“ Address: Church Road South / Skegness / Lincolnshire / PE25 2HF / England „
Skegness on the east Lincolnshire coast of England is a typically English seaside resort famous for its amusement arcades, sprawling caravan parks and theme parks. Everything here it would seem is geared towards the family and family fun, but this is young family fun, a place for toddlers to teens whose holiday fun includes ice cream and candy floss as well as lots of running around screeching and screaming. It might therefore be no great surprise to discover that I loathe Skegness and everything that it represents, but it might be surprising to hear that Skegness is home to at least two fantastic attractions. These include the Church Farm Museum (the subject of this review) and Gibraltar Point, a nature reserve to the south of the resort (and a likely future review).
The Church Farm Museum is located on the edge of a housing estate on the outskirts of the town. It is well sign posted, which is perhaps as well since without these signs it would be very different to find. Don't let first impressions fool you, despite its location, if you like to take a trip down memory lane once in a while then you will be in for a treat.
There is a large car park complete with a few wooden picnic tables as soon as you turn into the entrance and you can easily imagine that you are on an old farm in the middle of nowhere. This museum as its name suggests is an old farm, known as Church Farm. The Church, as far as I know has gone, but its former presence lingers on with not only the name of the farm, now this museum but also the road on which is located, known as Church Road.
The museum includes not only the original farmhouse but also several out buildings, including many sheds and barns. Each of these buildings has been restored to how they would have looked in their heyday. However, a little artistic licence has been used to create the wider impression of how a typical farm would have looked and how farming families would have lived during the 18th century in this part of eastern England. For example one of the buildings has been fitted out to resemble a typical village school, another a blacksmith's shop and a wheelwrights too. Each of these is based on an actual business or a place, though from within the local vicinity rather than all specifically originally on this one farm.
The first building has been converted into the reception and includes a small gift shop. Entry is free but you do need to pass by the information desk on arrival and the woman that was sat here on both of my visits was incredibly friendly. She eagerly thrust a bunch of leaflets into my hand and asked if we wanted her to show us around. Since our time was limited we declined her kind offer, choosing instead to wander around on our own. It quickly became apparent however that this is not the sort of place that you can see in half an hour. We had made arrangements to meet friends and were pushed for time so we decided to abandon our visit and promised the lady at reception that we would be back the next day to have a proper look around.
The next day we kept our promise and returned. The first thing that that will notice when you pull into the driveway is a rather quaint thatched roof cottage. I was disappointed to discover that this cottage is currently having a new roof put on it and that the cottage will not be open to the public until next year (2009). This is one of several long term projects that is currently ongoing and being undertaken by a group of volunteers.
The museum consists of a number of different buildings that once formed the original farm. These include barns and sheds each, which have their own theme. The stables have been converted into a blacksmith's shop whilst other buildings include a washroom and a wheelwright. Both the blacksmith's shop and the wheelwrights are based on actual local businesses and there are photographs that show some of the exhibits in their original location. The washroom has old tin bathtubs, old irons and other implements that were used for cleaning and scrubbing.
The largest building is the farmhouse and here each of the rooms have been filled with authentic furniture to replicate how the living room, kitchen and bedrooms would have looked in their heyday at the end of the 19th century to the start of the First World War. One thing that is evident is that the family that lived here was very affluent. They not only had a servant but also at the rear of the house there is a large orchard and summerhouse.
The farmhouse dates from 1760 although its furnishings are much later. The way that the house has been furnished is very clever and it feels has if it is still lived in. The kitchen has a full working range on which there are apparently regular demonstrations on baking but unfortunately there was no such display during my visit. This is however still very much a working museum with lots of "hands on" displays and specific days of the year when the farm equipment is brought out of the sheds or the forge in the blacksmith's shop is brought to life.
This is one of only a few open-air museums in eastern England, which is perfect on a nice summer's day but it is probably a place to avoid if the weather is bad. There is however quite a lot of different buildings to take cover in if the weather is bad but some of these are quite small. Almost all of the buildings are fully accessible by disabled visitors as the exhibits are at ground level. The exceptions to this are the Havenhouse Barn and Waggon Hovel where the upper floors of this building is used to house temporary exhibitions. There are two different exhibitions each season and when I visited the exhibition was all about crime and the famous local murders that had taken place over the centuries.
Due to the age of the age of this building the stairs are steep and would not be accessible by disabled visitors but to overcome this there is a ramp at the rear of the building that allows wheelchair access to this upper level. Below this building on the ground floor there is a café and tearooms.
One of the largest buildings other than the farmhouse and the thatched roof cottage is Boothby Barn. This is a large timber framed threshing barn was never actually a part of this original farm but instead it was located a few miles away. The barn was moved here section by section and re-installed to its original configuration. It now contains farming equipment. Amongst the exhibits there are two examples of early tractors and a steam engine.
One of the other buildings has been turned into a village school. At the side of this there is an exhibition on the life of Victorian children. This contrasts nicely with the school exhibition and demonstrates the hard life these children endured, attending the school during the daytime and working on the farm early morning and in the evenings.
Church Road South
Telephone - 01754 766658
Fax - 01754 766658
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Admission is free but it is closed during the winter months. It is open daily from Easter until the end of October from 10am until 5pm.
In summary I had a great day out at the Church farm Museum and I was fascinated by the place. It is suitable for both adults and children but the best thing about it is that it is free. Well worth a visit.
An open-air museum that will take you back to your forefathers day. Watch a baking demonstration in the farm house or take a gander through the barn buildings to appreciate the tools of yesteryear!