for LI seminar

As part of ‘From garden space to masterplan: the Landscape Institute collections at MERL’ our deputy archivist Caroline Gould

and landscape architect Annabel Downs gave an insightful overview of the history of the Landscape Institute and to the collections here at MERL.

Our Landscape Institute webpages are a really useful starting point for research into our collections and as a source of background information and handlists for specific collections, such as the Brenda Colvin collection, Geoffrey Jellicoe collection and Preben Jakobsen collection (which Karen Fitzsimon used in her talk entitled ‘Rediscovering Preben Jakobsen’.

Our existing MERL archival holdings also hold many treasures to the student of landscape.  Johnathan Brown, in his talk entitled ‘Changing landscapes of farming and estates after the First World War’, used several images from the extensive MERL photographic collection to great effect.  A full listing of our existing MERL archives can be viewed using the MERL archives A-Z.


1000 books cataloguedLibrary:

The library of the Landscape Institute is being integrated into our existing MERL library, further adding to areas of strength within the collection, on subjects such as domestic gardening, land use and the environment and conservation issues.  Reference books within the MERL library are a great place to start research into all things landscape.

We were able to show case our Gertrude Jekyll books in a pop up exhibition following Richard Bisgrove’s talk such as Gardens for Small Country Houses, Colour in the Flower Garden and Home and Garden.

The talk from Giles Pritchard and Barnaby Wheeler entitled ‘Reading Abbey Revealed’ was another perfect opportunity for us to delve into our Special Collections and display some of our rare books relating to Reading Abbey.  We were also to display images from slides from the Moore Piet + Brookes collection relating to their work on the Reading Town Centre Masterplan and pedestrianisation.

The pictures below from Professor Timothy Mowl’s intriguing talk on ‘Pleasure and the Regency Garden’ enabled us to showcase some wonderful books featuring beautiful plates of the gardens at our very own Whiteknights (such as Hofland’s A descriptive account of the mansion and gardens of White-knights).

Pop up exhibition in our Staircase Hall following an LI seminar

Pop up exhibition in our Staircase Hall following an LI seminar

Plate of Whiteknights from Hofland

Plate of Whiteknights from Hofland

As above for more information please contact us on, visit our LI webpages or search our online catalogue.

To continue discovering the landscape, FOLAR (Friends of the Landscape Library and Archive at Reading) are holding a study day on Brenda Colvin (with a talk from Hal Moggridge, our archivists and a pop up exhibition) at MERL on Saturday 21 March.  See here for more information or contact to book.

Discovering the Landscape #12: Brenda Colvin

Written by Claire Wooldridge, Project Senior Library Assistant: Landscape Institute

Brenda Colvin (1897-1981) was a founder member of the Institute of Landscape Architects and its first female president (elected in 1951).

In anticipation of FOLAR’s (Friends of the Landscape Library and Archive at Reading) study day focusing on Brenda Colvin here at MERL on Saturday 21 March, this blog post takes a look at Brenda Colvin and our Colvin collections.

From AR COL A/6/5, Folder relating to Little Peacocks Garden, Filkins [Brenda Colvin's home from 1960s]

From AR COL A/6/5, Folder relating to Little Peacocks Garden, Filkins [Brenda Colvin’s home from 1960s]

Brenda Colvin

Brenda Colvin (1897-1981) was a landscape architect, born in Simla in India.  Colvin trained under Madeline Agar in gardening and market work at Swanley Horticulture College.  Colvin and Agar worked together on Wimbledon Common.  In the early 1920s Colvin founded her own practice and by the late 1930s had advised on about 300 gardens.  One of her most significant early works was an extensive addition to the garden at Zywiec in Poland for Archduke Charles Albert Habsburg.  Until about 1965 she practised from an office in Gloucester Place, London, which she shared with Sylvia Crowe (though they never worked as partners).

Colvin designed for many high profile projects, including industrial and urban landscapes, such as the reservoir at Trimpley in Worcestershire in the early 1960s, the landscape of the University of East Anglia, landscapes around new generation power stations such as Stourport (from 1952), Drakelow (from 1963), Rugeley (from 1963), and Eggborough (from 1961) and the rebuilding of Aldershot military town from the early 1960s.

