Prince’s Trust work placement at Gressenhall

Over the past couple of weeks, I have had the pleasure of exploring and engaging with Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse as part of my work placement for the Prince’s Trust team programme. Having toured museums in the past, I have always been intrigued by the extent of time and effort that must be invested by individuals behind the scenes. It has therefore been very interesting and rewarding to work with a diversity of subdivisions based around the Gressenhall site, including collections, the learning team, those maintaining the farm and front of house.

For example, I have thoroughly enjoyed participating in the categorisation and movement of collected items either displayed in the museum or held in storage. This involved learning about how to safely handle and pack away aged objects, how to enter and update digital item records on the museum’s Modes system and how to draw relevant nuggets of information from original scanned paperwork (such as minutes taken from meetings between the board of guardians back in 1843). In contrast, I also spent a day working down on the nearby farm, where I got the fantastic opportunity to groom one of the Suffolk Punch horses kept onsite and interactively learn about the intricate (and surprisingly mathematical) planning involved in turning soil with a horse-drawn plough.

A display case of workworking tools I helped to process and pack

Horse-drawn ploughing in action

Prior to beginning my placement, I was unaware that the museum supported such a dedicated learning department, so it was educational in itself to join a school party of year 5s and shadow the team as they delivered a day-long event teaching about different aspects of Neolithic Britain. I was certainly impressed with the highly interactive nature of the four planned sessions – from throwing spears as part of a hunting party to engaging in a treasure hunt centred around the museum’s Neolithic exhibits – but also how inclusive the integrated talks were. The children were always encouraged to think for themselves by answering frequently posed questions, rather than simply listen to a wall of Neolithic facts. Later on in my placement, I was able to assist in preparations for a number of upcoming Victorian family Christmas events, setting aside arts and crafts materials for activities focused on making paper chains and peg dolls.

In addition, I also had the opportunity to shadow the front of house team as they supervised the site and carried out maintenance at a time where the workhouse and farm is closed to the public for the winter. This allowed me to learn about many different performed procedures, such as how visiting school groups are accounted for upon arrival and billed or how to correctly test fire and safety systems installed within the collections gallery, workhouse building and farm. I was also lucky enough to visit the Norfolk collections centre located onsite and inspect many of the amazing objects stored inside, such as a euphonicon (19th century upright piano) and the West Runton Mammoth tusk.

My handiwork preparing felt for the Victorian family christmas peg dolls

Admiring Gressenhall’s own version of the Indiana Jones Hangar 51 warehouse

All in all, I think that my experience of the numerous roles operating at Gressenhall has been enhanced by the fact that everybody has been so friendly, willing to demonstrate how they approach their tasks and informative in explaining their perspective with regards to the realistic expectations and difficulties of maintaining an engaging and inviting museum. So to everyone I have spoken with and worked alongside at Gressenhall Farm and workhouse, you’re doing a grand job and I’ve really enjoyed my time spent working here. You have my thanks.

Christopher Cox


Last Orders!

The Beers and Brewing exhibition closes on Sunday 28th October. It’s been a great year exploring pubs and brewing in Norfolk both in the past and today. We hope that you’ve enjoyed visiting the exhibition and reading the blog.

2018 Gressenhall Passholder low (92 of 279)

We’ve loved seeing photos of your children propping up the bar!

For the last month the exhibition has been boosted by the Collaborate programme. Lots of local people have been inspired by the collections and themes of the exhibition. This has breathed new life into the exhibition and has been a really lovely way to round off the season.


All year we have been asking our visitors to think about pubs today. We’ve had lots of answers to the questions: Are you a regular at your local? How often do you go to the pub? Why are pubs closing down? Is it because of the smoking ban? Have we got less money to spend? Are we choosing to spend our free time differently? Is it because we can buy cheap booze at the supermarket?

Too long working hours, less chance. Knowing locals.

Where are all the folks who said ‘we don’t go in pubs because of the smell of smoke’ so they stopped the smell but nobody came in!’

