News from the Rural Life Centre

August 2013

Sunday Funday fun and games

Video of last year's Sunday Funday

By the middle of August many families have exhausted ideas for entertaining the children and the cry goes up "What are we going to do today?"

If you are already beginning to panic, help is at hand with the Rural Life centre's Sunday Funday August 18. This annual event is a special day when the children from toddlers upwards can experience the atmosphere of a fete and Sunday School picnic rolled into one.

Organiser Pam Taylor says the event with its traditional games and races is always enjoyed by the children, even in this computer and TV age, while mums, dads and grandparents will be transported back to their own childhoods.

Encouraged by the museum’s enthusiastic band of volunteers, youngsters can take part in quizzes, clay modelling, leaf and vegetable painting, flowerpot decorating, peg doll dressing and jewellery making. They can even try their hand at wood turning on the foot-operated pole lathe.

For children who need to run off some energy, there will be plenty of energetic activities on offer, too, everything from the traditional coconut shy and bobbing for apples (always a great hit) to races, skittles and a treasure trail. If the weather's wet, there will be traditional indoor games in the museum’s many attractive old buildings. All the day’s activities are included in the price of admission to the museum.

Adults can take along a picnic or buy tasty food at the museum's café.

Sunday Funday takes place on August 18 and is open from 10am to 5pm. The Rural Life Centre ( is an accredited museum of village life which lies midway between Tilford and Frensham on Reeds Road. For further information telephone 01252 795571.

July 2013

A Politician meets Mechanisation

Video of last year's tractor rally

Tractors and Farnham's very own Rural Rider, William Cobbett, may not seem like the ideal bedfellows, but they will snuggle up together at the Rural Life Centre on the weekend of August 10 and 11.

Organised by the Central Southern Vintage Agricultural Club (CSVAC), the two-day tractor rally will have a Ferguson, Massey-Ferguson and David Brown theme, but other makes will also be on display.

Organiser Andy Weinel said this is the second of what will now become an annual event, adding that the rally will feature a tractor parade, and CSVAC members will replicate a 1969 Gibbs show stand.

Then on the Sunday, there will be a celebration to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of radical reformer, William Cobbett, best known for his enduringly readable and politically important Rural Rides.

He undertook his travels on horseback, so what he would have made of tractors is a matter for conjecture. Cobbett, who was born, brought up and buried in Farnham, ruffled a few feathers in his time, but quiet reflection will be the order of the day when his contribution to common sense is marked at the Rural Life Centre.

The event is being co-ordinated by Maurice Hewins, who explained that Luath Grant-Ferguson will be walking round the site giving readings of Cobbett's work which have a particular relevance for the museum.

Artefacts will be available for visitors to handle, and at 11.30am and 2.30pm children will get the chance to dress in Cobbett-related costumes.

The great man knew a thing or two about the land, and farmed at Normandy, near Guildford, from 1831 until his death in 1835.

Tractors played a big part in the life of Henry Jackson, who co-founded the Rural Life Centre with his wife Madge. Henry had earlier been one of the driving forces behind Tilhill Forestry Nurseries, where Fergusons and Massey Fergusons were a feature of everyday life.

All makes of agricultural tractors will be welcomed at the rally, and there will also be a horticultural tractor section.

These 'kings of the countryside' are just as comfortable cultivating a field as they are cultivating a keen and enthusiastic following. Find out how they do it with a visit to the CSVAC rally.

And Cobbett? He'll be there in spirit on Sunday.

The Rural Life Centre, an accredited museum of village life, will be open on both days from 10am to 5pm. It can be found midway between Frensham and Tilford in Reeds Road, off the A287, three miles south of Farnham. For more information, telephone 01252 795571 or visit the museum's website at

February 2013

2013 looks set to be busy

Looking pretty in the snow - our gypsy waggon.
Looking pretty in the snow - our gypsy waggon.

With the weather steadily improving, people's thoughts are starting to turn to seek local places to go for days out. One place that is proving increasingly popular over the years is the Rural Life Centre at Tilford, near Farnham. Although traditionally thought of as an open-air museum of country life, in fact most of its displays are located within buildings.

At the museum the large staff of volunteers has been busy over the winter months ensuring that 2013's visitors will have some different exhibits and events to see. The 1920s holiday home 'Smudgers' is now complete, the Wealden Iron Furnace reconstruction looks set to produce its first 'pig iron' this year and the 1960s children's playground has been completely overhauled.

