Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings

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I have written a separate review with some general information about Avoncroft Museum of Historical Buildings and our impressions of it. This is intended to give more detail of what there is to see around the site.

The ticket office contains a small shop selling some books, jewellery and preserves. The second hand book section was larger than the new books.

The first building is the splendid STRING OF HORSES INN dating from 1576. It was a pub in the C18th before becoming a branch of the Shrewsbury Co-op Society in 1907. It now houses the Edwardian tea room, furnished with second hand tables and chairs.

Behind it is the NATIONAL TELEPHONE KIOSK COLLECTION which includes AA, RAC and police boxes. Many of the red telephone boxes are recognisable from our youth, complete with A and B buttons. I particularly liked the K4 twenty four hour post office box. Behind the telephone kiosk is a small post box and dispensers for ha’penny and penny stamps. Only 50 were produced. Being bigger than other kiosks, it was difficult to find places for them as they needed access on both sides. The phone boxes are maintained by volunteers and it is possible to make calls between the boxes.

Opposite the String of Horses is a small octagonal counting house which came from a local market. The large windows and the shape of the building meant that the clerk had good views of what was going on.

Set back from the path is the small MISSION CHURCH or tin tabernacle dating from 1891. This was bought as a flat pack for £70 (predating IKEA by a hundred years). Once assembled it could hold 100 people on wooden benches. Other furnishings were equally spartan. The outside walls were corrugated iron. The inside was covered in long thin wood panels.

Near it is a splendid early C18th three seater brick PRIVY which came from the garden of Townsend House, near Leominster.

Opposite the small pond is the THRESHING BARN. To us this was the most interesting building as the cruck frame building had walls were made of thin strips of split oak woven round uprights. The original crucks were massive and made from the trunks of black poplar. The barn is thatched and had two sets of big doors letting the wind blow away the light chaff while the heavier grain fell to the floor.

Next to it is the timber frame and brick built GRANARY, dating from the C18th and standing on brick pillars. This allowed air to circulate round the grain and prevent rodents from reaching it. Dogs living in the two kennels under the steps would have been a further deterrent. Carts would have been stored underneath.

Set on a ridge at the edge of the site is the WINDMILL. This is a post mill and typical of the West Midlands with brick base and wooden top reached up steep stairs. The mill was open and volunteers explained the workings.

Near the threshing barn is a timber frame and brick infill STABLE for working horses. Hay was stored above. Next to it is a timber WAGON SHED. Beyond is a PERRY PRESS. This contains a huge stone crusher. A horse pulled a stone round the mill chase crushing the fruit. The pulp was wrapped in hessian before being squeezed in the press to release the juice.

Next to this are six ‘MOCK TUDOR’ CHIMNEYS dating from the 1890s which had been brought here from Cardiff. We weren’t quite sure what they were doing here.

The next few small brick buildings are industrial with FORGE, NAIL SHOP and BREW HOUSE, under one roof. Beyond is the museum workshop with a small exhibition on nail making. In the C17th Bromsgrove was a major nail making centre. It was a cottage industry with a small workshop attached to the house. Much of the work was done by women and children as the men did seasonal agricultural work. In 1830, machine made nails appeared and the cottage industry couldn’t compete on price.

The CHAINSHOP is a long low brick building with shuttered windows. Inside there are small forges lining both walls where the chain makers worked. They were paid per hundred weight of chain they made. An experienced chainmaker could make about 550m of chain a day. The finished chain was tested in the firm’s proof house to check it was fit for purpose. If it failed, the maker did not get paid. The shop was in operation for about a hundred years. The chains were used by the Admiralty, fishing industry and the railways. They were exported to Canada for use in the timber trade as well as India and New Zealand. The unglazed and barred windows and roof ventilators were designed to reduce the effects of the extreme heat generated. There is a short video of one of he last chain makers talking about his work.

The late C15th timber frame TOWN HOUSE was originally a hall house with central hall with small family rooms off. The buttery and pantry would have been in a separate bay and the kitchen was probably in another building to prevent fire. In the late C19th, the house was divided up into three and became a shop. It is an attractive building with a small garden at the side with forget-me-nots, pot marigolds and cranesbill. There is ramped access to the ground floor which has three rooms. The fire would have originally have been in the centre of the floor but the fireplace is now in a corner with a flue up to a vent in the roof. It is unfurnished apart from a wooden trestle table. Very steep steps lead up to the the first floor with two empty rooms. Tucked away behind the fireplace flue, with no access to it, is an old wooden bed frame. This would have been the warmest place in the house.

Near it is a corrugated iron ANDERSON SHELTER. These were provided free to households whose income was less than £250, otherwise they cost £70. Beside it is a PRE-FAB. This is an ARCON Mk V which was one of the most popular designs. It stood on a concrete slab and had a steel frame clad in a double layer of asbestos cement sheeting with fibre glass insulation. The fitted kitchen had fridge, cooker and running hot water and plenty of storage space. There was a living room and two bedrooms. It even had a form of central heating with hot air ducted into the bedrooms from the living room fire. The pre-fab was lived in until 1980, when it was moved to Avoncroft. You are not allowed inside and just peer through the doors.

The TOLL HOUSE with its list of tolls is basically furnished with a small cast iron range, table, chairs and peg rugs on the ground floor. Above are two bedrooms with iron beds and chamber pots. The larger room had a small fireplace. A door from the first floor leads through the garden and past the ICE HOUSE.

The RACKSAW BUILDING is a large brick building with a large circular saw blade used to cut timber on an estate. Next to it is the COCKPIT, a large square building which seems to be used as an events area.

As explained in the previous review, we were very disappointed by the selection of buildings. We had expected more domestic buildings. Many of the buildings felt neglected and a bit sad. Apart from the windmill, there were no staff around the site and it felt dead. Except for the threshing barn with its woven oak slat sides, there was nothing we hadn’t seen better elsewhere. We were not impressed. By now we were throughly disheartened and didn’t bother with the Showman’s Wagon, airing shelter, cell block or the brick making display. We decided to cut our loses, have a quick cup of tea and head to somewhere more interesting.

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