As a former publican I reckon pubs are shutting down in rural areas mostly because of drink driving and secondly cheap supermarket booze.

My husband died of alcoholism in 2011. He was just 51. Alcohol is too easily available nowadays!

Costs of running a pub are too high.

Children weren’t allowed in pubs when I was young so we were sat outside with a bottle of pop!

Once a week on a Tuesday. Thank God for the smoking ban, means you can see the dart board.

If they don’t serve food most pubs will close.

A minimum price per unit in supermarkets would help.

I love a pub lunch.

I don’t go to a pub. I only go when it’s something special.

Watch this space for news of next year’s exhibition: Once Upon A Time!

Curatorial September update

It’s been a little while since our last update but Megan, our Curator and Lauren, our Assistant Curator have been busy! Here’s a little taster of what they’ve been up to:



We are very grateful to receive many offers of items to the museum. One of our most recent donations was this Norfolk County School washbowl. The donor, very kindly travelled up from London to deliver it safely to us. The washbowl has now been accessioned into the museum collection and joins a matching beaker which we already had. Norfolk County School only existed for twenty years so we are very pleased to have two items from it.

Norfolk County School was a public school founded by Joseph Lloyd Brereton to provide education to the sons of farmers and artisans as part of his experiment in County Education. It opened in 1874 and was situated near North Elmham. The school had it’s own railway station (the County School railway station on the Dereham to Fakenham line). Largely due to a decline in pupil numbers the school closed in July 1895.


All year we have been working with local artists and community groups on Collaborate. Over the last few weeks we have seen what they have created and how they have been inspired by the messages and collections on display in our Beers and Brewing exhibition. This week we will be working together to put up a display of their work. It will be on display within the exhibition from Saturday 29th September to Sunday 28th October.

Once upon a time 2019

Even though there are still a few weeks left of the season we have been working on next year’s exhibition. Once upon a Time will explore children’s books. Over the summer holidays we were asking our visitors on site and online what their favourite children’s books are. We also wanted to know if any places or objects at Gressenhall reminded you of a book. Does Cherry Tree Cottage garden remind you of Mr McGregor’s garden in Peter Rabbit? Staff, volunteers and work experience students also got involved! We’ve been collating all the answers and ideas on our pinterest boards and are now thinking about ways we can incorporate these books and ideas into the exhibition.




John Moray-Smith panel

Have you ever walked in to a pub and seen a scene like this? This panel portrays a traditional pub scene unlike we see now. It was created by the Norwich artist, John Moray-Smith in the middle of the twentieth century. This artist’s work appears on the outside of buildings and inside of pubs across Norwich and Norfolk. His work commemorates and celebrates trades and livelihoods from across the city and county.

Little is known about Moray-Smith’s life. Mysterious rumours circulated for years that he was an Italian gypsy who first came to England during the First World War as a Prisoner of War. Known for being eccentric, perhaps this story made sense, however thanks to research by the Norwich Society we now know that this is complete fabrication. Moray-Smith was born in Scotland and later lived in London where he met his wife. The family moved to Norwich in the early 1930s.

Moray-Smith was employed by Norwich brewery Morgan & Co. For twenty years he produced work to decorate the brewery’s pub. Morgan’s brewery was a large brewery based in Norwich and King’s Lynn and owned pubs all over the county. John and Walter Morgan bought Conisford Brewery from Charles and Henry Thompson in 1844. The company took over many other breweries and by 1904 they owned 600 pubs with 80% of them outside of Norwich. In 1961 the company went into liquidation and were taken over by Bullards and Steward and Patteson. Many other breweries suffered the same fate. Big breweries consolidated, lager which was brewed overseas became very popular and brewing in the county rapidly declined. Thankfully, there has been a resurgence of micro-breweries and Norfolk is once again a brewing county.

