The Kings Head pub

One of the pubs featured in the ‘Beers and Brewing : Norfolk’s Rural pubs’ exhibition is the Kings Head in Shipdham.

The museum holds a collection of items from this pub. There had been a pub in the village since 1858. It was run by Frederick Chilvers from the 1960s to 1990s. His son donated some items from the pub to the museum. The pub is now closed and the building is now run as the Kings Café, which opened in 2012.

The items above all feature in the exhibition. Do you remember Smith’s crisps or beer sold in shillings? Beer was served in hand painted glass jars with a handle. Stoneware jars carried beer supplied by local breweries.

This book of tokens and bottle caps are also on display in the exhibition. The bottle caps were used while Emma Baker was landlady. Were these used when you bought a bottle of beer? With the 1 penny charge refunded when the bottle was returned? Do you know what the tokens were used for? – Let us know in the comments!

This till drawer is also from the pub, but does not feature in the exhibition.

For more information about the history of The Kings Head pub take a look at the Norfolk Pubs website.


Library, large working historic objects and Land Army…

We have been doing a lot of work in the library preparing for its full return! We now have three clearly zoned areas – one large public space for enquiries, a space for computer work and the store space at the back of the room. We have returned all the files to the filing cabinet so photos are easier to find now they are not in boxes. We are looking forward to meeting up with Collections Volunteers soon to plan their triumphant return!

I attended a launch of the new Guidelines for the Care of Larger and Working Historic Objects at the Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket. These have been created by ABTEM (Association of British Transport and Engineering Museums) and will be super useful for us – especially with regards the Panhard Levassor and our engineering exhibits. I think the guidelines will show we are doing the right thing – and give us a chance to check our processes and procedures. In the next few weeks I’ll be looking to organise a meeting for engineering and Team Panhard volunteers so we can begin this process – I am excited to work together on this.

Collaborate work is on-going and we are starting to get interesting updates from participants. One is working on a woven mixed media textile hanging with hop vines and a collection of old bottle tops.

Another is creating a Moray Smith style panel (like the one on display in our Beer and Brewing temporary exhibition) but featuring Gressenhall. I am intrigued to see how it will all work out. Do keep an eye on the blog for regular updates.:

This week I am attending a meeting of Museums Association regional reps in Belfast. This meeting is partly to help plan the 2018 MA Conference which is being held in Belfast. I just heard this week that as well as going to conference as a rep I have been accepted as a speaker on a session about interpreting and collecting difficult institutional histories along with other speakers from both Northern Ireland and Eire. This is an important opportunity to raise national awareness in our collection and the Voices project.

Now that the holidays are over we are also looking forward to catching up with some of the collections managements tasks still needed in the Collections Gallery (looking at the mesh objects and on top of the cases) and elsewhere in the museum. We are selecting and assessing new Women’s Land Army uniforms for the gallery and planning any conservation work required over the next few weeks.

Megan, Curator


Collections Update!

It has been a busy two weeks. Last week we hosted Rosie Etheridge from Jane Austen College for work experience. This is the first of a number of placements for this year. Work experience students spend time with learning, events, farm, front of house and curatorial teams. Thanks to everyone for looking after Rosie last week. She had a really nice time and her impression of the week has made a nice blog post:

Work experience really is important – for many young people it is their first experience of work can be a stressful and scary time. It can also set you up for a career – I did my work experience aged 15 at Gressenhall back in 1993!

I also had the pleasure of doing my last HLF funded outreach talk. I have been doing these for 3 years now! I delivered Voices from the Workhouse to over 40 members of the Martham History Group, including the descendants of Harriet Kettle. Despite the microphone breaking all went well. I am still taking bookings for this and a talk about Lorina Bulwer’s samplers – all good advertising for the museum.


On Friday 23rd March we held our Collaborate Inspiration Day. This year the theme of Beer and Brewing. We welcomed 19 different people to the museum to explore the theme and be inspired to create something for display in the museum in October half term. We have had a really wide range of ideas including a pub in miniature, bar stools made of beer cans and a series of photos of Norfolk pubs past and present. I really look forward to see how people get on. Regular updates will be posted on the Collaborate blog:

It is not too late to be involved – if you are interested in being inspired by your local get in touch! We are also looking for community groups to get involved – so do let me know if you think your group might be interested in an outreach session.

This week we have also continued work in the Collections Gallery – adjusting lighting, updating records with photos and beginning to research additional objects that can go on the top of the cases.