From AR COL A/6/5, Folder relating to Little Peacocks Garden, Filkins [Brenda Colvin's home from 1960s]

From AR COL A/6/5, Folder relating to Little Peacocks Garden, Filkins [Brenda Colvin’s home from 1960s]

In 1951 Colvin was elected the first female president of the Institute of Landscape Architects.   She had been a founder member of the institute in 1929, and from that date was re-elected for forty-seven years without a break as a member of council of the institute, a mark of her standing among her peers. In 1948 she was a British representative at the foundation of the International Federation of Landscape Architects.

In 1969, at the age of seventy-one, with several long-term commissions in hand, Colvin converted her practice into the partnership of Colvin and Moggridge. She was appointed CBE in 1973.

Adapted from Hal Moggridge’s entry on Colvin for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (


Copy of Gibson's 'Brenda Colvin' in our open access MERL library

Copy of Gibson’s ‘Brenda Colvin’ in our open access MERL library

The Brenda Colvin archive and library collection

The Colvin archive collection (reference AR COL) is catalogued and available to search via our online database.  Handlists have also been produced of the main catalogue and drawings.

Colvin wrote several books (such as Trees for Town and Country, written with Jacqueline Tyrwhitt and published in 1947, Land and Landscape, published in 1948, revised edition published in 1970 and Wonder in a World, 1977) which are available in our open access library.  We also hold several titles about Colvin, or with chapters about her work, such as Icons of twentieth-century landscape design edited by Katie Campbell and The Garden Makers by George Plumptre.


Colvin inscription to the Jellicoe's, in the front cover of a 2nd edition of her Land and Landscape.

Colvin inscription to the Jellicoe’s, in the front cover of a 2nd edition of her Land and Landscape.

Brenda Colvin study day: 21 March 2015

Please see here and below (or contact ) for further information on FOLAR’s (Friends of the Landscape Library and Archive at Reading) Brenda Colvin study day on Saturday 21 March.


Brenda Colvin; An insight into a founder member of the Landscape Institute

Saturday 21st March


£10 payable on the day

Some of Brenda’s drawings will be on display at the Study Day. Her practice partner, Hal Moggridge, will be giving a talk, as will Guy Baxter, University Archivist. This event has been organised by FOLAR; Friends of the Landscape Library and Archive at Reading.

For further information, contact


Discovering the Landscape #11: Great new seminar series

Written by Claire Wooldridge, Project Senior Library Assistant: Landscape Institute

Great news!  Our fascinating new seminar series entitled ‘Discovering the Landscape’ kicks off on Tuesday 10 February with an overview of the collections (‘From garden space to masterplan: The Landscape Institute collections at MERL’) with our archivist Caroline Gould and landscape architect Annabel Downs.

In 2013, MERL received the archives and library of the Landscape Institute. Our Spring 2015 seminar series focuses on these collections as well as the figures and themes which have shaped the English landscape over the past 200 years.

We hope to see you all there!

  • 1-2pm, Tuesdays (and one Wednesday) in February & March, 2015
  • Free
  • Register
  • Conference room, Museum of English Rural Life

Please see the seminar web pages here for further details on the ‘MERL Seminars: Discovering the Landscape’ series.

Dicovering the Landscape: seminar series poster

Discovering the Landscape: seminar series poster

Tremendous trees & the science of surveying

Earlier in the year, Project Archivist, Nancy Fulford went on a training event organised by RE:LEAF in London, a partnership campaign led by the Mayor to protect the capital’s trees and encourage individual Londoners, businesses and organisations to plant more trees. Nancy discovered that there are several national and local initiatives to survey trees. Inspired by her findings, Nancy decided to share her new skills with colleagues and visitors to MERL by organising the Tremendous Trees event on Saturday 16th August.

The University of Reading has over 8000 trees across the Whiteknights and London Road campuses, residential sites and here at MERL. The University’s Grounds Team looks after our trees and regularly surveys them to check growth and health, and earmarks trees that may pose a risk to the public, such as those with branches damaged by strong winds or weakened by dying wood.

Across the country trees are being surveyed and the results added to websites such as Treezilla and OPAL (Open Air Laboratories). Treezilla is a citizen science initiative which aims to create a ‘monster map’ of British trees. Anyone can sign up and start inputting data about the trees in their local area. Similarly OPAL is encouraging people to conduct a tree health survey.

Trees provide us with a range of amazing benefits which we cannot obviously see. These benefits, often referred to as ecosystem services, can be calculated and translated into a monetary value using the results of the survey. We are surveying some of the trees in the MERL garden to add to Treezilla’s monster map and see exactly what they are doing for us! The benefits calculated by Treezilla are:

  • Greenhouse gas benefits

Carbon dioxide is absorbed by trees and oxygen released, giving environmental and health benefits.

