Vernacular buildings - the houses and workplaces of past generations - are disappearing every day from the landscape. In the Chilterns, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on London's doorstep, the pressures are particularly great. Chiltern Open Air Museum preserves and interprets the built heritage of the Chilterns that would otherwise be lost.
The Museum was founded in 1976, with the aim of rescuing threatened buildings and re-erecting them on our forty-five acre site of natural park, meadow and woodland, thereby preserving a variety of structures of historical or vernacular interest which are typical of the region. Some of these houses are replicas of actual structures like a Victorian farm and a small village with cottages, a church and craftsmen's shops.
The round-house design first appeared in Britain around 2500 B.C. and continued in use up to A.D. 200. The Museum's Iron Age House reconstruction, although not based on a specific archaeological excavation, is typical of the style of construction. A house of this size would probably have housed a family unit and the interior depicts a home of A.D. 50. The roof is based on three principal rafters erected as a tripod, with a ring-beam supporting the other rafters. There is no outlet for the smoke, which finds its own way through the thatch.
Chiltern Museum is also home to a replica church. Henton Mission Room was originally built in 1886, and was reconstructed at the Museum between 1994 - 1997. It is a small church known as 'the little tin chapel'. Because of its size, only one service was helt here each month.
Picture by Keith J. Quantrill