Somerset Rural Life Museum to Reopen for the Summer

Somerset Rural Life Museum will reopen on Saturday 3 June following completion of a £2.4 million redevelopment project led by the South West Heritage Trust. The Museum will tell the rich story of Somerset’s rural and social history and provide a family-friendly destination which has learning, access and discovery at its heart.

Visitors to the Glastonbury museum will be able to explore rural life from the 1800s onwards and discover more about the county’s heritage including its landscape, food and farming, working life and rural crafts. Refurbished galleries in the farmhouse and former cowsheds will mean museum collections are better cared for, displayed and interpreted.

The Victorian farmhouse has been carefully renovated and provides a fitting entrance to the Museum. Inside, visitors can enjoy five galleries which explore the themes of ‘Creating’, ‘Learning’, ‘Believing’, ‘Celebrating’ and ‘Remembering’.

The magnificent 14th-century Abbey Barn remains the centrepiece of the site. Outside spaces such as the farmyard and orchard will contain new sculptures and family trails that interpret the history of the site and its buildings. The new café will offer fresh local produce as well as a stunning view of Glastonbury Tor from the outside seating area.    

Tom Mayberry, Chief Executive of the South West Heritage Trust, the charity which runs the Museum, said: “We’re very grateful to everyone who has made the project possible. Our goal has been to preserve the essential qualities of a much-loved museum at the same time as finding new ways to tell the remarkable story of Somerset’s rural history.

A view of the Museum’s multi-level orientation space showing the combination of stone, steel and glass construction.

“The redevelopment has enabled us to improve access to the Museum and its collections. It will also create many more opportunities for community engagement and volunteering. A better range of activities and events will also mean there is always something new on offer.”

The reopening will be marked by a free family fun day on Saturday 3 June. Visitors will also be able to enjoy the Museum’s first temporary exhibition, ‘Farm’, a collection of paintings, drawings and the voices of Somerset farmers by artist Kate Lynch. It will be the first of a new programme of exhibitions and seasonal events taking place throughout the year. There will also be a refreshed schools programme offering pupils workshops based around relevant topics linked to the farming calendar and exploring local wildlife and customs.

Outside spaces, including the orchard, will contain family trails that interpret the history of the site and its buildings.

The Museum will be open 10.00 am to 5.00 pm, Tuesday to Sunday until the end of October and Tuesday to Saturday from November to Easter, plus Bank Holiday Mondays. Admission charges will apply.

The redevelopment is chiefly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Viridor Credits Environmental Company, Somerset County Council, the Garfield Weston Foundation and other generous funders. The Trust is also most grateful to Somerset Building Preservation Trust and the Friends of the Somerset Rural Life Museum for their consistent support. Building work was undertaken by Ken Biggs Contractors Ltd.

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