View from above of visitors standing around a table play an interactive game whilst look at a huge glass case containing a large fabric wall-hanging

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The Museum of English Rural Life (The MERL) isowned and managed by the University of Reading and is England’s first and most extensive museum dedicated to farming, food, craft, rural life and countryside issues.   

The MERL contains an astonishing array of items which tell an important part of the history of England. The museum brings this extraordinary collection of objects, archives, photographs and books to life in nine new, innovative and intriguing galleries.  Each gallery explores a different theme such as A Year on the Farm, Town and Country, and Forces for Change. The interactive, immersive displays explore questions of identity, environment, technology, culture and health. Whatever your relationship with the countryside and rural life, you’ll find objects that fascinate and inspire you. You’ll discover stories that surprise and move you, and challenge you to think about rural England, past and present, in different ways.  

A short walk from the centre of Reading, and easily accessible by the bus, rail or road, The MERL is an unexpected treasure waiting to be explored. Whether you visit on your own, on a group visit, or with friends and family, you’re sure of a warm welcome and a high quality, interesting and enjoyable experience. There’s a bright and modern Welcome Space with refreshment area and thoughtfully stocked shop, as well as a beautiful, sheltered garden with picnic space, games, growing spaces and a Shepherds Hut.  

The MERL welcomes families and offers a variety of opportunities to explore through hands-on activities, digital interactives, games and trails – indoors and in the garden.  

Groups are also welcome to book in advance. You will be looked after by a volunteer Welcome Host will introduce the museum, its history and collections and accompany your group throughout the visit to provide extra insights and share more of the stories behind the objects on display. 



  • Accessible Lift
  • All Areas Accessible to Disabled Visitors
  • Disabled Parking
  • Disabled persons toilet
  • Guide Dogs Permitted
  • No dogs (Guide dogs accepted)
  • Parking Areas for Disabled Visitors
  • Ramp/Level Access
  • Wheelchair user accessible


  • Cafe
  • Catering for groups
  • On-Site cafe/restaurant - We have a small cafe serving hot drinks and a selection of cakes as well as sandwiches and a lunchtime soup offer. In the summer we also offer ice-cream and cream teas. There is some indoor and plenty of outdoor seating.
  • Outdoor eating area
  • Picnic area
  • Picnic Site
  • Refreshments Available
  • Vegetarians catered for

Children & Infants

  • Babes in Arms
  • Baby changing
  • Children’s packs
  • Family Friendly, Children Welcome
  • Highchair(s) available
  • Outdoor children’s play area

Establishment Features

  • All weather attraction
  • Garden / Grounds for visitors use
  • Gift shop
  • Groups by arrangement
  • Groups welcome
  • Guided tours by arrangement
  • LGBT Friendly
  • Meeting rooms
  • No Pets
  • Special Opening for Groups by Arrangement
  • Toilets

Parking & Transport

  • Free parking
  • Off-road parking
  • On Site Car Parking
  • On site parking
  • Parking (free)
  • Railway station within 5 miles
  • Railway station within walking distance
  • Secure cycle parking

Payment Methods

  • Approx length of visit - 2-3 hours
  • Groups Accepted - Please see for details
  • MasterCard
  • Open by appointment outside normal opening times - Out of hours group bookings subject to availability and charges apply
  • Special group rates
  • Visa
  • Visa accepted

Provider Preferences

  • In town/city centre
  • No Smoking Attraction

Specialist Features

  • Family Fun

Tours and Demonstrations

  • Educational Visits Accepted
  • Guided Tours Available for Groups

Travel & Trade

  • Wi-fi available

Map & Directions

Museum of English Rural Life (The MERL)


6 Redlands Road, READING, Berkshire, RG1 5EX
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Call direct on:

Tel0118 378 8660

Opening Times

* The Museum, cafe, shop and garden are open Tuesday to Friday, 9am to 5pm and weekends 10am to 5pm. Closed Mondays (unless by arrangement for booked groups only)

The reading room is open (for booked appointments) Tuesday to Friday. For times please see our opening times page.

The MERL is closed on bank holidays and some University of Reading closure days.

Please visit for details.

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