Opened in 1938, the museum is what’s considered to be a working (or ‘living’) museum. This, essentially, means that it shows historical events that demonstrate how life in the past was performed by recreating the conditions of a given period (meaning that visitors can experience the past in a more active and participatory manner). In this case the period happens to be the early 20th century and Cregneash illustrates the traditional way of life for a crofting (or small scale food farming) community producing oats, rye, barley and wheat.
There’s plenty to see here including a whole host of thatched cottages, many farm buildings and the odd animal including Manx Loaghtan Sheep, pigs (when we went there were some new piglets which were rather cute), goats and horses (including a horse that took a particular liking to the sound of my partners voice!) and you can see plenty of traditional farming skills in practice.
Highlights of our visit included a trip to Harry Kelly’s lovely little cottage which has been preserved for decades. Inside there's lots of items on display to wonder at that belonged not just to Harry Kelly but his parents (Harry Kelly never left home), the furnishings and decorations are extremely interesting and the talk is well worth listening to as you get to hear about the village, it’s goings on and the how the houses were built. While we were there bread was being made on the stove which was pretty cool (the smell was great).
Also worth looking at are the blacksmiths, the farmhouse which has some wonderful furnishings inside as well as various people in costume ready to talk to you about the way of life there. There’s lots of farm machinery to look at (although a lot of it isn’t from the early 20th century, but later), Ned Beg’s Cottage where you can listen to some Manx speakers and a museum at the beginning of the tour that tells you all about the history of the area and the people that once inhabited it. You can also see many demonstrations which vary depending on the day you attend (we went on a Wednesday so they had knitting amongst other things on).
I also liked the wristband element of the whole place (you get one as you first go in to the village to show that you've paid), it reminded me of a fairground, and is (to me at least) quite unique for this type of attraction.
Best of all though are the wonderful views, Cregneash is in the south of the island and close to The Sound meaning that you get amazing views over to it and to the Calf of Man and, if the weather's nice, there's a coastal walk (the weather wasn’t nice at our visit so we didn‘t do it). And there’s a beautiful little church to look at on the main road that dates from the 19th century.
I didn’t particularly like the fact that the place was poorly signposted and thus made it difficult to find some areas of the village. At other areas we didn‘t really know which cottage or building we were supposed to be in. Some of the buildings are also private residences but it's not always clear as to which ones aren’t part of the Folk Village and you can find yourself getting a little lost.
I would’ve also like to have had a look in a few more of the cottages but quite a few have barriers so you can only have a look through the door. Finally, I also found that a lot had been done to maintain some areas and not others. For example, parts of the village looked on the verge of ruins or like a junk yard to store old bits and bobs while others simply can’t be faulted (such as Harry Kelly’s cottage). Perhaps this will change in the future with more funds and restorations, who knows.
The National Folk Museum at Cregneash was a somewhat enjoyable experience although I can’t say that I was particularly impressed with everything there. However, it was a decent enough way to spend an hour or two.
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