Photographs at Amberley Heritage Museum in West Sussex
Amberley Heritage Museum in West Sussex is utterly unique in my view. Not only does the museum provide an unmatched learning experience, it’s also spread over a large downland site where visitors can enjoy pure relaxation and escapism. I’ve often visited the museum when I need some respite from the strains of everyday life. Aside from absorbing yourself in the many exhibits, you’ll get plenty of fresh air and exercise as well.
The museum focuses on our industrial heritage and the innovations over the decades which have transformed our lives. You’ll learn about everything from roadbuilding to railways, printing to communications, entertainment inventions through to telephony, public transport to how the nation was fuelled and powered over the generations. Museums like this are run as charities, and many of the experts who maintain the structures and vehicles are volunteers. I love talking to the staff because they’re so knowledgeable and approachable.
I had lived in West Sussex for more than 20 years before I even became aware of Amberley Heritage Museum, even though I must have driven past it hundreds of times. The entrance is discreet, immediately adjacent to the small country train station in the tiny enclave of Amberley. When I did finally have the opportunity to call in, I had one of the loveliest days in memory. There’s so much to see and your visit can easily cover an entire day if you decide to make the most of it. If you don’t feel up to doing much walking there’s a regular train service to transport you around the site to key buildings. You can also jump aboard one of the vintage buses if you prefer. There really is something for everyone, and what I love about this place is the fact that it’s managed to stay utterly authentic and completely unspoiled. It’s perfect for those who enjoy peace and quiet, away from the noise and bustle (and screaming children) which we might associate with most museums and attractions. The place is perfect for the whole family, and I’ve seen youngsters fascinated by what they see - who wouldn’t enjoy a ride on a vintage train?
Over the years I’ve tried to document the many events I’ve seen at the museum, but as my website grew ever larger and hosting costs ever more expensive I’ve decided to condense my photographs to one page. It’s impossible to cover all of the exhibits in one blog post and my photographs are designed to give you a flavour of what the museum offers. I really would encourage you to visit if you’re in West Sussex. The many photographs posted to social media by visitors to the museum will all play their part in getting the word out. It’s so nice when my blog readers drop me an email to say they’ve been to one of the places I’ve talked about, and how much they’ve enjoyed it.
Obvious as it sounds, don’t forget your camera if you call in at the museum! As I’ve said many times in the past you don’t need a big fancy camera to enjoy some recreational photography like this. My Amberley Museum photographs have been taken with whichever camera I’ve had in my handbag on the day. This is everything from a Sony RX100 to various micro 4/3 devices over the years. Pretty much everybody I’ve walked past around the museum site has had a camera of some sort in their hands.
It’s interesting how well we might relate to what we see around the museum, depending on how old we are. I’m distinctly middle-aged and I can clearly remember some of the appliances which were familiar to me when growing up. I can remember helping my mother to ring out the washing in a sort of mangle contraption before putting everything on the line. I can remember the televisions and record players, and virtually all of the telephones.
It’s extraordinary how technology has advanced in a relatively short time, particularly in the last two decades. We now enjoy every possible convenience and our lives have been transformed because of it. As a teenager the only way I could make a private phone call was to walk for what felt like miles until I found a public telephone box which was functional. I would then have to hope that I had enough 10p pieces in my pocket to cover a conversation with my friends. A night out would entail waiting in a long queue for my turn to use a public telephone if I wanted a taxi. I can remember falling off my bike and injuring myself to the point where I couldn’t cycle home. This involved limping from house-to-house before I found somebody who was in, and then politely asking if I could make a call to my parents. Tedious as it was at times, I nevertheless think it made us much more self-sufficient and in many ways better at planning and preparing. The lack of technology also made us less dependent on being in constant touch with friends or family - something which now seems to take up a big part of the day for most youngsters (if not most adults). Maybe that’s partly why so many of today’s younger generations seem to mature at a slower rate than those in the past.
I think I’m the only person I know of who doesn’t use a mobile phone. I was given one a few years ago in case of emergencies. That makes sense - there’s nothing worse than being stranded in the middle of nowhere if the car breaks down and you have to get to an important meeting. Or if we get lost on the way to find a client. But I’ve never given out my mobile number socially. I don’t see the point - if I’m ‘out’ then it means I’m busy doing something. I’m either working, driving, doing the shopping, or if I’m lucky enjoying some much-needed face-to-face time with a friend or colleague. I don’t want to be interrupted when I’m doing any of that. I find it rude when the person I’ve arranged to meet keeps answering their mobile, or repeatedly checks their text messages. I feel that by remaining pretty much ‘unplugged’ (and avoiding social media - don’t get me going on that one) I’m better able to concentrate on my day-to-day tasks and I’m more inclined to want to talk to somebody instead of relying on text messages or Facebook. I manage to run a full-time photography business without having a mobile phone clamped to my hand. Checking for urgent emails twice a day is ample and most calls don’t need to be returned instantly.
Lastly, the museum hosts a number of events throughout the year. There are days which celebrate classic cars or motorcycles, crafts from bygone years, military vehicles, as well as workshops. All that aside, it’s the people who help to make places like this come alive. I’ve paid tribute to some of the lovely characters I’ve met over the years in this post: Portrait Photography at Amberley Heritage Museum West Sussex