|Standing on a corner of old sunken roads close by the churchyard in the village of Uffington, this tiny and unusual museum has an interesting history. It is housed in the 395 year-old schoolroom that featured in Thomas Hughes’ book ‘Tom Brown’s School Days’.|
The Museum explains the history and archaeology of the area, including the world-famous Uffington White Horse, and has mementoes of Thomas Hughes and the late poet laureate, Sir John Betjeman, who lived in Uffington.
The Museum has a varied collection of artefacts, documents, photographs, books, maps, records and press cuttings that relate to Uffington.
The history of Uffington’s first schoolroom is itself fascinating, and we have things to interest and entertain our child visitors.
A section of the Museum is dedicated to books relating to the local area, and we have a large collection of old photographs. On our computer systems you can see presentations, watch films of local events, and listen to oral history recordings.
The Uffington White Horse is the oldest and most impressive chalk hill-figure in Britain.
Tests on the soil between the lower layers of the chalk have shown that the Horse is about 3000 years old, dating it to the late Bronze Age. It is thought that the figure may represent a horse goddess connected with the local Belgae tribe.
In the Museum we have artefacts from White Horse Hill and an explanation of the archaeological work carried out there.
‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays incudes extensive descriptions of life in Uffington in the 19th century, and much of the village is still as it was during Thomas Hughes’s childhood.
The book recounts Tom’s adventures at Rugby public school, and it illustrates Hughes’s radical ideas about education with his characterisation of the kindly headmaster Doctor Arnold.
We have 136 different editions of the book in the Museum.
Thomas Hughes was an important influence for social reform in the 19th century. He supported Christian Socialist causes, was the first President of the Co-operative Congress, and founded a colony in Rugby, Tennessee which still exists today.
His book ‘The Scouring of the White Horse’ records the celebrations that accompanied the renovation of the Horse in 1857.
The Museum has an exhibit celebrating Hughes’ life and achievements.
The Poet Laureate John Betjeman and his wife rented Garrards Farm in Uffington in 1934. The Betjemans soon became immersed in village life and also entertained many famous friends here. Their son, Paul, was born in Uffington in 1937.
The family moved to Farnborough in 1945, then to Wantage in 1951. Sir John Betjeman died at Trebetherick in Cornwall on 19 May, 1984.
The Museum has a display on the Betjeman family and their connections with Uffington. We also have copies of a large amount of Betjeman’s correspondence in our archives.