Amberley Working Museum is a 36 acre open-air museum dedicated to the industrial heritage of the south-east. Staffed largely by volunteers, the Museum contains a wide range of exhibits, ranging from transport-based collections, such as the Southdown bus collection & the village garage, to industry-based collections, such as the Print Workshop & Wheelwrights. I visited the Museum in 2004 and was delighted to find several rare generators and other interesting exhibits among them a welding machine used to found JCB and some early electric vehicles. I hope to have time to include some of my photographs on this page soon. NK


The Museum is also home to a number of resident craftspeople, who work to traditional methods.  Many people like to take an introductory tour of Amberley, which can be accessed from their Online Exhibition section or by clicking here.



Robey steam engine in situ and working in India


A Robey stationary steam engine at work in India



An electrifying exhibition!

The collection was initially started by Seeboard in 1971, and from 1975 to 1989 it functioned at The Slade, Tonbridge, as the "Milne Museum", before moving to Amberley Working Museum in 1993. It was named after the late Archie Milne, who was Chairman of Seeboard between 1974 & 1975.


The garden area in front of the building displays outdoor sub-station equipment including Insulators, Transformers & Switchgear, plus an unusual pole-mounted Lightning Arrester and two decorative cast-iron Sub-Station Kiosks.


Inside the Front Hall, the centrepiece is a Belliss & Morcom high-speed steam-driven generating set, from the old Wills Tobacco Works in Bristol. To the left and right are 2 large open-type distribution switchboards, once common in factories & institutions. Beyond is a Rotary Balancer from Folkestone Power Station, used in the days of DC (direct current) supply. Other exhibits in this room include plugs, sockets & switches, electricity meters, cables, enclosed-type switchgear, electric motors & electric vehicles old & new. There is also a working display of the Asea substation remote control system used by Southern Railway in their electrification schemes from 1930 onwards.


Above the opening into the rear hall is a large neon sign, originally from "Electric House", Croydon, depicting the word "Electricity" in the style used by Michael Faraday in his experimental notes. Behind the window is a 250,000 volt Impulse Generator, as used in industry for testing high-voltage components for the electricity supply system. This exhibit is demonstrated periodically and the "artificial lightning" produced is an impressive and noisy spectacle! There is also a Tesla Coil illustrating the spectacular and continuous discharges produced with high-frequency electricity.


Along the left side of the rear hall is a "hands-on" Introductory Gallery named after Bob Gordon, the Milne's first Curator, and along the right side are the Domestic Displays - grouped in decades to show how the number and sophistication of appliances have increased over the years.


At the back are shop-front displays illustrating more period domestic appliances, medical and laboratory test equipment. The upstairs lecture area is used for special talks and demonstrations on electricity, available by prior arrangement to schools and other booked parties.


Volunteers from the EDF Energy Electricity Hall have their own website,  and there are a number of other interesting links below.



electrical switches and controls Amberley Working Museum, West Sussex


 Amberley Museum early electrical switches and controls





c.1830 - 1968


The site was developed in the early Victorian era to quarry chalk, which was converted in kilns to produce lime, a key building material for mortar and cement. The quarries are known to have developed prior to 1840, making good use of their proximity to the River Arun and Amberley Station. The building now known as Humphrey's Barn was built around 10 years earlier, when the site was still a farm.

The oldest kilns at Amberley are to be found in the South Pit, which now back on to the Museum car park. These "flare" kilns are of a simple but (for their time) effective design, and work by burning the fuel beneath the chalk, as opposed to being mixed with it.

These were augmented by a new series of kilns built in the 1870s. These were built to a revised and improved design, but still working on the flare kiln principle, and were supported by a grinding mill and readily available access to the rail network. These kilns can be found next to the Museum Ticket Office and the Smithy.

A third & final set of kilns were built at Amberley around 1905, to a Belgian design by Hippolyte De Witt. Built in a block of 18 firing chambers (two rows of nine, back to back), the intention was for the kilns to provide a continuous operation. The design was unsuccessful, however, and by 1910 the kilns were significantly modified and converted to conventional updraught kilns.