  • Air quality benefits

Various pollutants are absorbed by leaves, improving the quality of the air and in turn improving the social environment we live in.

  • Energy benefits

Shade from trees helps imrove climate conditions inside buildings so that less energy is required to cool or heat areas of buildings.

  • Water benefits

Leaves hold rainwater, limiting the amount of  water run-off which can pollute our water systems.

Additional benefits provided by trees include aesthetic value, noise reduction and general wellbeing.

Here’s one of the trees we have surveyed in the MERL garden and the results:


Greenhouse gas benefits: 527.7 kg CO₂ reduced = £12.66 saved
Water benefits: 1,725.3 litres conserved = £2.87 saved
Energy benefits: 1,339.5 kWh conserved = £53.58 saved
Air quality benefits: 2.7kgs = £10.19 saved
Total annual savings = £79.30

If you’d like to learn more about the science of tree surveying and have a go yourself, come along to the free Tremendous Trees event this Saturday between 1 and 5pm. You will be able to book on to free tree surveying workshops at 1.30pm and 3.30pm on arrival. The event is suitable for all the family, with a leaf-rubbing craft activity as well as the opportunity to see a display of objects relating to forestry and tree-related items from the MERL library and archives. You’ll also be able to mark our favourite local trees on our very own map…

Tremendous Trees map

For more information, visit the Special events page on the MERL website



Coopering in the MERL collections

Image from the Farmers Weekly Collection at MERL.

Since May I’ve been working on the Reading Engaged project to research content for the new galleries which will form part of MERL’s redevelopment project, Our Country Lives. True to my passions as ever, I’ve been taking the opportunity to focus on researching craft, as we’re hoping to dedicate a large part of one of the galleries to craft. We hope to use different crafts that we have examples of in our collections to highlight key issues affecting the heritage craft sector, bearing in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all story for craft. We also want to ensure that the galleries are up to date and reflect the current state of making and show the many varied and vibrant ways in which these crafts exist today.

One of the crafts I’ve researched so far is coopering. The only things I knew before I started came from the headline ‘only one Master Cooper left in England’ and from watching the fantastic video of a cooper knocking up a cask that we currently have on display in the Museum. When you start to think about it, you realise how incredible coopering really is. Ken Kilby, author of several books on the craft, describes the barrel as ‘the greatest invention of all time’ for without it ‘most goods would have remained right where they were made, or not have been made at all.’

Cooper holding finished cask bound with many hoops (P DX318 PH1/41/83)

Cooper holding finished cask bound with many hoops (P DX318 PH1/41/83)

Casks (the term ‘barrel’ describes a particular size of cask) were used to transport all sorts of goods, wet and dry. Over the centuries, coopering gradually divided itself into three main branches, with an acceptance among coopers that certain branches were more skilled than others. The main categories are dry coopering (least skilled), white coopering and wet coopering (most skilled). When you think about it, it really is quite incredible to be able to make a watertight cask of a specified size which can withstand long years of rough handling with no glue or sealants, and hardly any measurements! Another great Ken Kilby quote: ‘There are no amateur barrel makers.’

By the end of the nineteenth century, the majority of cooperages were found in breweries, when Britain was brewing approximately 37 million gallons of beer. In 1889, Bass’s Brewery at Burton on Trent employed 400 coopers; and circa 1900 Shooters, Chippingdale and Colliers employed 630 coopers! Until World War II, coopering had seemed a secure occupation but by the 1950s most of the independent cooperages in Britain had closed, and during the 1950s–1970s wooden casks were phased out of the larger breweries. By 2010 only 4 breweries still employed a qualified cooper, and today Theakston’s are the only brewery to do so.

We have about 80 coopering tools at MERL, along with various coopered products including cider kegs, butter churns, cheese moulds and buckets. The majority of the tools come from two sets: one from the cooper’s shop at H. & G. Simonds Ltd., known as the Bridge Street Brewery, in Reading; the other from a cooper who served his apprenticeship at Reading Brewery 1948–1952 (we also have his certificate of indenture for his apprenticeship). The first set is currently on display in the Museum galleries. Take a look at the tools on our online database.

I’ve been working to create a ‘content pack’ for each craft I research. This includes reading up on the subject and writing introductory notes, looking at the related objects we have in the collections and identifying particular objects which can be used to illustrate specific points and, with the help of Danni and Caroline, investigating the Archives to see what we have in terms of documents and photographs.  I’ve also been in contact with Alistair Simms, England’s only Master Cooper (to become a Master Cooper you must have successfully trained an apprentice), who I’m hoping to visit in September, and Theakston’s Brewery.

