Half Term Family Fun
When I visited Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse, on Thursday, 18 February, 2016, I had a fantastic time, starting with a lesson in the Victorian schoolhouse
Arriving just before lessons were about to begin, at 11am, I was told to ‘be quiet and stand at the back’ by the Victorian schoolma’am!
“You’re late!” she said, waving the cane at me, then proceeded with the first lesson, with the attentive children seated at their wooden school desks.
“Put your hands on the desks,” she told them sternly, fixing them with a steely glare through her round, wire-rimmed glasses. “And DO stop jiffling – sit up STRAIGHT, will you? And only SPEAK when you’re spoken to – and address me as ‘MISS at all times!”
And with a swish of her cane the lesson began.
At one point, not satisfied by the way the children were sitting, she told them: “I said, sit up straight, didn’t I?”
And produced a ‘back-straightener made of wood to enforce her request!
After that, I made my way to Cherry Tree Cottage to see what was cooking, to be greeted by a strong, but pleasing, aroma of ginger!
In the kitchen, several children were icing a series of freshly-baked Gingerbread Men, under the watchful eyes of Jane, from Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse.
Next, I went into the Workhouse and visited the 1950s’ room, freshly-decorated it seemed with very eye-catching wallpaper of that era! (Enough to knock your eye out!)
Nearby, in part of the steam-engine room, I met Wendy (Front of the House, Gressenhall), who was entertaining young families with displays of bygone objects and toys.
By now, time was getting on, and a visit to the Victorian chapel beckoned, with the promise of a mesmerising performance from Euan and Harold of The Fools Puppet Theatre Companie.
I joined the excited children – and their mums and dads, who were equally excited – and settled down to enjoy the show. And take photos for you to see, of course!
The highlight of the performance was the appearance of a huge multi-coloured dragon, which processed out of the chapel, all the way round, and into the Workhouse courtyard, propelled, as it was, by many little feet well-hidden inside the mighty beast!
I had but ten minutes to wait before joining a party, led by Wayne, who took us on a tour of the Norfolk Collections’ Centre.
Arriving in the large building we were greeted by Shaz, who gave us a fascinating insight into the artefacts stored within the building, and explained in detail about the West Runton Mammoth tusk, housed in a glass case.
Shaz told us the mammoth tusk wasn’t fossilised, as it was not old enough, and was extremely fragile, hence all the framework surrounding the tusk.
We also saw a medieval chancel screen, and a 19th Century mustard stamping machine from Colman’s factory in Norwich, as well as many other interesting artefacts, including a Crown Point fire tender, a four-wheeled wooden hearse and an iron cauldron dating back to Henry VII’s reign.
Leaving the Norfolk Collection Centre, I made my way back to the Workhouse and paid a visit to the Friends’ Bookshop, meeting up with Sue and Joy, both volunteers who devote much of their time in making the bookshop appealing for the visitors as well as replenishing the stock from donations received.
By then, I had been at Gressenhall for almost three hours, but I just had to go ‘down on the farm’, where the team of Suffolks were in action, ploughing, with Mike, Assistant Farm Officer, on the plough and James, Farm Apprentice, assisting.
But, all good things must come to an end, as, just before three o’clock I bade farewell to Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse and my visit to its Half-Term Family Fun event.
Well done – and thanks – to all involved with staging such a great event!