About the Weald & Downland Living Museum

The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum was launched in 1967 by a small group of enthusiasts led by the Museum’s founder, the late Dr. J.R. Armstrong MBE. It first opened to the public on 5 September 1970.

The principal aim of the founding group was to establish a centre that could rescue representative examples of vernacular buildings from the South East of England, and thereby to generate an increased public awareness and interest in the built environment. Read our founder’s article, Ancient Monument Society – Series 20 1973 – The Open Air Museum Idea and Reality – J R Armstrong, reproduced with the kind permission of the Ancient Monuments Society.

The Museum’s foundation coincided with a growing national interest in historic buildings and this general public interest has resulted in strong support for the Museum from its inception.

The Museum promotes the retention of buildings on their original sites unless there is no alternative, and we encourage an informed and sympathetic approach to their preservation and continuing use. Only a small number of representative buildings can be brought to the Museum for inclusion in the collection.

The Museum offers advice to people involved in the conservation of buildings. Where we cannot give advice ourselves, we will attempt to provide suitable contacts with other experts.

As well as illustrating the history of original building styles and types, the Museum has good collections representing country crafts and industries, building trades and agriculture. Objects from these collections can be seen displayed in buildings on the site, and in the open access store in the basement of the Downland Gridshell.

The Museum is a Registered Charity and it receives no regular grants or subsidies. A large number of volunteers contribute to its daily running and many organisations have helped financially or in kind. If you would like to help, please contact the Museum’s CEO.

We hope that you enjoy your visit, and that the Museum’s exhibits will help you to understand the many old buildings still standing and in use in the villages and towns of this region. If you have any comments, good or bad, please contact us.

Read our Corporate Profile and Key Documents.

Statement of purpose

The purpose of the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum is to stimulate public interest in and to promote and encourage the preservation of buildings of architectural or historical interest and to stimulate public interest in ancient crafts, trades and manufactures. (First object as stated in Memorandum and Articles of Association).

Key aims

  • To run an open-air museum that inspires and delights its users.
  • To provide lifelong learning based on the Museum’s collections and other resources.
  • To ensure high standards of collections care.
  • To pursue research and scholarship.

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