Milestones – museum of living history
We’ve got another week off coming up soon and I realised I hadn’t finished telling you about one other day out that we had in June. Actually we went twice – once on a school day, when we pretty much had the place to ourselves (Kirsty’s favourite way to explore a museum), and once for their Father’s Day event (we took S’ dad – and fathers could have a free drink at the pub or free sweets at the sweet shop!)
I can tell you about what we saw, but it seems that things change all the time. So if you’re planning a visit to the museum, it’s good to check out their website and see what’s on. For example, an exhibition about life in the UK during World War II and various activities for families with children such as a street magic event are planned for this summer.
The museum is basically split into two parts – the industrial revolution in the latter part of the 19th century, and life in the 1920s.You go on self-guided tours, which I always prefer because then you can spend more time on the things that you find more interesting and you don’t have to go at the group’s pace.
Audio guides are provided. Someone with no sight would still need assistance to go round the exhibits in the right order, but the numbers ran chronologically and if you wanted to find out more about a particular topic, you were told which numbers to press. The audio guide is operated by push-buttons arranged like a telephone, so as long as I knew which number I needed, I could operate it independently. I like audio guides because they give me control of what and how much I want to hear, and my guide doesn’t end up hoarse at the end of the day!
The first thing you see is information about Taskers of Andover, a company that manufactured steam engines, farm machinery and road vehicles. You can hear one of the Tasker brothers and some of his workers telling you what life was like for them, and see some of the equipment that they produced.
This was also a time when children were part of the workforce, often poorly paid and working in dangerous conditions. This isn’t a central theme, but there are a couple of accounts of it.
The role of horses was more important in the first part of the museum and we made a point of looking out for them! They worked on the farms, pulling people around on their carts, and even helping with house moves to get people’s luggage from the house to the railway, when the furniture was being moved a long way.
Of course if you have horses, you need somewhere to buy your saddles, bridles etc, or special shoes that the horses wore when pulling the lawn mower so that they didn’t squash the grass! I didn’t even know that was a thing! You can also pop into the iron monger, or see what new hats were in fashion!
There is a house similar to the many houses that were built for factory workers, or others who worked for the big companies that were springing up. I used to live in a house like this once, so I had often thought about what life was like for the families living in them. Mine, however, did have an inside toilet and a permanent bath, rather than a tub that you filled with water in the kitchen. Whereas I lived there on my own, a couple with there 4 children were squished into the space, with very little privacy.
The two parts of the museum are separated, so it feels as though you are going forward in time to the 1920s!
The 1920s street has a different range of shops and you can visit places like the bike shop, the camera shop and the toy shop.
This was the pre-war era – within a few years, women would be taking on many tasks traditionally done by men because the men were in the army, but at this time the women’s place was still seen as firmly in the home, as demonstrated by the advertising for hoovers and ovens aimed at “the modern housewife”! Things have come a long way since then!
It’s hard to imagine how people could be wary of electrical appliances at first, preferring the gas ones because these were more familiar. But I guess people have been resistant to change for as long as there have been people!
Your ticket comes with a ration book, which can be used in the sweet shop, where you can try old fashioned sweets such as pear drops, sour apples, strawberries and cream, and a bunch of others. It’s not pick ‘n mix, so you decide for one of the sweets and get a bag of that.
If you want a drink, you can also go to the pub, which sells alcohol as well as a range of soft or hot drinks.
If you’re interested in old vehicles, you can find them in both parts of the museum. Among other things there is a Victorian tram, a steam-powered fire engine, and a selection of restored vehicles made at the Thornicroft factory, which produced steam-powered lorries and vans.
In terms of refreshments, we ate their both days in the café. The staff are really friendly there and there’s a good selection of lunch options. I knew a lot of the old songs that were playing because my grandparents used to sing or play them. I think they would have enjoyed the museum too.
We didn’t actually buy anything from the gift shop, but there are plenty of souvenirs in there if you want to have a look around.
There are plenty of things to see in the museum, whether you’re interested in the shops, the vehicles, or just what life was like for people. I’d definitely say it’s worth a visit, and as it seems new things are added regularly, keeping an eye out for any special events or exhibitions that might interest you.
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