One of Morgan’s pubs was the Jolly Farmers in King’s Lynn. This panel is one of six which was on display in the pub. They were unveiled on the 25th February 1948 by Sir Robert Bignold, the managing director of the Brewery. Through Moray-Smith’s panels Morgan’s brewery created a theme for this pub and rather appropriately it was farming! The panels in the set portray threshing, harvesting, sheep shearing, a cattle market, a farmyard and this pub scene. In this pub scene we see musical instruments being played, beer drunk from mugs and a dog under the table. The only woman in the scene is behind the bar. The Jolly Farmers pub is now closed like many rural pubs which are closing or are at threat of closure. Now pubs in the county are being saved and run by their communities, hosting knit and knatter groups, running theatre performances and expanding their daytime offer to include coffee and cake.

Originally the panel would have been painted with bright colours, matching the happy scene it portrays. It is darker now and stained brown with tobacco from the many years it was in a smoky pub. Moray-Smith made his panels from wire and plaster. Despite their size and chunky finish these panels are delicate and expensive to conserve. It is wonderful to be able to display one of them within the ‘Beers and Brewing: Norfolk’s Rural Pubs’.

A version of this blog post appeared in the Eastern Daily Press.

Collections in the summer holidays

Happy Summer Holidays!

Early Birds

On Monday we held our second Early Birds morning for those with autism and their families. Thank you to everyone who helps to support these sessions – they are really valued by the families who use them and give them a safe setting in which to explore the displays. Lauren is now looking at how we can share some of the learning from these sessions with other sites. Beginning with our sister sites in the Western Area she is helping Thetford and King’s Lynn museums think about how they can adapt their offer for those with autism. She has also made contact with others across the council to advocate for our work and to find out what other services can offer.

Photographs in the collection

We have also been working on organising the historic photos in our collections. This will make it easier for us to find images when visitors and or enquirers want to see an original photograph. Work experience students started the process and we will continue working through the existing files in the next few weeks. The historic photos include some gems – like this one. It depicts Bertie and Harry Dack, sons of Bertie Wallace Dack, the Billingford blacksmith who served in the Army Veterinary Corps during World War One.  The postcard shows Bertie and Harry in army uniform. It was sent to their father whilst he was serving on the front line. The photograph is one of a large collection of images, printed ephemera and objects donated in 1984 by the Dack family. We recently had an enquiry from the Museum of Cambridge who would like to use the image in a display and small publication.

Once Upon a Time – working with Dereham library

We have already asked you all for help with our Once Upon a Time exhibition. This will be focussing on children’s books. At the moment we are asking everyone 3 questions:

  • What is your favourite children’s book?
  • Do any places at Gressenhall remind you of a book?
  • Do any displays objects at Gressenhall remind you of a book?

Please do post replies below.

We have also been working with Dereham Library to gather responses from their users using the  sheets above, displayed on a board in the library. We are really excited to be developing this relationship and look forward to working with staff and library users over the next few months to develop the exhibition.

Brewing in Norfolk

The Beers and Brewing exhibition explores pubs and brewing in the past and today. We’ve already written blog posts about the historic Steward and Patteson brewery and the modern Kings Arms Pub. This post is about the two modern breweries in the exhibition.

Beeston Brewery

Mark Riches started brewing at Beeston Brewery in November 2006. Today he runs three brews every week. He produces nine different beers that he supplies to pubs. He also bottle beers for selling in local shops and from the brewery direct to customers.

Norfolk Brewhouse

The Norfolk Brewhouse is an award-winning brewery based in North Norfolk run by Rachel and David Holliday since 2012. The brewery’s most well known beers are all named after Norfolk Dialect words for the hare – Moon Gazer, Dew Hopper and Stubble Stag. They also make a gluten free beer, lagers a charity ale Tobi’s Tipple which supports local cancer charity It’s On The Ball.

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Both breweries use brewing water from their own wells. They also use local malting barley supplied by the Crisp Malting Group based in North Norfolk. Thankyou to both breweries for lending items to the Beers and Brewing exhibition.



