Gressenhall farm and workhouse currently attracts around 70,000 a year and is particularly popular with local and visiting families for a day out. There are a wide range of quality features with broad appeal for a full day out, including the historic workhouse, museum, farm, gardens and grounds, woodland play area, tearoom and shop, and a comprehensive events programme.
At the moment though, the workhouse itself is largely under utilised. It is a well preserved Grade II listed main workhouse building which opened in 1777 as a House of Industry, and became the Mitford and Launditch Union Workhouse in 1836. It was still in use as a county home for the elderly until 1975. So with nearly 200 years of stories to draw on, and new digital technology – the voices from this remarkable building can finally be heard.
There are over 1,000 unique workhouse objects in the NMS collection – it is the largest of its type in the UK and has local and national significance. A major part of the ‘Voices’ project is to make this archive accessible to the public for family history and academic research.
In parallel to the Workhouse, is the Rural Life Museum, which sheds light on those inhabiting the rural landscape over which the workhouse loomed. There are over 150,00 objects, photographs and documents here that are a poignant reminder of the hardship of living and working on the land in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many of these items are beautiful in their ‘ordinariness’.
So at the heart of the project is the opportunity to challenge our own preconceptions about workhouse and rural life in the past, using real objects, real stories and real documents to describe, inform and inspire. There is 50 acres of space in which to learn, relax and reflect in, making the new Gressenhall a perfect day out come rain or shine.