If you want to find out more about coopering, come along to MERL on Saturday 23 August when Marshall Scheetz, historian and Journeyman Cooper at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, USA, will be giving ‘An introduction to cooperage’. The talk is free. Details here.


Written by Greta Bertram, Project Officer.

Food Glorious Food at the MERL Village Fete!

Food Glorious Food at Uni Museum Fete

Visitors to the Museum of English Rural Life Village Fete on Saturday 31st May should get ready to have their tastebuds tempted.

The theme for this year’s family friendly Fete is food. On the menu are cookery demonstrations, food science experiments, food-inspired craft, stories, and trails, as well as delicious produce to taste.

bunny_guinnessBBC Radio 4 Gardeners’ Question Time panellist Bunny Guinness will open the event. Bunny, who lives a self-sufficient lifestyle and is keen to promote the idea of growing and producing your own food, will also be taking visitors’ questions in Q&A sessions. Bunny will also be helping to judge the new MERL Biscuit Bake-off competition.

Bunny Guinness says: “I am very much looking forward to returning to Reading where I have many happy memories. It’s fitting this year’s Fete is focusing on food. The University has a prestigious reputation for food and plant science which links directly into the town’s beer, bulbs and biscuit history. I am looking forward to chatting to fellow garden enthusiasts and food producers.”

The Village Fete is an event which sees the community and the University working together. Several local community groups and organisations, such as RISC and Two Rivers Press, have been involved in creating activities on the theme of food growing and production for the public to try out on the day. The Museum has also involved colleagues and students from across the University, so that visitors can also find out about fascinating research into a range of issues relating to food production, biodiversity and health.

Visitors can watch Reading, Steady, Cook!’ demonstrations – with Food Science students from the University who have been challenged by the Chinese Association, the Barbados and Friends Association, the West Indian Women’s Circle and the University Newcomers, to create new dishes from ingredients used by the diverse communities in Reading.  Colleagues from the Department of Food & Nutritional Sciences will be joining the students and members of the Reading University Baking Society (RUBS) to demonstrate the science of baking and cheese making.

Phillippa Heath, Public Programmes Manager says: “Of course you cannot have food without drink and we are delighted to welcome the Brewery History Society to this year’s event. We have also created our own village pub, The Merl-inn, which will be serving a number of local ales and ciders. Sherfield Village Brewery, who recently created the ‘Extra Curricular’ ale in collaboration with Reading University Real Ale Society, has brewed a special ale to be served alongside beers from other local breweries at the event. Described as “a light, hoppy summer beer” it now needs a name! We’re inviting the public to suggest a name for the new ale and we’ll pick our favourite at 9am Thursday 29th May.

“Send us your ideas by tweeting to @MERLReading #MERLfete, commenting on our Facebook page, or by email to by 9pm on Weds 28th May to enter. The winner will receive a pair of tickets to the MERL Village Fete and obviously a free pint of the new beer!


“There’s something for everyone to come and enjoy, from food-themed family tours of the Museum, free printing activities, traditional games and face-painting to delicious refreshments including ice-cream, smoothies (though you have to use your own cycle-power to make them!) cream teas and cake, a beer tent, vegetarian street food, and a hog roast. There’ll even be chickens and bumble bees!”


The MERL Village Fete takes place at the Museum of English Rural Life on Redlands Road on Saturday May 31st. Tickets are available in advance for £2.50 or for £3 on the door. Children go free. Details can be found at or by calling 0118 378 8660.




Press release: What’s cooking in the community? Find out at the MERL Village Fete


Students, Ben and Deiniol, met with members of the Chinese Association

Food Science students at the University of Reading have been challenged to create new dishes from ingredients used by the diverse communities in Reading. The results will be revealed in the ‘Reading, Steady, Cook!’ demonstrations at the MERL Village Fete on May 31st.

The Village Fete at the Museum of English Rural Life, which is owned and managed by the University of Reading, will be on the theme of food (production & consumption!) this year. The cookery demonstrations will showcase the diverse culinary heritage which exists in Reading today, including ingredients such as including salted boneless cod, bonnet peppers, tofu and oyster sauce.

