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HRH The Duke of Gloucester unveils landmark Land Rover at University Museum – University of Reading

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HRH The Duke of Gloucester unveils landmark Land Rover at University Museum

Release Date 21 March 2013

HRH The Duke of Gloucester unveiling the Land Rover

View pictures from the HRH The Duke of Gloucester's visit to MERL >>>

The Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) was delighted to welcome HRH The Duke of Gloucester on Thursday 21 March who unveiled the Museum's latest acquisition, a stunning example of an early Series 1 Land Rover.

During the visit His Royal Highness, along with other dignitaries including the University of Reading's Chancellor Sir John Madejski and Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell, discovered what makes the Museum such a fascinating and popular attraction by touring current exhibitions and meeting MERL volunteers.

At the ceremony His Royal Highness said: "It has been a great pleasure to come and visit your Museum. I'm extremely interested in rural life. It's very important for people to be reminded, now in the 21st century everyone has forklifts and lots of horse power, that in the not so distant past it was all extremely hard work. This is actually the first time I've been asked to unveil a car! I'm delighted that it should be an icon of rural life and it's absolutely right for the Museum to have it."

Over the last five years MERL, which is owned and managed by the University of Reading, has been collecting iconic rural artefacts under the banner of ‘20th Century Rural Cultures'. The MAE397 Land Rover is one such icon, representing a vehicle that bridged the gap between the traditional farm wagon, the tractor and the ordinary road car. 

MAE397 is an exceptional example of an early Series 1 Land Rover. The vehicle comes with a remarkable number of original features including the log book and manual, and even its first tyres. It was originally owned by Ivor Norris, a dairy farmer from Avonmouth, near Bristol, who registered the vehicle on 29 April 1949. The Museum purchased ‘MAE' from the second owner, Mr Chris Batchelor, who was present at the unveiling.

Isabel Hughes, Curator of Collections and Public Engagement at MERL, said: "We are very excited to have acquired ‘MAE'. The strong farming links can be seen in a number of photographs also acquired from Ivor Norris. With the Land Rover now crossing over from rural utility vehicle to urban status symbol, this object will take pride of place in the new ‘Our Country Lives' displays we are planning."  

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading Sir David Bell added: "It was a great privilege for the University to host HRH The Duke of Gloucester during his visit to Berkshire. I am sure His Royal Highness enjoyed the Museum which reflects the University's longstanding interest in agriculture and its contribution to our national life, both past and present."

Earlier this year the Museum received initial support* from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a new project that will enhance the visitor experience by redisplaying the main galleries. ‘Our Country Lives' aims to make contemporary countryside issues come alive for urban dwellers and audiences of all ages, as well as develop innovative ways to explain and illuminate the stories and experiences of past rural life in relevant and engaging ways.

The acquisition of ‘MAE' was made possible by grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund's Collecting Cultures programme and the PRISM (Preservation of Industrial and Scientific Material) Fund administered by the Arts Council England.


Notes to editors:

*A first-round pass means the project meets HLF criteria for funding and HLF believes the project has potential to deliver high-quality benefits and value for Lottery money. Having been awarded a first-round pass, the project now has up to two years to submit fully developed proposals to compete for a firm award.

The Heritage Lottery Fund

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage.  HLF has supported more than 33,000 projects with more than £5bn across the UK.<>.

The University of Reading is ranked among the top 1% of universities in the world (THE World University Rankings 2012) and is one of the UK's top research-intensive universities.

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