Visiting the museum and Old Farmyard
The Old Farmyard is the hub for the National Trust within the Avebury World Heritage Site. Here you will find the Alexander Keiller Museum and can get information and tickets from the Visitor Reception in the large, thatched barn.
The Alexander Keiller Museum holds artefacts from past excavations. The Dovecote often has seasonal displays and the wildlife pond is a natural focal point. The restaurant, National Trust shop and toilets are also situated in the Old Farmyard.
Alexander Keiller Museum
The Alexander Keiller Museum in the stables has one of the most important prehistoric archaeological collections in Britain. Alexander Keiller was an archaeologist who once owned Avebury Manor and estate and excavated for over 10 years in the Avebury area, from 1925-1939. The museum collection includes many artefacts from the World Heritage Site and surrounding ancient landscape.
While the users of Avebury Henge in prehistory kept it very clean, other sites in the area have produced many objects which tell us a lot about Neolithic and Bronze Age life. The first excavation here by Alexander Keiller, in the 1920s, was at Windmill Hill and proved to be a site where people lived for considerable periods.
The excavations discovered thousands of pottery fragments, flint and other stone tools, and animal bones, many of which are on display in the museum and give us many clues about what life was like here over 5,000 years ago.
While the Henge did not produce many objects, a site of similar date known as West Kennet palisade enclosures, which survives only in features in the ground, was rich with pottery, stone tools and animal bones.
The displays in the museum show some of these, including some of the many pig bones which represent feasting on pork, something which seems to have been done on a grand scale.
Later finds from the henge and West Kennet Avenue include Beaker pottery, buried with people whose ancestry may have been quite different to the farmers who lived at Windmill Hill. The vessels here include some of the earliest Beaker pots in the British Isles.
Items on display
- Pottery, beads, stone axes and antler picks, animal skeletons and flint tools.
- Objects found with the ‘Barber Surgeon’, a man who died in the early 1300s while burying a stone.
- Items perhaps lost by visitors in Roman times.
- A tankard from the reign of Queen Anne, marked as one of the early official pub measures, broken and thrown away as rubbish but perhaps drunk from by some of the people who were breaking up the stones for building in the 18th century.
Please note that the displays contain animal and human remains including a complete skeleton of a child from around 5,300 years ago (the skeleton cannot be covered so is on display at all times).
Next to the wildlife pond stands the sixteenth-century circular dovecote made of local sarsen stone and chalk. The dovecote was once home to pigeons which were kept for their meat. Look out for the small alcoves in the stone wall where they roosted. Space at the top of the building allowed the birds to fly free during the day and provided ventilation.
The Dovecote is often a focus for seasonal displays such as harvest time and Christmas. If the door is open step inside but take care walking on the uneven cobblestone floor.
The Visitor Reception and focal point in the Old Farmyard is the impressive seventeenth-century threshing barn which dates to about 1690. Threshing barns mainly stored grain crops and were also where the grains were removed from the ears of wheat or barley.
Here is where you can buy tickets for the manor and museum and find out about future events and any other information you need to make your visit enjoyable.
Take a moment to look up at the large wooden beams and rafters supporting the thatched roof.
This pond is surrounded by reeds, grasses and lilies. It makes an ideal habitat for dragonflies, newts, water beetles and pond skaters.
Take care near the water as the pond is not fenced off
The Circles Restaurant serves lunches, cakes, snacks and drinks. Visit the National Trust shop for sustainable products and gifts, or browse Cobblestones second-hand bookshop.
The garden is arranged as a series of 'rooms', each with an individual character. The garden is open all year so you can explore every season. With herbaceous borders, topiary and an orchard it’s an ideal place to relax.
The 16th-century manor house is furnished to display the time periods of some of the previous residents, from Tudor times until the 1930s. Unlike many places, at Avebury Manor you are allowed to sit in the chairs, touch the displays or play a game of billiards.