Members of the Barbados & Friends Association, the West Indian Women’s Circle and the Chinese Association have met with the students to exchange ideas and give them a list of ingredients to use in their new recipes. The Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdistan members of the ‘Newcomers to the University’ group have also selected ingredients which they would use for a dish called dolma, also prepared in the Eastern Mediterranean (Greece and Turkey) and in the Middle East. Representatives of each the groups will help the students prepare the recipes – and taste them for the first time – at the Fete. 

The students, Ben Smith, Lydia England and Deiniol Pritchard, are in their 2nd, 3rd and 4th years of Food Science degrees respectively. They aim to make the demonstrations informative by looking at some of the science behind the cooking and the food we eat, as well as making some tasty dishes!

Ben said “This is a great initiative from MERL to bring the department and the public together so we can explain something of what we learn about on our degree and perhaps dispel a few myths about what food scientists do!”

Bob at Fete

Professor Bob Rastall at the Village Fete in 2013

Professor Bob Rastall, Head of the Department of Food & Nutritional Sciences, will be joining the students and members of the Reading University Baking Society (RUBS) at the fete demonstrating the science of baking and cheese making. Visitors will also be able to taste Caerphilly cheese made by colleagues in the department using milk from cows on the University farms! Professor Rastall said “This is a great opportunity for our superb students to engage with the people of Reading and for us to showcase the ground-breaking work taking place in our department.”

Phillippa Heath, Public Programmes Manager at MERL said “If visitors want to get involved, we’d love them to bring along their favourite homemade biscuits to enter the Biscuit Bake-off at the Fete. We’re hoping to inspire people to revive one of Reading’s famous culinary skills!’

The MERL Village Fete takes place on Saturday 31st May from 10am to 4.30pm. For more details, visit Tickets are available in advance for £2.50 and on the door for £3. Admission for children is free.


Press are welcome to attend on the day. Please contact Alison Hilton, Marketing Officer at MERL, on 0118  378 8660 or  for details or to arrange interviews.

Weekly What’s On: 14th – 16th April

You can find full details of all our forthcoming events and activities in our What’s On and MERL Families guides, which are now available from the Museum or to download from our website You can also see all events on our online calendar

Easter Closure

Please note that the Museum is open on Tuesday  & Wednesday this week. University Easter closure means that we close at 5pm on Wednesday 16th and reopen at 9am on Tuesday 22nd, April. Happy Easter!

You can find details of opening times on our webiste.


Guided tourGuided tours
Wednesdays 16th April, 3pm
Free, booking advisable
Let our fully trained tour guides tell you the stories behind the objects on display and visit the object store to see MERL’s hidden treasures.



Family fun in the Easter holidays!

For details of our family workshops throughout the holiday, visit our family events page

Easter trail 1Easter trail
Tuesday 15th & Wednesday 16th April, 9am to 5pm.
£2 per child, drop-in, suitable for families with children of all ages
Follow the Easter trail and locate the Easter eggs in the Museum and garden. Prizes for all!!



Family tour guides2Family tours
Tues 15th April, 11am & 2.30pm
Free, drop-in
Join members of our team of family tour guides for a fun, interactive 30-minute tour of the museum and hear stories about what it was once like to live and work in the countryside.


Pepperimnt cream eggs
Weds 9th April, 10-12.30pm, 1.30-4pm
£3 per child, drop-in, suitable for families with children aged 3+
Come and mix, shape and decorate some tasty peppermint cream Easter treats! With artist Alison Quinn.



DennyReading University College: WW1 and beyond
Tuesday 1st April to 31 August, 2014
Staircase hall, MERL
Free, drop-in, normal museum opening times
Funded by Arts Council England as part of the Reading Connections project, and inspired by the University of Reading Memorial Book and Clock Tower memorial, this exhibition reveals the stories of the men and women with connections to the then Reading University College, who fell during the First World War. The exhibition also looks at the theme of War in a broader sense with interesting items from MERL and the Special Collections relating to other conflicts.
Part of our WW1 programme


greenhamCollecting the countryside: 20th century rural cultures
Until Autumn 2014
Temporary exhibition space
Free, drop in, normal museum opening times
Since 2008 the Museum of English Rural Life has been adding even more objects to its collection, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme, in order to represent each decade of the last century. (Find out more in Curator, Isabel Hughes’ blog post) This exhibition gives a taste of what has been acquired and challenges visitors to suggest the modern-day objects that the Museum needs to collect for the future. The exhibition will help the Museum to explore how to incorporate more recent histories and representations of the English countryside into its displays as part of the new Our Country Lives project.