Together to the Workhouse Door

This week we say goodbye to Stuart, who has been our project manager for 2 years and will be sorely missed. Good luck in the future Stuart and you must make sure to stay in touch!

The project is still busy though even though we have one less member of staff…

Symfonia Viva and Orchestras Live – Together to the Workhouse Door

This week we have been very busy starting our Together to the Workhouse Door project with Orchestras Live and Symfonia Viva. We are working in partnership with Writers’ Centre Norwich, Norfolk Music Hub, Breckland & Broadland District Councils and Norfolk Arts Service.

This exciting and ambitious creative writing and music community engagement project will commission a major new oratorio which will be created by composer, James Redwood and poet, Lucy Sheerman. The new site-specific work will draw inspiration from the nationally important archives and collections at Gressenhall, one of the most important and best preserved workhouses in the UK.

Working with local schools, community groups and volunteers, Together To The Workhouse Door will animate, in words and music, some of the many rich stories and voices of people at the Workhouse, raising awareness of the social and cultural heritage of the site as well as inspiring local communities to develop their own creative responses to both the site and its unique collections. The new oratorio and collaborative work will be premiered at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse on Wednesday 7th June 2017.

Lighting installation

Wensum Valley electricians have completed the case lights in the Collections Gallery and they look fantastic. They are busy working in schools next week and will be back 10th April to start installation of the new track lighting.

Rural Lives

We have received our last prints for Rural Lives and the new prints from Jim Mortram were transferred from the Norfolk Record Office to the Design and Technical team at the Castle. The prints have now been mounted and are ready to be framed. We are almost ready to install this temporary exhibition once the track lighting is installed.

We also spotted a really good news report for our reflection area in the galleries – check it out:

Next week no work will take place in the gallery as all contractors are busy with school work. We will be planning the last year of the project on Monday (gulp!) and I’ll be visiting Ripon Workhouse Museum to speak at their AGM.




Lighting and furniture…


Lighting installation

Electricians are hard at work installing lighting into the cases. This is the first part of the work required to compete the lighting fit out for the gallery. After this is finished they will then move onto new track lighting for the room which will make it light enough for our visitors to see, but not too bright for the collections.


Furniture and interactives

We had a really good meeting to discuss furniture and interactives and we now have a shopping list. This will include a comfy sofa, desk and chairs, bean bags and storage units for interactives. We have been concentrating on finding interactives that can be used in a very flexible way and encourage intergenerational learning for our family visitors (but don’t exclude the adults). This will include two different feedback walls, toys, and trails which encourage our visitors to really investigate the objects in the cases. We even discussed having a mystery object and inviting visitors to decide what it is and write creative labels for it.

We hope you like the progress we are making!

Workhouse history masterclass

Are you one of the one in ten who has ancestors who spent time in a workhouse?

Come to our masterclasses to find out how you can find out more!

Saturday 13th May 2017


Join us for a one-day introduction to workhouse family and local history for beginners. Discover the different types of workhouse archive and how to use them to uncover the stories of those who lived and worked in Norfolk’s workhouses. Find out how to preserve your own family history records.

Speakers include archivists, curators and family history specialists from Norfolk Record Office, The National Archives and Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse.

Full programme of speakers including lunch and free entry to Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse.

£20 /£18 for Museum Pass Holders

£10 for those in full time education.

Book by logging onto and searching for masterclass.

Lottery Players’ Preview

We are really looking forward to our Lottery Players’ Preview this Sunday!

This is a a chance for us to thank everyone who plays the Lottery for helping to fund the Voices from the Workhouse project. A valid Lottery ticket for the period between March 13 and 26 must be shown on entry. One ticket will admit up to 8 people free of charge. Includes Lotto, EuroMillions, Thunderball and Lotto Hotpicks. Scratchcards are not included.

We hope you enjoy the chance to see the difference your support has made to the museum. Don’t forget to check out our new ‘Project Updates’ board to see what has been going on. We still have another year of “Voices from the Workhouse” to go and lots of exciting projects and work going on. We’ll make sure to update the board regularly so you can see our progress.

Showman’s van

This week Kelvin and Mary Thatcher have been working on our wonderful showman’s van. Unpicking the history of this home has been a marvellous experience and finding the tiny signs of everyday domestic life has really connected us to the family that lived here. My favourites are the circles left on the newspaper in the cupboard where the pans used to be kept.

The work is still continuing – so far we have repaired the door, restored the stove (which provided all the heating and cooking requirements in the wagon), made repairs to the roof and cleaned some of the windows. Taking all the black dirt from the beautiful clerestory windows really made a difference to the inside of the van, brightening it and lightening it.

We have also been struggling with ethical, conservation problems. Should we remove the vinyl sticky backed plastic from the surface of the fold down table top? How do we paint the new mouldings Kelvin has lovingly made so it is clear they are modern and restored? In general we are looking to conserve the history of the van as far as possible – including all the bodges and materials that we might not choose to use now. So the 1980s sticky back vinyl remains – as it was put there by one of the owners of the van. And we paint the new mouldings so it is clear they are restored and not original.

It has been a fascinating process and we are really excited to see how the van will look once conservation is completed.