The Tomato – Lycopersicon lycopersicum


The Tomato - Lycopersicon lycopersicum

Tomatoes by Ernest Benary

It was the Incas and the Aztecs who first harvested and consumed the wild forms of tomato that grew in the valleys of the Peruvian Andes. By around 500CE, Native Americans were cultivating and domesticating the plant. Not until the 16th century were the Europeans able to sample the delights of this most delicious vegetable, when returning Spanish conquistadores introduced the seeds from Mexico and Central America. The Spanish, Portuguese and Indians were the first to fully appreciate this new arrival. Other nations were much slower to try them, often distrusting the brightly coloured tomatoes and treating them as ornamental, instead of edible vegetables.

Surprisingly impassioned battles have raged in past times over the exact definition of the tomato: Is it a fruit or a vegetable? The U.S. Supreme Court finally settled the vexing question in 1893, ruling that it is indeed a vegetable.

The home gardener really has the advantage over commercial growers when it comes to tomatoes, because so many exciting and tasty varieties can easily be sown from seeds. Shapes range from the round, to heart, pear or plum, while colours include red, pink, orange, yellow, white, green, purple and bicoloured or striped. They may be large and heavy, such as beefsteak types, or bite-size, such as cherries. In addition to the numerous ways in which tomatoes can be prepared in the kitchen, their nutritional value and disease-preventive qualities are virtually unrivaled.

Scott Tampin, Heritage Gardening Trainee, Skills for the Future


Boston Ivy


Boston Ivy

Boston Ivy on the Schoolroom at Gressenhall has the scientific name Parthenocissus tricuspidata. This is a flowering plant of the grape family (Vitaceae) and unrelated to true ivy. It is a deciduous woody vine is native to Japan, Korea and Northern and eastern China. Like the related Virginia creeper, it is widely cultivated as a climbing ornamental plant to cover the facades of masonry buildings. It’s used for this in Boston, Massachusetts in the United States and has resulted in this alternative name. This usage is actually economically important because, by shading the walls during summer, it can significantly reduce cooling cost.

Scott Tampin, Heritage Gardening Trainee, Skills for the Future

“Knowing me, knowing you ah-ha…”

Meet the project team of the Shine a Light Project, based here at Gressenhall.

Shine A Light

In the last blog we introduced the Shine a Light Project, now meet the team!

Ann-Marie Peckham – Project Supervisor

I have always had a passion for history. However, it is only since I completed my degree in History and Religious Studies and my MA Museum Studies that I became interested in how we interact with history, particularly within museums. I have continued to develop this interest during my Collections Internship at the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses and as Assistant Curator at the Museum of the Isles, Isle of Skye.

I often find that the places I’m most interested to visit in museums and historical sites are the ones that are closed off to the public (I’m not the only one – am I?!). So, I am thrilled to be supervising the project at Gressenhall to help provide the opportunity for the public to explore the variety of objects…

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Library and Archive gets warmed up!

 Over the winter months, the volunteers and the Skills for the Future Library and Archive trainee have been keeping warm by re-organising the newly decorated library at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum.

The library was originally started in 1976 as a resource to help staff identify objects and object histories donated to the Museum of Rural Life and the library now has a dedicated space in which researchers can have access to these resources.


Some of the items available include:

  • Farm documents including diaries, horse remedy notebooks, stud books, invoices from Norfolk farms; books, journals and magazines relating to farming and livestock


  •  Manuals for engines and farm machinery, Government publications and posters concerning agriculture, health, war and education, retail and agricultural show catalogues


  • Photographs, objects, books and printed documents relating to Agricultural Unions and George Edwards


  • Educational books and objects used in Norfolk schools, class photographs and certificates presented to pupils


  • Trade documents (and objects used and produced by the businesses in Norfolk) for example, Daniel Brothers and R & A Taylor’s seed merchants, Briton Brush Company, Plowright, Pratt & Harbage and Miln Marsters. We also hold several Kelly’s and White’s Directories


  • Family records and objects including letters, memorial cards, photographs, recipe and craft books, bibles and hobbies


