This Easter, we visited the Museum of East Anglian Life, Stowmarket, a 70 acre site which was part of the former Abbot’s Hall estate. On the site, in situ, is the Abbot’s Hall barn, an aisled tithe barn dating back to the 13th century, when the manor and church of Stowmarket were attached to St Osyth’s Priory in Essex. There’s also, Edgar’s Farmhouse, once part of a larger farmhouse from Combs, Suffolk; it is a timber framed aisled hall and dates back to the mid- fourteenth century and has a crown post roof. It was moved and re-erected on the museum site in the 1970s.
The Boby building at the museum, was originally part of the engineering works of Robert Boby Ltd of Bury St Edmunds and dates from the 1870’s. It has reconstructed craft and trade workshops, a steam gallery, an industrial heritage gallery and a recreated bioscope cinema.
The museum has a matched pair of steam ploughing engines made by Charles Burrell of Thetford in 1879, ‘The Empress of Britain’ agricultural steam traction engine made by Charles Burrell of Thetford, 1912, refurbished by local volunteers, and a single-cylinder, horizontal steam engine made by Whitmore and Binyon of Wickham Market, 1893.
Alton Watermill is a traditional working, waterpowered cornmill, dating from the 1700s, and capable of driving three pairs of mill-stones. It has a wooden two-seater privy that was originally flushed by the millpond. Like many of the museum buildings, it was dismantled and transported to the museum where it was subsequently re-erected.
There is the Eastbridge windpump from Minsmere Level, used for draining land in the mid-1800s, and Great Moulton Chapel, a ‘tin tabernacle’ made by Boulton and Paul of Norwich in about 1890.
Grundisburgh Smithy dates from the mid 18th century. It is a timber framed building, still used occasionally for demonstrations.
Home Close has displays of domestic life, schooling, shops and trades, mostly in a series of room settings. There is also a collection of traditional travellers’ and gypsy caravans. A medieval track, Crowe Lane, leads from the Home Close through the main site to the Rattlesden River, where there is a riverside path.
The more rural aspect of the Museum of East Anglian Life, such as the old threshing machines and agricultural equipment reminded me a lot of The Somerset Rural life Museum, Glastonbury.