UK folk life museums & social history exhibits

Ideas for visits to old cottages, farmhouses, poor and middling homes, crofts - restored or preserved - exploring rural life, domestic life in towns and cities, as lived in the past - living history experiences.

thatched house and shed This is a guide for people who want to visit museums of "folk life" or ordinary homes from previous centuries. You can explore social history in villages, settlements, open air museums, or 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, old-fashioned farms etc. from past centuries. OldandInteresting hopes these suggestions will help people find good days out, and plan holidays. Enjoy!
A list like this involves some tricky decisions. The general rule has been to include exhibits and homes where visitors can explore the same kind of topics we cover on this website: home management, domestic chores, housekeeping, household objects, and their history. Sometimes this is just in one section of a museum, or industrial heritage or rural life centre. Museums with collections of this kind may be called folk museum, or heritage centre, or living museum, or just museum, plain and simple.
Suggested places, with links, are listed by region. Please click through to the area that interests you.

Books to read before, during, or after a visit

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 future USA list are also very welcome. Even though grand castles and stately homes are fascinating too, sometimes with interesting kitchens, laundry rooms etc., they aren't listed here, and nor are industrial heritage exhibits all about manufacturing and technology, without workers' cottages. 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, please just link and 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.