News and Events

Professor Catherine Richardson gave the Michael Nightingale Memorial Lecture on 28th September. A recording of the lecture can be watched here. Trustee Sheila Sweetinburgh wrote about the talk on her blog

"I was especially interested to hear what she had to say because I used to live not far from the Weald and Downland Museum, and it remains one of my favourite places. As she said, she has employed the idea of ‘practice research’ since her time as a doctoral student, and over the last two decades she has developed these ideas far more and in collaborative ways both with academics and museum curators. Even though this has not been exclusively in the southeast of England, involving among other organisations the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the Weald and Downland Museum has perhaps offered the greatest opportunities because of its ethos of setting its buildings in a relatively tight time period. Thus, unlike some other national organisations, you don’t move from a Tudor parlour to a Stuart gallery to a Victorian kitchen, but rather stay in what might be called a Tudor setting. Furthermore, the houses and other buildings at the Museum would have been instantly recognisable to the yeoman farmers and their urban counterparts as the type of dwelling and workspaces they would have inhabited alongside their neighbours.

Again, perhaps not surprisingly, Catherine’s various research projects on the material culture of the ‘middling sort’ has centred on textiles, and the topic that she concentrated on last night was painted clothes. As she said, they often crop up in Kent 16th-century inventories but seldom are valued as worth much by appraisers. Rather, they are often said to be worn but nevertheless their widespread use suggests that they were a significant item within the lived experience of the household. Consequently, Catherine and her colleagues used the opportunity presented by the Museum wanting a new painted cloth for the high end of the hall at Bayleaf Farmstead to undertake some practical research for both the production and reception of such an item. Watching how the cloth was produced – the choice of design based on contemporary wall paintings, the make-up of the paints, the execution of the different brush strokes was also fascinating, but equally how the team reacted once it was in place. Thus, for example, the effect of seeing it by candlelight, the working out of the optimal distance from it to view it, the impact of seeing it from outside through the unglazed windows – all, while never totally able to recreate what Tudor people would have ‘seen’, still enabled Catherine to gain a much greater appreciation of the lived experience."

Trustee Francis Huntington looks back to his first visit to the Museum 60 years ago.

When I arrived in Wye in 1961, as an undergraduate at the College, the Agricultural Museum at Brook had been established in the wonderful Brook Medieval barn, for only two years. I do remember that on my first visit, I was surprised that I recognised most of the equipment on display, from my grandparent’s farm in Devon and even my parents’ farm in Somerset, and I knew how most of the items worked.  Now, six decades on, it is a privilege to be a Trustee of the Museum and to be part of the team which is seeking to develop a wider audience for the museums unique collections.  I feel sure that that we will be able to enhance the appeal of the buildings and the collections, to an enlarged audience by harnessing (no pun intended) digital media both within the museum and online.  The Museum Trustees have recently commissioned a study to help us enhance the visitor experience,  we look forward to the museum becoming a well-recognised and unique destination within the Kent Downs AONB.  As they say ‘watch this space’.

Retribution, performing passivity and protest anew: social and political relations in Kent after the Swing Riots

Professor Carl Griffin

(Professor of Historical Geography, University of Sussex)

Thank you to the Cromarty Trust for a grant towards the cost of repairing the oak cladding on the side sheds, and huge thanks to Councillors Clair Bell and William Howard for making discretionary grants which have allowed us to purchase a marquee. We look forward to holding events for the Brook community and to support the work of the museum once restrictions ease.

Farmers prided themselves on choosing the optimum time for spring sowing e.g. to sow during a waxing moon was thought preferable. Many relied on the feel of the land on their feet even when these were covered with boots.

Like other museums Brook was sadly unable to open for the 2020 season due to the Covid-19 restrictions.  However we have remained busy during lockdown.  On the building side much of the decaying oak cladding to the side sheds has been replaced with new oak cladding, all of which was cut and milled locally, and the fire alarm system was overhauled.

Ploughing is the initial stage of preparing a fine tilth to grow the next season’s crop. Plough Monday – the first Monday after the twelfth day of Christmas – was traditionally the start of a new ploughing season and was celebrated by ploughmen

Dr. Sheila Sweetinburgh's blog on the Nightingale Lecture 2019

To read Dr. Sheila Sweetinburgh's account of the lecture, please click on the Canterbury Christ Church University link

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Between the beginning of June to mid-September, the museum is open on Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 14:00 to 17:00.

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