Northern England - folk life museums & social history exhibits

Ideas for visits to cottages, farmhouses - restored or preserved - exploring rural life, domestic life in towns and cities, as lived in the recent or more distant past - open air museums, living history experiences

Cheeses, tea, bacon in shop window Visit museums or ordinary homes from previous centuries. Explore social history - houses, settlements, farm and urban heritage exhibits telling the story of working people's daily lives in town or country. We list places where you can look at domestic life, everyday objects, traditional crafts, old cottages, preserved villages, shops, old-fashioned farms etc. from past centuries. OldandInteresting hopes these suggestions will help people find good days out, and plan holidays. Enjoy!
There ared two huge but quite different collections in the north of England. York Castle Museum is well-known for its streets of old shops with Victorian and Edwardian goods and has a lot more besides. Beamish is a large site with its own trams taking you from village to a 1913 "town" and beyond. Many much smaller museums are great too - like the Nidderdale collection, stuffed with interesting local domestic and craft items, some telling personal stories. Cottages and folk museums offer an alternative look at history after visiting a stately home on the tourist trail. Pickering's only 30 minutes from Castle Howard, for instance. Click on a region below if you're interested in other parts of the UK.

Northern England

Cheshire, Greater Manchester

Cumbria, Lake District

Durham, Northumbria

Lancashire, Merseyside


Also: Isle of Man

Please check opening times - especially of smaller or volunteer-run places.

Please send an email if you want to suggest an addition to this list of museums and other exhibits about "ordinary" or "folk" or "everyday" ways of life in the past. So far we're trying to cover Britain and then Ireland, but suggestions for a similar USA list are also very welcome. Even though grand castles and stately homes are fascinating too, they aren't listed here, and nor are industrial heritage exhibits all about manufacturing and technology. These pages emphasise ordinary domestic life, our ancestors' everyday objects, traditional crafts, living history, old cottages, preserved villages, old-fashioned farms etc.

Copyright - Information is free, but lists are not! This is the legal position in the UK, and in the USA and many other countries too for "creative lists" like this. As you will appreciate, it takes time, effort, and knowledge to assemble this kind of directory. OldandInteresting has reserved all rights in this work. If you think your readers would be interested, just link and please don't copy.

You may like our new sister site Home Things Past where you'll find articles about antiques, vintage kitchen stuff, crafts, and other things to do with home life in the past. There's space for comments and discussion too. Please do take a look and add your thoughts.  (Comments don't appear instantly.)

For sources please refer to the books page, and/or the excerpts quoted on the pages of this website, and note that many links lead to museum sites. Feel free to ask if you're looking for a specific reference - feedback is always welcome anyway. Unfortunately, it's not possible to help you with queries about prices or valuation.