Farming & Livestock
Since its inception in 1970 the Museum has kept a variety of livestock as part of its mission to interpret the historic working landscape and farming practices of the Weald and Downland regions of south east England.
You will find a small selection of traditional farm animals grazing in paddocks around different parts of the Museum site and carrying out traditional seasonal farming activities.
- Heavy horses (Shire and Percheron) can be seen pulling carts and helping with seasonal farming tasks. These include sowing, haymaking, harvesting, ploughing and timber-extraction from our woodland. Our heavy horses occasionally participate in external events.
- A pair of Sussex oxen pull a small cart to deliver hay and straw to other animals, and plough and harrow the fields.
- Woolly-faced Southdown sheep graze the downland turf and, in spring, lambs are folded in traditional sheepfolds.
- Sussex light chickens peck in the straw around the Tudor farmstead and stables.
- Embden geese graze in the apple orchard
- Rare-breed Saddleback pigs on loan at the museum from Sussex Saddlebacks – learn about the herd on their Facebook page @Saddlebacks.
Our animals are part of the Museum team and lead long and happy lives. We name them, groom them and talk to them – do whatever it takes to ensure they’re healthy, comfortable and content.
Our focus is on their welfare and we ensure that each animal has a nutritious and high-quality diet, regular exercise, a safe and secure environment, companionship, shelter and the freedom to express their natural behaviour.
Many enjoy meeting our visitors but we always ensure that they have space to move away if they wish.
We advise you to always wash your hands after touching the animals or their enclosures. Please do not feed the animals during your visit. Please take a moment to read more about health and safety at the Museum when planning your visit.
Our Animal Health Routine
Our team of knowledgeable staff and volunteers check the conditions of each animal and its enclosure multiple times throughout the day. We have strong relationships with our animals and can quickly spot when an animal is feeling off-colour, arrange treatment or call in our vet when necessary.
Traditional cereal and root crops, hops and flax are grown in the Museum’s fields and around the Tudor farmstead. In the late summer, the wheat is reaped and stacked in traditional stooks, before being threshed at the Autumn Countryside Show using a steam-powered threshing machine. The separated grain is used to feed the chickens, whilst the combed wheat reed is used as thatching straw for some of the Museum’s buildings.
Traditional farm buildings – such as barns, stables, sheds and granaries – house agricultural vehicles and farm machinery is also on display. You will find a display of late 19th and early 20th century farm vehicles and machinery in the Vehicle and Implement Gallery next to Whittaker’s Cottages. There are also a number of wheeled living vans (such as the shepherd’s hut above the sheepfold) on display around the site.