Collections update

We have had a busy few weeks in collections.

Back Hall and Voices Galleries

The Back Hall has been a bit abandoned for the last few years as we have been concentrating on the Voices project. We are now looking at how we can smarten up this space. We have a limited budget but we are working on new graphics and barrier. This work won’t be carried out until the winter season when we are closed. We are beginning work by removing the large yellow plinth underneath the gallows plough next week.

We are also creating new A3 panels for the main galleries with many new stories discovered by our research team. These will enable us to have a library of different personal stories to swap over in the winter. One of these features John George. John is only the second inmate whom we have a photograph of (see above). He was a farm labourer in Scarning all his life. He died in Gressenhall workhouse in 1901 aged 89.


Lauren and I have been attempting to spend more time accessioning the long term backlog of items that have been donated to the museum. Most of these have been languishing in the office for a while and it is excellent to begin work on them. We assess everything that comes into the museum against our Collecting Policy – essentially all items must have a strong link to Norfolk and come with additional information about the people that made or used the item. It must not duplicate anything we already have (we have over 55, 000 objects in the collection!).

This week we have been working on a range of leaflets which advertise Norfolk products (see Miss Eagle’s price list above) or companies and some additional items from the Taylor’s seed merchants in King’s Lynn. These were additional donations when the Taylor family sold their long term home in 2016.

Work experience

Finally we have been working with a range of different work experience students. They have all had a chance to work with different parts of the museum and whilst they are with collections have helped to create the summer holiday trails and activities, worked on the Once Upon a Time exhibition for 2019 (see photograph) and catalogued some of the workhouse archives. Thanks to all of the students who have done a fantastic job, been really enthusiastic and had a go at everything we have asked them to do!

Contemporary Community pubs

This ‘Beers and Brewing: Norfolk’s Rural Pubs’ exhibition at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse explores the brewing industry and pubs in the county both in the past and today. I was very keen that this exhibition reflected the contemporary nature of pubs and brewing in Norfolk.

I was very pleased to connect with the manager at The Kings Arms pub in Shouldham. This was the first community run pub in West Norfolk. Like many pubs (28,000 pubs have closed since the 1970s) it was closed in 2012. The villagers rallied around to save it and set up a not for profit cooperative Shouldham Community Enterprises Limited. A huge fundraising campaign was successfully achieved with the community buying their pub in January 2014. The pub has now been open since September 2014 and expanded its community role. The pub is host to a Knit and Knatter group, Spanish classes and a volunteer run café. The pub has its own cricket and football team. The Kings Arms has been awarded CAMRA West Norfolk pub of the year in 2016, 2017 and 2018!

I was delighted that they chose to donate items to the museum collection which are on display in the exhibition.

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Donations, Carleton and Volunteer Forum


A timely donation just before the Norfolk Show was this fabulous Royal Agricultural Society long service medal which was awarded to Mr James (Bertie George) Frost for 40 years’ service on Mr Kidner’s farm at Stoke Holy Cross. The medal was awarded at the 1951 Royal Norfolk Show! The medal was accompanied by an image of Bertie George and his family.


We have had 4 fabulous students from Carleton College, Minnesota with us for the last week. The have been working on evaluating the museum’s tablet tour and creating some 3d digital models of the workhouse dolls. Their last day is Friday 6th July so do come along to a lunchtime talk in the Learning Centre at 12.30 on Friday to hear all about what they have been getting up to.

Volunteer Forum

It was great to get back into the swing of the quarterly Volunteer Forum last week. More details in a separate email for volunteers – but it was lovely to share updates, hear about what you have all been getting up to and to start forward planning together. We talked about the Volunteer Summer Party (discussions ended with us planning a free volunteers’ family day in September with a bring your own picnic party at lunchtime), training and the development budget (requests for more health and safety training!) and discussed our favourite children’s books – part of a co-curation project where we will be working with a wide range of people to plan next year’s Once Upon a Time temporary exhibition.