We have also created an bug themed escape style puzzle for In Touch With the Past for the Easter Holidays which has taken rather longer than originally expected. But the first visitors really enjoyed it this morning and so far everyone has escaped. Thanks to FOH for supporting us in this – and for trying it out several times to make sure we had it right!

Finally I met the Head of Art from Norwich School who was showing me some art work completed by Year 12 students inspired by Gressenhall:

I was really impressed by these and we are planning to show them on the big screen in the main hall as part of the May half term Create school holidays theme.



Twister, twizzler, Norfolk Wheel. In this blog post we explore this mysterious, traditional pub game.

A circular wooden board with an arrow would be placed on the ceiling of a pub. They were usually put in this location so that people cannot cheat. Everyone can see the game. It is a simpler version of the game of roulette. Roulette was played in rich people’s homes, clubs and casinos and twister was played in pubs. The rules of the game are a bit fuzzy. Essentially bets were placed on where the arrow would land once it was spun. Bets could have been placed on a round of drinks or a sack of potatoes, winning points or downing a pint as a forfeit.

These two twister boards are both in the Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse museum collection and are currently on display as part of the ‘Beers and Brewing: Norfolk’s Rural Pubs’ exhibition. The one on the left is smaller, and less decorated but still has its’ arrow. It came from The Kings Head pub in Shipdham. The one on the right is much brighter, with the design painted in yellow and white. It came from the Red Lion Pub in Banham. Both of these boards are only marked with numbers 1 – 12. The Alby Horseshoes Inn in Erpingham still has a wheel on their ceiling which is also marked with club, spade, heart and diamond as well as a wine glass, barrel of beer and a matchbox.


Many twister boards were removed from pubs in the 1970s due to a change in gambling laws. It is rare to find a twister in a pub today but we believe that there are wheels remaining in these Norfolk pubs (tell us if we’re wrong or if there are more!)

Wheel of Fortune, Alpington
The Feathers, Aylsham
Alby Horseshoes Inn, Erpingham
The Three Horseshoes, Warham


For more information about twister and other traditional pub games take a look at the ‘Played at the Pub’ book by Arthur Taylor, this article and blog post.

Work Experience at Gressenhall


This week I have been doing work experience at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse. I have experienced an extensive array of jobs that people do at Gressenhall, these vary from working Front of House to being part of the Events Team that plan all the exciting events that go on at Gressenhall. It has been an exciting week that has showed me what it is like working in a museum in many different professions.

I have so many highlights, from getting to work in the shop, to handling exhibits and photographing them. One of my favourite days was Wednesday. I got to work with the learning team and dress as a Victorian character for a year 2 trip that was themed around ‘spring on the Farm’. I have met a great range of people here who have all been equally friendly and welcoming and have made this week a joy. It has been a rewarding and fun experience and I will certainly be returning for some of the upcoming events, especially the Apple Day I have heard so much about. I want to thank the team for having me and I hope to visit again soon!

Thank you, Rosie.

My day with the Event Team.


Welcoming the new season

Now the new season is upon us we thought we would update you on where we are and what we are doing!

Collections Gallery

Is now fully open! Over 2000 objects and over 200 graphics! Phew. It has been a really busy time and we have had to delay several other areas of work but we are pleased to have achieved it.  Although the graphics and case installation is now complete there is still a more to do (will it ever end?!). Specifically we need to work on objects on top of the cases and a range of interactives for the gallery. These additional items will hopefully be installed during the open season.

Beer and Brewing

In addition to the wonderful Collections Gallery we have also opened the 2018 temporary exhibition – Beer and Brewing, including a bar! Many thanks to Lauren for curating this amazing exhibition which not only takes a nostalgic look back at Norfolk’s rural pubs but also looks at where they are now and how they are surviving. We have also looked at the brewing industry of the county and worked with two small rural breweries to highlight the growing contemporary brewing industry. Definitely worth a look!


Are now launched on an unsuspecting public. These are available to book via ArtTickets and we are not pushing these much initially as we need to find out how the practicalities of issuing and return work! It will be interesting to see what take up we have and what our visitors think of them. Lauren and I will also be working on pin content for the Collections Gallery – so a new update for the tablets should be coming later in the year.

