Press Releases

New fields for exploring the Rural Heritage online – University of Reading

Release Date : 27 April 2004

Catalogue cover for Bamfords of Uttoxeter, 1899.A ground-breaking partnership project between the University of Reading's Museum of English Rural Life and the Berkshire Record Office went live on Monday 26 April after two years of preparation funded by more than £250,000 of National Lottery money. 'New Landscapes, New Technologies' has created two special websites that use the latest in digital technology for the exploration of the rural heritage through collections of unique importance. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the farming landscape of Berkshire was transformed by the enclosure of the open fields. Nearly 200 huge enclosure maps – the largest runs to nearly 50 square feet - that were drawn up as part of this process, have been expertly digitised by the County Record Office and placed online at Now they can be publicly accessed as a source of local information and interest in a way never before possible. This new landscape was further shaped by a revolution in farming technology over the course of the nineteenth century. From the archive collections of the Museum of English Rural Life, more than 50,000 illustrated pages of farm equipment from the catalogues of Victorian manufacturers are now accessible in digital form at The steam engines, harvesting machinery and all the other implements and devices that were at the forefront of these changes can now be studied and admired in great detail on screen through crystal clear versions of the original engravings. Philip Wroughton, Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire, officiating at the launch of the two sites, said: "This is an excellent example of what can be achieved by two local institutions working in partnership and with the imaginative use of Lottery funding. Unique historic material, to which access is necessarily restricted in its original form, is now available for the use and enjoyment of all, whatever their age or interest." The project has been funded through a major digitisation programme supported by the New Opportunities Fund. The New Opportunities Fund and is a gateway to the collection of websites supported with National Lottery money by the New Opportunities Fund. Their contents range across the very best in culture, history, art, science, and social and economic development of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, and make a major contribution to lifelong learning. The New Opportunities Fund is the biggest of the National Lottery good cause distributors, providing Lottery funding for health, education and environment projects across the UK, with a particular focus on improving quality of life, particularly in disadvantaged communities. To date the New Opportunities Fund has committed over £2 billion in funding to schemes across the UK. End For more information, please contact: Dr Roy Brigden Keeper, Museum of English Rural Life University of Reading Tel 0118 378 8663 Email: Dr Peter Durrant County Archivist, Berkshire Record Office Tel 0118 901 5130 Email:


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