As I walked through the wooden gate into Coggeshall Farm, I was greeted by a friendly little black barn cat named Shadow and ushered in to explore the history and beauty of Coggeshall. Coggeshall Farm Museum is a living history farm set on 48 acres of fields, woods, and salt marsh right here in Bristol, RI. The farm-turned-museum depicts Bristol’s agrarian life in the year 1799 through live interpretation, historic structures, and heirloom plants and animals.
Coggeshall boasts a well-rounded group of animals including many breeds of cattle, donkeys, sheep (and newborn baby lambs!), turkeys, chickens, and the occasional barn cat. On the property, there is also an historic farmhouse, animal barn, staff offices, and a locksmith workroom that is currently being restored.
Coggeshall prides itself in being a “please touch” museum.
When you visit the Farm you should expect to get your hands dirty, to participate in, touch, taste, and really experience farm life in the early 1800’s. The museum’s collection is focused on process, not objects, and those who are willing may find meaning in the past through hands-on learning. Coggeshall Farm is not a static museum; there are knowledgeable interpreters on site daily who replicate farm life for the visitors and encourage them to participate. When I visited, one of the interpreters, Connie Ganley, was in the midst of making candles to prepare for an upcoming candle making workshop and baking corn bread on the hearth in the historic farm house.
To give a little history about Coggeshall Farm, it was originally part of Samuel Colt’s land that was eventually acquired by the state in 1965. Much of the land was turned into what is now Colt State Park, but when the historic farm house on Coggeshall’s land was discovered and facing possible demolition, the Bristol Historical Society stepped in and gained permission to convert the site into a museum. By 1973, the project had expanded beyond the scope of the Historical Society and the Coggeshall Farm Museum was incorporated as its own private, non-profit organization. Through a collaboration of the community including volunteers, board members, and staff, the Coggeshall Farm Museum operates today offering visitors a unique, authentic, and interactive farm life experience.
Because Coggeshall is a functioning farm replicating the way of life in 1799, many of the programs and activities are seasonal. Some of the upcoming seasonal workshops include hearth-cooking for adults and candle-making and sewing circles for children. Coggeshall also has weekly strolls around the grounds every Tuesday at 10am for all ages and weekly story-time around the hearth every Wednesday at 10am, both free with regular admission.
Coggeshall also has a few annual events that cannot be missed. The Wool and Fiber Fest is May 16th and promises a fun-filled day of a live demonstrations of fiber arts and sheep shearing, artisans, crafters, and vendors specializing in wool and natural fibers sharing their knowledge, the “sit and knit” tent, kids crafts and games, and many other exciting, interactive events. There is also the annual Harvest Fair September 12-13th which is the largest event Coggeshall hosts including tons of fun, fall activities for the whole family such as 18th century games, crafts, dancing, music, johnnycakes, and local handcrafted foods. There is something for everyone at the Coggeshall Farm Museum.
As I spoke with the new Executive Director, Cindy Elder, about all of the exciting happenings at Coggeshall, she also shared with me some of their goals for the future. Because the nature of Coggeshall Farm is so interactive, there is a great experiential educational opportunity at the Farm. One of Coggeshall’s new initiatives is to bring in more school groups so that students can come learn about the Farm’s history in a hands-on way. They are also looking to build up their educational programming as a whole in order to create an even more vibrant offering to visitors of all ages at Coggeshall. There is nothing but a bright future full of exciting, educational events for the Coggeshall Farm Museum!
If you are interested in taking a trip back in time and exploring the Coggeshall Farm Museum, they are open Tuesday through Sunday 10am to 4pm year round. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children and seniors. Coggeshall Farm Museum is great for all ages so be sure to stop by and say hello! And check out their Facebook page for updates and pictures of everything new happening at Coggeshall (including their new baby lambs pictured to the right!).
Roger Williams University ’16
Explore Bristol Communications Intern
Coggeshall Farm Museum Contact
401-253-9062 or firstname.lastname@example.org
*All photos credited to Coggeshall Farm Museum