The Chiltern Open Air Musuem in south Buckinghamshire, set amidst 45 acres of beautiful woods and parkland, features more than 30 rescued historic buildings showing how people lived long ago, and in many of them there is full or partial access.
Here you can see a prefab church; a cottage made from earth called wychert, a blacksmith’s forge, and a tea room situated in a former furniture factory.
There’s also a working farm with chickens, sheep, goats, cows and farm cats and a restored 1940s thrashing machine. The farm even has a starry eyed claim to fame in that it appeared in the popular television drama Downton Abbey.
Throughout the school summer holidays there are special events taking place including a glance into mediaeval England with a chance to cheer for your favourite knight in an exciting tournament; meeting authentic Victorian characters; learning about life in a Tudor courtroom; and watching heavy horses demonstrate ploughing and harrowing.
But the buildings are the real stars of this museum and range from a wartime prefab house from Amersham to a Vicarage Room from Thame. The museum is run as an independent charity with the aid of volunteers and the buildings have all been rescued for their individual appeal.
They are taken down in their original locations piece by piece and carefully stored before being rebuilt on site. Nestled amongst the 45 acres is Henton Mission Room, a prefabricated church constructed in Norwich which was transported by train to Henton in the parish of Chinnor. Visiting it during the hot summer months it’s a lovely cool place to stand, but the hard wooden chairs remind visitors of the discomfort the congregation had to endure whilst attending the services.
High Wycombe Toll House (pictured right), originally located on the London to Oxford road, now stands on the pathway leading to the museum tea room and reveals just how little space a family had to live in. The front room contains a spinning wheel, the bedroom has a child’s bed as well as the parents’ bed, and then there is a kitchen a small laundry room and that’s it.
The museum’s tea room serves light snacks including jacket potatoes with a variety of toppings, quiches, sandwiches, homemade soup, toasties, ploughman’s lunches, drinks and delicious home made cakes. It is located in what was once part of a furniture factory.
The factory, in High Wycombe, was built in 1887 for James Elliott and his sons, and was dismantled in 1978 by museum volunteers who re-erected it at the museum in two phases - the second phase has a display of chair making tools.
The museum has good parking facilities and a sizeable gift shop. There are toilets at either end of the site and nappy changing facilities. Some of the pebbly pathways make it difficult to push a buggy at times, and if the weather was wet it would probably be best to take sturdy walking shoes or boots.
The museum is located at Newland Park, Gorelands Lane, Chalfont St Giles in south Buckinghamshire and is open daily from 10am – 5pm now through to October 26. Standard admission is £10.50 for adults, £9.50 for concessions and £6.50 for children. There are discounts available for family groups and an annual pass. The museum also offers school visits, experience days, corporate functions and team building and can be privately hired for birthdays, weddings and special occasions.
Full details of the event calendar can be found online at www.coam.org.uk