The diary of events, now available from the museum's website at, looks positively overflowing with activities to attract all ages and tastes. Joining the regular favourites this year are some new titles.

A Polish Day in May builds on the successful opening of the Tweedsmuir Camp exhibition opened by the Polish consul in 2012. During the day visitors will be able to watch Polish dancing, learn about the history of the large emigré community that settled here after the second world war and sample traditional cuisine.

The popular biennial Bus & Coach Rally returns with many classic vehicles and last year's Romany Day returns but this year takes place over a whole weekend giving visitors a better chance to learn about the heritage of the Surrey Gypsy community. As part of the latter event, John Kirkpatrick, of the BBC's historic farm series, will be presenting an evening concert of "The Victorian Farmer in Song".

Exhibitions throughout the year include "On Hungry Hill", the story of the community of gravel diggers at Hale that were responsible for much of the building of Aldershot Garrison, and "Farm Animals of Yesteryear". Another exhibition, still in the planning stage, will recall the history of the museum itself which celebrates its 40th birthday this year. That anniversary is also set to be celebrated during the "Harvest Home" event in September.

All in all, we're sure you will agree, that there is much to see and do at this local museum which begins its main season on March 6th. It will then be open each week from Wednesday to Sunday complete with a popular café (under new management this year) which is worth a visit in its own right.

For further details of the museum visit their website at or give them a ring on 01252 795571. To find them type the postcode GU10 2DL into your sat-nav and you'll find the Rural Life Centre on Reeds Road, mid-way between Tilford and Frensham, just three miles south of Farnham town centre.

August 2012

Bacon and Barszcz

Wies and Zen Rogalski outside their childhood home
Wies and Zen Rogalski outside their childhood home

The fact that the Nazi invasion of Poland was the catalyst for the Second World War is well known. But how many people realise that, thanks to Poles escaping to this country with an Enigma machine, Bletchley Park codebreakers were able to crack the secure German cyphers and shorten the war. Poles also fought bravely as part of the RAF in the Battle of Britain and were among the highest scoring aces of that aerial conflict. So what happened to these refugees after the war?

From 26 August Tilford's museum of country life, the Rural Life Centre, will help answer that question. Thanks to a Heritage Lottery grant a new and unique exhibition has been created which commemorates the settlement of the Polish wartime community in Surrey.

Visitors will be able to learn about the displaced Polish Allied Forces and their families who were reluctant to return Poland under a communist regime in 1945. There will be opportunities to explore the political, social and cultural implications of these historic events. The exhibition will offer experiences and activities for a wide range of groups from schools to familes.

The refugees' story will be told through the history of Tweedsmuir Camp which stood near Thursley village. It was a disused army base which housed Polish families until the early 1960s, the residents becoming very much a part of the local community, attending schools and working in factories and on farms in the surrounding villages.

The exhibition is the brainchild of brothers Wies and Zen Rogalski, who spent their childhood in its wooden barracks, and is entitled Tam Mieszkalismy or We lived there. On Sunday August 26 they will welcome the Polish Consul, recently arrived from Washington DC, and possibly the country's newly appointed Ambassador to formally open the replica Tweedsmuir Barracks.

The day will also include Polish dancers and music plus a chance to sample national dishes. Activities will be running all day from 10am with the ceremonies taking place in the afternoon. The Rural Life Centre is just off the A287 three miles south of Farnham midway between Tilford and Frensham and is open from 10am to 5pm from Wednesday to Sunday each week and on bank holidays. More details can be found at or by calling 01252 795571.

Further information on this project may be found here

October 2010

Social history and Tweedsmuir Camp

Wies and Zen Rogalski with Hania Raubo on the step of 39 Tweedsmuir Camp where the Rogalskis lived.

Wies and Zen Rogalski with Hania Raubo on the step of 39 Tweedsmuir Camp where the Rogalskis lived.

A new, permanent exhibition at the Rural Life Centre recalling the postwar lives of Polish displaced persons in Tweedsmuir Camp, Thursley, has been given Lottery funding, Penny Kitchen reports.

Imagine a childhood spent as a displaced person and housed in a former military camp. Grim? Not as Zen Rogalski remembers it. Until the age of nine, he and his six year old brother Wies, spent "an idyllic childhood" in Tweedsmuir Military Camp at Thursley, where Poles and their dependents displaced by the War, were housed between 1947 and 1960.

