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.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Picture Norfolk

The Beers and Brewing: Norfolk’s Rural Pubs exhibition features some wonderful photographs sourced from Picture Norfolk.

Picture Norfolk is a wonderful online database created and run by Norfolk Library & Information Service. Picture Norfolk is features over 20,000 local photographs and includes images from Local Studies Libraries, Norfolk Museums Service, Norfolk Record Office and many private collections.

Bullard’s Anchor Brewery on Westwick Street in Norwich. Photograph from an album held by the Museum of Norwich and image supplied by Picture Norfolk.

Search and see what you can find!

Steward and Patteson

Norfolk was home to hundreds of brewers. Many of them are featured in the ‘Beers and Brewing: Norfolk’s Rural Pubs exhibition.’ One of the biggest brewers in Norfolk was Steward and Patteson. Items from the brewery are on display in the exhibition.

In 1793 John Patteson bought the Pockthorpe brewery. In just 40 years the company had bought three more breweries and owned 120 pubs. The company had many name changes and expanded rapidly. In 1895 they owned 498 pubs. In 1961 Steward and Patteson bought half of Morgan’s Brewery adding 200 pubs to their already 1250.

The brewery had their own Cooper’s shop making casks and barrels. These tools are on loan to us from The Museum of Norwich and are on display in the exhibition.

The fantastic book ‘Norwich Pubs and Breweries Past and Present’ by Frances and Michael Holmes (which was invaluable when researching for this exhibition) features memories of working for Steward and Patteson at the Pockthorpe Brewery.

Barry Berwick was a cooper:

“In 1958 I was taken on at Steward and Patteson as an apprentice cooper. I was 15 when I started… My job mainly consisted of repairing barrels. I used to take out broken staves, which are the narrow strips of wood forming part of the sides of a barrel, and put in new ones. It was all done by eye, there were no measurements… When the barrels were returned to the brewery for refilling they were washed. A bloke used to smell them to make sure they were clean. He often found bits of wood inside that he’d take out. He put a big cross on the side of damaged barrels which came over to us in the coopers’ shop.”

After a century of rapid expansion and dominating the Norwich brewery and pub scene, a takeover by Watney Mann meant that the brewery closed in 1970.

“When I joined there were four coopers but it was only about three years later we got the ‘Coopers Journal and saw an article about the London breweries using kegs. We all knew then that the writing was on the wall, although I worked as a cooper until 1970 when the last brew was made at Pockthorpe.”

Matchbox collection

All of these beermats were collected by Richard Brownlow. During the 1950s to 70s his parents ran the Papermakers Arms in Swanton Morley.

They were used to advertise pubs. It’s interesting to look at them now and see all the different pub names! Many of them include the names of the landlord and landlady.

They were also used to advertise other businesses.

And breweries!