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Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence 2014

Old Kiln Museum

Henry & Madge's Creation

Henry and Madge Jackson moved into the smallholding known as "The Reeds" in 1948. They renamed it "Old Kiln" after the hop kiln that was originally on the site of the three garages that now serve the houses; the kiln did not survive, but the name did! They sold their market garden produce to locals, and gradually collected artifacts which were the beginning of the museum, which was formed and opened to the public in 1973.
Nearby, the 3-sided farm building that is opposite what is now the forge has a courtyard through which visitors drove, to park their cars by the big oak tree. Having parked, people would walk back into the courtyard to look at the items there, which were, in fact, the majority of the early exhibits. Further into the smallholding were more old implements and carts, amongst the trees where Henry and Madge grazed their sheep.

Henry always had an affinity for trees, and over the years he planted many different types. We still have tree walks, which introduce visitors to the many and varied species at the museum. Henry himself chose a particular species, Ginkgo Bilboa (Maidenhair Tree) for planting in his memory. See if you can find it – or join in with one of our walks.

As time went by, more and more exhibits joined the collection, and in 1973 the museum was formed. Dairy items went into the room off the courtyard which is now the 'wartime room', one "arm" of the "U"-shaped building. Wheelwrights items were under the covered space at the base of the "U" of the building, and miscellaneous things were stored in the building on the final side of the "U" which now houses the 'stable' display. Henry could access the 'Victorian room' space from the garden of his house; he kept an electricity generator there which provided his home with lighting – the rest of the road was without electricity until the 60s. People in the vicinity would hear Henry start up his generator and know it was time to light the lamps!

Originally, the building on the opposite side of the drive to the courtyard (now the forge) was the stables. The floor and hayrack on the back wall are evidence of this original usage of the building. Henry had fitted stalls in the building, they were obtained from a large estate in Frensham (which may have been Pierrepont Farm nearby). As time went by, Henry became interested in blacksmithing, and he converted the stable building into a forge, demonstrating the craft to local schoolchidren. It remains as the forge to this day.

When the replica furnace and water-wheel were added adjacent to the forge, they replaced the original pig sty that had later been used for museum displays. On the other side of the forge was a building that was probably originally a chicken shed; Henry had used it to display his agricultural machines, which were driven by a stationary engine – it even drove a pump on the outside wall, which pumped water for his well.

Both Madge and Henry were very outgoing, friendly people. Not only did local people know them well; everyone enjoyed the parties that they used to throw. Many local people freely gave their help to Madge and Henry to grow the museum from its early beginnings to its present size; it is surprising how many of those early volunteers are still Rustic Volunteers at the museum today, still freely providing their time and expertise to help run the Rural Life Centre.

Henry, Madge and the museum helpers set up a Charitable Trust on 24th April, 1984, to ensure the future of their museum. The Old Kiln Museum Trust is charity number 289150 and is described thus: "The Trust operates a Country Life Museum, THE RURAL LIFE CENTRE, to educate and entertain the public in matters relating to farming, crafts and rural living."
In 2000 Henry and Madge were nominated to become Members of the British Empire, which delighted everyone. An announcement was made in the Surrey and Hants News of June 27th, 2000 that two local people had both received an award in the Queen's Birthday List. The same information, but more terse, was published on Saturday June 17th 2000 in a national newspaper.

Madge Jackson died in 2002, and donations given in her memory were applied to a new construction on the site, known as "Madge's Waggon Shed"; this building is between the Cricket Pavilion and the Schoolroom. It is a new building, not rescued from obscurity, but it was carefully designed in the old style, with open front and tiled roof, with mock upper loft door and hoist. Items of farm machinery and waggons are displayed there.

Henry Jackson died in 2004, leaving the Rural Life Centre in the competent care of the Trustees, Staff and Rustic Volunteers at the museum. Without Henry's boundless enthusiasm, the museum would never have come about in the beginning.

Far more detailed information of the lives and achievements of Madge and Henry can be read in Madge's booklet "The birth of a Museum", which is available from the Museum Shop.

Here are a few images:-

The birth of a Museum The forecourt and forge/stable In 1999 - a Waggon Shed for Madge By the pavion in 2005