"One memory is of throwing fallen roofing shingles around like Frisbees," Zen recalls, mindful of what 'Health & Safety' would have to say about such childish pranks today.

Now grown up with families of their own, the Rogalskis have spent a good part of their adult lives, not to mention a lot of their own money, researching the Polish residency at Tweedsmuir. This work involves documenting the residents's stories of how they came to be there and what happened to them after they left.

Their website has been much praised and now they have received Heritage Lottery funding of £50,000 for a permanent exhibition to be built at the Rural Life Centre in nearby Tilford.

The accredited country life museum hosts a number of living history events each year including a Village at War weekend each May, with re-enactments of both Canadian and American troops who were stationed in the area.

Tweedsmuir Camp was built as a depot by Royal Canadian Engineers and it is thought that many thousands of Canadian troops arriving in this country passed through on their way to battles in occupied Europe. After the war the camp was used as temporary accommodation for personnel of the Polish Resettlement Corps, demobilised Polish service men and women, and their dependents. It was here that the Rogalskis lived from 1948 to 1957.

Zen and Wies, together with their parents, eventually left the camp to settle in Clapham, London. However the brothers have never stopped in their quest to find out all the stories behind this early chapter in their lives and lives of the other Polish people in Britain. "We have been trying to find our roots, trying to unravel a tortured history that has impinged on our lives and made us what we are today," says Zen.

After the horrors of war, their parents, who had met and married in Surrey, regarded Tweedsmuir as a haven. The camp residents who had come from the rural and agricultural areas of Poland were soon keeping cows, geese and chickens, and growing vegetables on the site to supplement their diet. Men from the camp were employed in local industries, such as the Dennis engineering factory in Guildford and Nutbourne Brickworks in Hambledon, whilst many of the women worked at Secretts Farm in Milford.

For children like Zen and his brother it seemed a perfect childhood and now in memory of those who lived in the camp they and project volunteers want to bring the story of these years and these people to a wider audience. "The Rural Life Centre is a perfect place for our exhibition, which will be housed in a timber building similar to the barracks in which we lived," says Zen. "Ours is a social history of a small group of people intertwined with this area of Surrey."

Zen and Wies are in the process of compiling and collating personal stories for the new exhibition. This is no easy task as the Polish families who lived in the camp were widely dispersed by 1960. They are gathering photos and memorabilia, the originals of which will be archived and preserved for posterity at the Surrey History Centre for future researchers.

Getting Lottery funding has enabled them to realise their dream. "We're doing this for our parents, our children and grandchildren and for all the people who were in the camp," Zen says. "Although some of our findings are now on the website, they are only the tip of the iceberg."

"It is our hope that the exhibition will give the local community a valuable insight into part of the cultural heritage of Surrey which is in danger of being lost," adds Wies.

The exhibition will be particularly interesting to local, Polish and Canadian visitors who want to discover more about this unique heritage. English and Polish institutions in the UK have been approached with a view to touring the exhibition and the brothers have also just learned that the Polish Ambassador has agreed to attend the official opening at the Rural Life Centre in 2012.

Corpus Christi procession in the camp. Beyond is the brick guardhouse built by the Royal Canadian Engineers in 1943.

Corpus Christi procession in the camp. Beyond is the brick guardhouse built by the Royal Canadian Engineers in 1943.

Some of this year's events

July 2013

Rustic Sunday

June 2013

Romany Days

June 2013

Days Gone By

May 2013

Polski Dzien - Polish Day

May 2013

A Village at War

May 2013

OKLR Model Railway Exhibition

April 2013

Countryside & Woodland Show

March 2013

Steam Toy Rally

Some of last year's events

December 2012

Santa Specials

October 2012

Land Rover Day

September 2012

SCVC Classic Vehicle Gathering

September 2012

Donkey Day Out

September 2012

Weyfest 2012

August 2012

Tweedsmuir Polish Barracks opening

Some of previous years' events

July 2011

Testing the Wealden iron furnace

Rural Life Centre : Old Kiln Museum : Accredited Museum
Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund
Reeds Road, Tilford, Farnham, Surrey, GU10 2DL.
01252 795571 (Fax. 01252 795571)

The Old Kiln Museum Trust is a registered charity
Copyright Old Kiln Museum Trust 2012

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