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A day out at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse

Published date: February 2020

A day out at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse

Located in the centre of Norfolk, Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse is 3 miles northwest of Dereham and a 30-minute drive from Norwich, King’s Lynn and Cromer. Set in 50 acres of unspoilt Norfolk countryside, the grounds include a picturesque river valley, water meadows, gardens, woodland and country trails. A popular visitor attraction, there is loads to see and do, both inside and out at Gressenhall, making it a great all-weather destination for the whole family.

Gressenhall was one of 22 workhouses in Norfolk and visitors can hear real stories of the people who lived and worked in the workhouse and view the largest collection of workhouse objects, images and archives in the UK.  Gain an insight into the lives of working people before the creation of the welfare state and see what inmates ate, how they worked, rested and played. Discover fascinating, often tragic and sometimes inspirational tales of what life was like in Victorian Britain.

Wander around the galleries housing stationary steam and diesel engines that were once used to power many aspects of life, from washing clothes to bringing in the harvest. There are fire engines, tricycles, carts and bullock wagons on show at Gressenhall; see how people and products were moved around Norfolk and spot the 1908 circus showman’s caravan. Check out the displays of farming implements from the last 200 years; a treasure trove of antiquated tools and equipment. 

Pay a visit to the Land Girls and Lumber Jills gallery and hear real-life stories of land army girls in Norfolk; a lasting tribute to the forgotten heroines of the British Home Front during two world wars. 

The farm at Gressenhall is always popular with visitors of all ages and was once used to grow produce for the inmates at the workhouse. Today the farm is used to demonstrate traditional farming techniques. The farmhouse gives an insight into how farming families lived and the kitchen is used on event days to illustrate traditional cooking methods of days gone by.

Take a circular walk and see what’s growing in the fields or you may like to take a stroll down to the river. There is a free stamper trail available from the museum shop - a great way to keep the children entertained. There are nature watch cameras at Gressenhall so that visitors can peek into the lives of the wild birds and animals who live here.

Marvel at the mighty Suffolk Punch, one of the oldest breeds of working horse recorded in the UK. They were hard hit by the advent of mechanised farming and by the mid-1960s they had almost died out. However, with a concerted effort to breed these giant horses it has thankfully led to an increase in population in the UK. The Suffolk Punch continues to be listed as critical by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, so make sure you find time to visit these imposing horses on Gressenhall Farm. Throughout the seasons the horses play a pivotal role in ploughing, planting and harvesting and they also provide cart rides round the farm. 

Step into the early 20th century by visiting the recreated school room, shops stocked with household goods from that era, seed merchants, post office and blacksmiths. Enter the cottage and wander around its kitchen, parlour, bedroom and scullery, all furnished like a typical rural home from the 1930s. Take a look around the cottage’s garden to see what would have been grown during that period. The Chapel, built in 1868 has decorative brick patterning, wooden pews and high leaded windows.

The Norfolk Collections Centre houses over 3 million objects and their ‘star’ objects in store are the West Runton Mammoth, a Mustard Stamper used to crush mustard seeds at the Colman’s factory in the 19th century and the famous Norwich Snap Dragons. Although the Collections Centre has to function as a working museum store, they do allow the public access behind the scenes to explore their stored collections a number of days each year. There is also the Museum’s Library, housing its book, photograph and archive collection.

Younger visitors will love the woodland playground at Gressenhall, with its tree houses, walkways, slides and zip wire. There is also a special designated area for those under 5.

Facilities include a shop, café, picnic areas, baby changing facilities, accessible toilets and parking.  There are picnic tables and benches around the workhouse buildings and in the adventure playground, as well as an indoor picnic area.  

To find out more about Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, including opening days and times, admission costs, school visits, special events and accessibility, please go to their website.

Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, Gressenhall, Beetley, Dereham, Norfolk, NR20 4DR

Tel: 01362 869263

https://www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk/gressenhall-farm-and-workhouse

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