Collaborate 2018

Collaborate 2018 launches properly this week with our Inspiration Day on Friday. There is still time to sign up for this free morning of activities to engage and inspire on the theme of Beer and Brewing – again sign up on ArtTickets. We hope people will go away enthused to create something to be installed in the temporary exhibition later in the year.


Amazing find! Rose Sheen, one of our research volunteers, discovered a gem in The National Archives documents she has been cataloguing for us ready for publication online. This short letter (see the image attached) asks the Poor Law Board for permission to remove the partitions in the Dining Room. We didn’t know there were any!! This shows that instead of having different dining times for our inmates they all ate at the same time, but in different parts of the dining room, separated by partitions. This shows how incredibly important this volunteer cataloguing is, and how it is helping us to understand the history of the amazing building we all work in. Thanks Rose and the rest of the research team for doing such a fab job.

Over the next few weeks we will be taking stock and recharging our batteries ready for the open season. We’ll be prioritising getting the library back up and running and will be sure to stay in touch with you all.

Skills for the Future

Skills for the Future is a UK-wide programme which funds work-based training in a range of skills that are needed to look after buildings, landscapes, habitats, species, animals, museum collections, and promotethe use of new technology in heritage settings.

The aim of this blog is to showcase the faces behind our project at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse so that we can all share our experiences of what is more than just a very worthwhile cause but a project that is providing genuine skills to sustain people in long term employment.

In partnership with the Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket, we have been awarded over £1,100,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Skills for the Future programme to deliver a training project between 2011 and 2015.

At Gressenhall we have a number of formal apprenticeships as well as a number internships of varying length, including a Visitor Services trainee who is covering all aspects to our visitors’ experience, from the Front of House duties to improving our social media coverage. Other placements will focus on areas such as heritage gardening, woodland and heritage land management, rural collections management and interpretation, and managing historic buildings.

We currently have people working on the vast garden spaces at the museum and on our historic steam engines, as well as a heritage farming apprentice, farrier apprentice and a library and archive trainee, with the prospect of more trainees to come.

Our long term aim is to enhance the heritage sector, one that is currently under threat in the economic difficulties we are all facing, by providing sustainable training and good service practice. We are also looking to promote and demonstrate the value of heritage skills to modern life, skills that are too precious to lose and without which such places like Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse would be unable to continue.

Voices from the Workhouse

Gressenhall is the only workhouse site in the UK where visitors can experience a unique combination of workhouse and archives. This project transformed Gressenhall into a national centre for workhouse interpretation and resource.

Using recently revealed original accounts, the redeveloped displays tell the real stories of the people who lived and worked in the workhouse, challenging misconceptions. We explore the lives of the rural communities overshadowed by this controversial institution.

Powerful layered interpretation draws on the real stories of inmates like Harriet Kettle, our well-preserved buildings and nationally significant workhouse collections. A creative programme of activities transformed our engagement with existing and new audiences, including volunteers.

We explore the themes that make the workhouse story relevant today, including the treatment of mental illness and rural poverty. We also develop innovative digital resources, enabling people to access and share collections and stories.

Key milestone achieved!

Just a quick update to let you all know that we have reached a key milestone in the work in the Collections Gallery.

This week Lauren and I completed writing object labels for the 2000 objects inside the gallery. This represent an enormous achievement – meaning not only will we have labels for EVERY item in the gallery but also for the first time we will have accurate documentation and computer records for all of these objects.

In some cases this has meant cross checking with collections in Norwich, double checking with stored objects, trying hard to read numbers partially rubbed off, measuring items, creating sub number records and generally being really good detectives. The majority of objects have also been photographed – with the few remaining to be mopped up over the next few months.

Although this has meant progress has been slow – it has been worth doing properly. We have never had accurate records for the objects in this gallery. They weren’t completed last time it was installed making it impossible to answer any questions about the objects in the cases. Now we can be confident we know what is in each case, and we have recorded everything completely. We are really proud of ourselves and hope you will agree that it is only worth doing a job if you are going to do it properly!

The texts will now be proofread before going off to our designers for setting. They will be printed and installed in the new year.

We are now moving on to think about what items we will install on the mesh in the Collections Gallery in the new year. No rest for the wicked!

This week is also Lucy Burrow’s last week with us. Lucy has been working on our stored textile collection and has done amazing work photographing and documenting everything in Store 3 everything. She has been busy beavering away independently and we are really grateful for all her hard work and creativity thinking about how we can use the collection more in the museum. We wish her the best of luck as she returns to her research at UEA.