The site flourished during the first half of the 20th century, making good use of a 1937 government subsidy for the use of lime on agricultural land, and a modernisation scheme was undertaken in the 1950s. Originally quarried by hand and with explosives, and moved by horse & cart, mechanical excavation took over during the mid 20th century until the quarry closed. The quarry was originally home to several lime producers, but by 1876 John & Thomas Cunningham Pepper had bought out all the other producers on site. Developing their business to include the manufacture & distribution of building materials (and using a number of depots scattered across Sussex towns), the business continued until 1968, with the last lime burnt in 1964.



The Quarry site lay stagnant for several years after the business closed.

After the closure of the quarry in 1968, it lay derelict for several years, and nature took no time at all to start reclaiming the site. Roland Puttock, a former manager of the quarry, came back in 1978 and was shocked to see how lush & green the site had become!



1968 to the present

In 1974 the quarry was bought by West Sussex County Council to secure a cessation of the chalk extraction and to protect the site from unsuitable commercial development. The Southern Industrial History Centre Trust subsequently negotiated a long-term lease with the Council in 1978 and Amberley Museum was formed.

The Museum formally opened on Saturday the 25th of May, 1979, and over the years has developed significantly, taking in a range of new exhibits. The vintage wireless exhibition, Southdown Bus Collection, Print Workshop and narrow-gauge industrial railway were among the first major additions to the Museum, and many have since followed. The SEEBOARD (now EDF ENERGY) electricity hall, Paviors museum of roads & roadmaking and Wheelwrights building represent the major constructions of the 1990's, whilst since the millennium the Museum has seen many developments and additions, including Betchworth Hall, the Connected Earth telecommunications building (founded by BT), Fairmile Cafe, the Railway Preservation & Conservation halls, a Bodger's Camp, a new Tools & Trades History Society hall and the impressive Limeburners Restaurant. Ongoing developments include a fire station modelled on 1930s design and (dependent on funding) the complete restoration and re-interpretation of the De Witt Kilns complex.





The Museum is open from mid March to late October each year

The 2007 season will see the Museum open on Wednesday 14th March until Sunday 28th October, 10.00am to 5.30pm (with last entry at 4.30pm). The Museum is open Wednesday to Sunday each week, and also Bank Holiday Mondays and West Sussex School Holidays during our season.


Gift Aid provides the means for Amberley to gain more value from your visit

Gift Aid (simply put) is tax relief provided by the government for single outright cash gifts made to charity. This means that Amberley can claim tax relief on your admission ticket if you provide consent and a donation that is at least 10% of our entry fee.
As a thank you from us, the Museum will provide you with a token worth more than the extra money spent by you, meaning that both parties benefit!



Admission Prices


Adult - 8.70

Over 60 - 7.70

Students - 7.70

Children (5-16 yrs) - 5.50

Under Fives - FREE

Family Ticket (2 adults & up to 3 children) - 25.00



Amberley Working Museum, 


West Sussex, 

BN18 9LT


Telephone: 01798 831370 .


EDF ELECTROPOLIS MUSEUM:  EDF ENERGY Museum: located in Mulhouse, France
ENERGETICA: A Dutch language museum with some interesting exhibits.
INSTITUTE of ENGINEERING & TECHNOLOGY Archives Biographies and Features
INSTITUTE of ENGINEERING & TECHNOLOGY History of Technology  web pages
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SCIENCE & INDUSTRY:  Some images of electrical science
SIMPLY SWITCH ON: A virtual museum of small electrical appliances.
THE MUSEUM of ELECTRICITY: Scottish & Southern Energy Museum, Bargate, Christchurch
MANCHESTER MUSEUM of SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY: A premier electrical collections




Herstmonceux Electricity Generating Works Circa. 1900 - 1936   Links:



Introduction  |  Instructions  ISBN  Batteries  |  Boiler Room   |  Floor Plan

 Ron Saunders Industrial Revolution  |   Lime Park  |  Machinery  |  Map

  Power House  |  Argus 1999  |  Public Supply  |  Roof Construction  |  Rural Supply

 Sussex Express 1913  Conclusion


Archaeology South East   |   East Sussex CC  |  English HeritageSIAS  |  Sx Exp 1999


Memories of Herstmonceux by Margaret Pollard




Herstmonceux Links Page


Wentworth House
















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