News and Events


Five volunteers work on part of the museum's collection in the barn, May 2022

The Museum is getting ready to throw open its doors for the summer season on the weekend of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, 4th and 5th June, when it welcomes visitors to view its medieval barn, oast house and magnificent collection of farming tools and machinery from past times. The museum has an idyllic setting in the Kent Downs AONB and is a great place to visit for young and old - and everyone in between.

The year looks set to be an exceptionally exciting and busy one for the Museum.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has just confirmed a grant of £75,000 for a project to increase the Museum’s public engagement, to improve its spaces for interpretation and to build up its volunteer base.  The grant will cover the costs of a part-time Collections and Engagement Manager for one year, the employment of architects to develop proposals for the range of lean-to sheds adjoining the barn, specialist advice on the museum collection of agricultural implements and their conservation, and the recruitment and training of volunteers to work on the digitalisation of the Museum’s collection. 

Prior to the news of the lottery success, two former volunteers agreed to take on additional responsibilities.  Frances Penberthy is taking over the administrator’s baton from Tracey Block and Tom Kennett the curator’s role from Brian Wimsett.  The Museum’s trustees look forward to working with Frances and Tom in successfully delivering the lottery project in the coming months, whilst equally thanking Tracey and Brian for serving the museum so well.  Brian has been a central player in the Museum’s life since the late 1990s and the Trustees owe him a huge debt of gratitude for everything he has done over the last 25 years. They very much hope he will continue to share his deep knowledge of the collection in the years to come. 

The chair of the museum’s trustees, John Nightingale said

“We are hugely grateful to the National Lottery and its players and we look forward to an exciting year ahead.  It has already got off to a great start thanks to the response to our call for a working party of volunteers to help get things ready for the 2022 season.  They did a wonderful job and, equally important, enjoyed the experience.  Engaging with volunteers will be a continuing theme of the lottery-funded activities, so I am sure the enthusiasm we have already seen from volunteers augurs well for the success of the project."

Volunteer/part time employee needed for inspiring rural museum in the Kent countryside, some 10 minutes drive from Ashford

Brook Agricultural Museum is a unique museum, with a great collection of farm wagons, agricultural machinery and implements housed in a magnificent 14th century barn and 19th century oasthouse beautifully situated in the Kent North Downs. The museum is a charity that is operated by a group of experienced trustees and a number of volunteers and we are currently seeking support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to help transform our activities and visitor numbers. For images and further information see www.agriculturalmuseumbrook.org.uk

We need a part-time secretary/administrator to support our operations at this exciting time. Duties include managing our social media, supporting meetings of the board of trustees, keeping records and dealing with correspondence. Going forwards we want regular updates on our website, posts on facebook, and activity on twitter or other social media; much of the material will be provided by trustees but the postholder will need to coordinate the gathering and posting of this content.  Most of the work can be undertaken from home.  Volunteers welcome, but we can also pay £15 per hour for two hours per week.

If you are interested in this opportunity please write a letter to the chair of trustees and email it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. detailing your interest in the role and including details of your familiarity with and experience in handling various social media, and administration more generally.  We would still be keen to hear from you if your interest lies in one area but not the other (ie administration OR social media). If you would like to discuss the role you can email the vice chair, Tim Betts on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone him on 01233 811776.

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

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."

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)

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’.

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.

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.

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

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.

Contact icon - telephone    Contact

 

For group bookings or general enquiries, please contact:

 

The Hon. Curator, Brian Wimsett

01304 824969

BrianWimsett@hotmail.com

Location icon compass    Location

 

The Agricultural Museum Brook,
The Street,
Brook,
Ashford, Kent.
TN25 5PF

View map

opeing times, clock    Opening Times

 

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


For further details, please see Opening Times and Prices