Serendipity took us to the Chiltern Open Air Museum over the bank holiday weekend. The museum run regular events, this weekend was Roman Gladiators weekend and as the eldest is studying Romans this was the perfect opportunity to visit. Take a look at the video of our day out and don’t miss the Roman gladiators at the end!
Watch The Chiltern Open Air Museum and Britannia Roman Gladiators
You can walk back in time along a path that winds its way through the centre of the museum site and step into historical buildings that line the pathway, see the traditional working farm and at the end of the track there is a quaint tea room.
The museum is unusual as there isn’t a main building filled with artefacts, this museum is a collection of buildings that have been rescued from the Chiltern Hills and rebuilt piece-by-piece. You’ll find an Iron Age Roundhouse, an RAF briefing room from World War II, an example of a post-war prefab, a Georgian thatch cottage, a Victorian school, a cart shed from Gorhambury, St Albans and a Well Head from Harpenden, as well as barns, a grain store and even a furniture factory!
When we arrived we wandered along the pathway past hedgerows, wild flowers and shire horses grazing on lush green grass. The Chiltern Open Air Museum has a quirky charm. Watch out for Nessy in the pond and the Wishing Well is inhabited by water spirits that talk.
We stepped inside a picturesque thatched cottage that was once home to residents in Leagrave, Bedfordshire. Of course the boys thought that the best bit was at the end of the garden path… and they both had to sit on the outdoor Preston Bisset Privy! On the Village Green there is a talking Well Head and you can roll a coin down the chute to hear the water spirits talk. When we rolled our coin into the well a voice promptly shouted “Ow! Excuse me but some of us are trying to sleep down here!”
We followed the path along the centre of the museum site and found the adventure playground, which has a model toll house to play in, a shepherd’s living van with a slide and a swing. It isn’t huge but it is perfect for a short stop along the path. After another stop inside the Tollhouse we made it to the Tea Room for a cold drink and an ice cream. We didn’t have time to make a beeswax candle, visit the farm or the World War II buildings as it was soon time to head to the arena to see the Roman gladiators. There’s still so much to explore and so much that we haven’t seen yet. We will definitely be coming back.
When we visited the Chiltern Open Air Museum, Roman re-enactment group Britannia had set up camp. Britannia have worked on the television series Horrible Histories as well as films including Ridley Scott’s Gladiator. Everyone that we met and spoke to was extremely knowledgeable and there was armour to try on and swords to wield.
We learnt that butchery techniques have not changed much in thousands of years and that the Romans created pigment by crushing semi-precious stones and adding the powder to egg yolk to make paint.
Then it was time for the gladiatorial display. We lay a blanket at the edge of the arena and tucked into our picnic as the action unfolded before us. The Emperor arrived in a procession and then different categories of gladiator were introduced. The combat displays were thrilling and a fair bit of (fake) blood was spilled, much to the delight of the boys. The crowd was invited to cheer at the sidelines and to urge the Emperor to rule for mercy or death to the defeated gladiator.
After the excitement of the gladiators it was time for us to head home. We all had a brilliant day in beautiful countryside and were treated to great entertainment by Britannia. The Chiltern Open Air Museum is a gem that we will certainly return to.
Top Tips for a visit to the Chiltern Open Air Museum
- Family activity packs, storytelling bags and trails can be booked out from the Visitor Information Centre in exchange for a deposit.
- Take a few pennies for the Well Head on the Village Green so you can hear the water spirits talk.
- If you want to have a go at making a bees wax candle then take some cash. The candle making workshop doesn’t take cards.
- Take a picnic blanket as there are lots of grass lawns to picnic on and when we watched the gladiator display it was great to sit on the blanket.
- If you are visiting the Chiltern Open Air Museum for a special event then check their website and the Facebook Page before you travel as sometimes events are subject to change due to the weather.
To avoid disappointment check details and opening hours with the venue before you travel.
Chiltern Open Air Museum, Newland Park, Gorelands Lane, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, HP8 4AB
Disclosure: We received free entry to the Chiltern Open Air Museum in exchange for an honest review. Images, words and opinions are all my own.