Milestones is located just outside the town centre and only a few minutes from Junction 6 of the M3. It is clearly sign posted and easily found.
The museum is housed in a odern purpose built building that is looks deceptively small. It was opened in 2000, and still looks new.
It is on two levels, well three but the middle level is just a cloakroom and offices I believe. The top floor (confusingly called Upper Ground) consists of the entrance lobby, toilets, gift shop and restaurant. The gift shop carries a wide range of products with a historical theme. These range from books to sweets and from toys to ornaments.
The restaurant serves hot meals and snacks, and is moderatley sized. There are also a few tables in the entrance lobby where picnics can be eaten, as well as a picnic area outside.
The main part of the museum is on the Lower Ground and this is accessed either by stairs of lift. The museum is fully accessible to the elderly or disable, and they even have their own electric chairs. However care should be take by those who have mobility problems as the “streets” are cobbled and in places there are tram tracks.
The museum tells the story of how people lived and worked over the past 200 or so years. It is consists of several mock streets and buildings, along with real vehicles and other items.
At the start of the museum you are given a personal audio guide and map. This provides commentary on all of the scenes and is a very good idea. It allows people to walk around at their own pace, even children, and deters them from just walking straight past exhibits. They are backed up by numerous films and display boards scattered around the exhibits.
The tour starts in a mock up of an Taskers ironworks in Andover in the 18th century. It tells the story of how they made steam engines (not trains, but stationary engines and traction engines). From there the visitor walks out in to the High Street and can visit a saw mill, the station and all kinds of shops that would be found in a typical town at the end of the 19th or begining of the 20th centuries. For example there is a greengrocers, a co-op and even a working pub, where I was reliable informed you could by a pint of ale.
Eventually the visitor goes through a “time tunnel” which takes them in to the 1930’s or 40’s. Again this is represented by rows of shops and vehicles of that era including a sweet shop where you could buy sweets of a bygone age.
There are also two seperate areas for specialist collections and displays which don’t fit into the main part of the museum. For example when I visited there was a display of how the home has changed over the decades since the 1920’s.
The final part of the museum is a mock up of the Thoneycroft factor which was a large employer in the area.
This is a living history museum and there were several costumed interpreters walking around, who were more than willing to talki to visitors about the exhibits. Various activities for children are also arranged, such as dressing up in costumes, a victorian school lesson and as mentioned above buying sweets from the sweet shop. To be able to buy the sweets, the children had to have two old pennies and a ration card, just like in Granny’s day! These were on sale at the entrance for 60p.
The museum state that you need three hours to go round, well it took us three and a half hours, but could easily have taken more.
This is a very good museum, well thought out and obviously designed with children in mind. If you plan to go, I can recommend it and would suggest arriving early and plan to spend the whole day there – you won’t be disappointed.