This weekend the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum at Singleton near Chichester in West Sussex, hosts its annual Christmas Market. The museum, in the heart of the South Downs National Park, is a wonderful collection of nearly 50 buildings that have been painstakingly dismantled, re-built and restored, to bring alive southern England’s homes, farms and workplaces from the past 500 years.

Mid 17th Century Sussex cottage

Winkhurst Tudor Kitchen

As I explored the museum yesterday morning I wondered into the Winkhurst Tudor Kitchen which was offering samples of traditional 16th century fast food! The ladies working in the kitchen, dressed in Tudor peasant outfits, explained that ‘chewits’ were a popular take-away of the day. You could choose from savoury fillings such as a mix of spinach, onion and other vegetables, a meat based filling (or on Fridays and Saturdays, fish) or sweet fillings. This was placed on a pre-made pastry, made into a parcel and dropped into hot oil. I tried an apple, raisin and spice ‘chewit’ and it was really delicious!

So even then, the English loved their deep fat fried take-aways, although its now fish-n-chips (still a firm favourite despite all the wonderful food on offer at our restaurants and take-aways from around the world).

The museum offers numerous courses in traditional and rural trades and crafts from pre-historic jewellery making, coppice management, leather carving to traditional English music and singing workshops. Coming up soon is a one day workshop on Tudor Christmas food where you can learn about, and make, such delights as Twelfth Night cake and shred pies.

Throughout the year there are a variety of events and I’m really looking forward to returning for ‘A Sussex Christmas’ (Mon 26th Dec to Sun 1 Jan) where you can discover traditions of Christmas past with festive fare, music and stories plus the houses around the museum will be decorated for Christmas in the style of the period they were originally built.

A must-see for any visitors to the area, a day at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum provides a fascinating insight into the lives of the people of southern England in years gone by.

Read more about the traditional cooking at Winkhurst Tudor Kitchen

For more photographs visit Travel with Kat on Flickr

from left: 15th century shop from Horsham and Titchfield’s market hall built in 1620


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