  • Norfolk Ordinance Survey Maps from about 1906 for much of Norfolk


  • Newspaper cuttings collected and categorized by volunteers for over 30 years from a selection of Norfolk publications


  • Photographs and Norfolk Chronicle glass plate negatives are available to help researchers to visualise trades, machinery, welfare, events and locations within Norfolk since the invention of photography or just used to find someone they know


The library will be open on special events, or a research space can be booked through an appointment. So if you, or your organisation, are interested in using any of our resources in your research, or have any queries on family, local, agricultural, object or workhouse history or have your own stories or histories that you wish to share, then please do not hesitate to contact us at www.museums/

Helen Bainbridge
Library and Archive Trainee

A Proper Winter!

As a Heritage Gardening Trainee under the Skills For The Future programme, you have to be prepared for all kinds of weather, and having previously worked as a coppicer in ancient woodlands, I have experienced some pretty harsh conditions in my time. That said this winter has been pretty darn cold! It’s been like the winters I’ve heard so much about from those of a more ‘advanced’ age.

Working one day a week at the National Trust’s Peckover House in Wisbech, I’ve experienced some very chilly early morning drives along the A47 – not my favourite road at the best of times! It’s often been dark and cold, but when you’re greeted by the sight of Peckover’s garden under a fresh blanket of snow or still in the grip of an overnight frost, it somehow seems worth it. Sometimes the cold means you simply can’t do a lot gardening-wise, but that’s when you disappear for the day into the machine shed to service lawn mowers, scarifiers, aerators and chippers. In gardening you quickly realise that there’s always something to be getting on with.

peckoverOne recent job at Peckover was the annual pruning of some long-established apple trees. Again it was a bitterly cold day, spent halfway up a metal ladder – hard on the fingers – trying to remove all the unwanted top growth and maximise the fruit crop for the coming season. Despite the conditions, it was a lot of fun. Gaining a better understanding of how to grow and care for fruit is one of my key areas of interest during my year, so this was all good experience.

applepruningI am now over the halfway point of my traineeship and revelling in the variety of opportunities still coming my way. In the past month alone I have been able to attend a Garden Organic event on unusual vegetables, met many of Gressenhall’s Friends and Passholders, attend a two-day garden design course, carry out some more hedge laying, learn more about orchard management at Oxburgh Hall, do some coppicing at Houghton Hall and attend a course on growing fruit in school grounds at Ormiston Victory Academy. All this, in addition to the regular work at Gressenhall and Peckover and working two days a week at a local primary school, means that my diary is rarely empty! That’s just how I like it. Being busy with a variety of jobs, places and activities becomes addictive.

As I write, the days are getting longer and the gardens are slowly coming back to life. This winter is not quite ready to let go entirely however! One Tuesday I found myself working in shirt sleeves in warm sunshine, the following Tuesday we had intermittent blizzards and biting easterly winds. Such are the conditions in a world with an increasingly unpredictable climate, and something we all may have to get used to in the years ahead. I can’t help but wonder what sort of summer we’re going to have.

Michael Jordan

Steaming up with Heritage Engineering!

Hello I am Jason Skipper, Skills for the Future Heritage Engineering Trainee here at Gressenhall. I used to be long term unemployed since Crane Fruehauf went under so I came to the museum to see if they needed any volunteers. To my surprise this lottery funded job was being advertised so I jumped at it! I knew nothing about steam before I started here, now I have a certificate and the experience to run and maintain steam plants.


I have been working at North Norfolk Railway, learning how to maintain steam locos. The men in the workshop there have a world of knowledge and I learnt so much in the short time I was there.







I even drove Little Barford loco at Weeting steam rally for the whole weekend! That was the highlight of last year for me and I’ve been asked back next year. I hope I will be doing it for many years to come.


I have also been on visits to many museums like the Lydia Eva steam drifter at Great Yarmouth, Museum of East Anglian Life at Stowmarket, Kew Bridge London, Kempton Park Pumping Station and Steam Museum London and I have learnt so much from them. I have also been helping to install a lineshaft at Forncett museum but I will tell you about that in my next blog.

Thanks for reading my first ever blog, Jason.