July 2015

As the Voices from the Workhouse redevelopment project at Gressenhall continues to roll forward, the conservation lab at Gressenhall has been busy preparing the collections for phase one of the new displays.

The objects that have been selected offer an interesting range of social history material, ranging from a shepherds hut and a wagon, through to items of workhouse furniture and much smaller objects associated with daily life such as pieces of cutlery.

Everything has a workhouse connection and even though some objects can seem quite ordinary and everyday, it is their association with former lives and the stories they tell, that makes them special to this project.

Many of these objects have been in store for many years and are in need of conservation care and treatment to bring them up to a displayable standard.

In addition to making sure that objects are stable and are not going to deteriorate any further, it is important to respect all evidence of the working lives of these objects. All the wear and tear they suffered, all the makeshift repairs and alterations, they all have a story to tell.

This unusual looking object started its life as a smokers bow chair, but it has since been adapted and turned into a wheelchair. The original arrangement of legs and cross rails of the chair can still be seen, even though wheels and axle have been added.

The wheelchair was found in the attic of the Crome Ward of the West Norwich Hospital, and probably dates from when the hospital was a workhouse, about 1880.


At some time in the past, somebody had decided that this lectern needed a liberal application of furniture wax to protect it. Removing the wax has revealed the detail of the carved relief in all its glory.


For other objects, maintaining their structural integrity whilst on long term display is a challenge.

This image shows one of the axle beams of the shepherd’s hut, the end of which has become very much weaker through past rot and insect attack.


The hut will need to have a bespoke steel bracket made, designed to take the weight of the hut and still allow the axle beam and the wheels to be in their proper positions.

Follow the Conservation Dept @ConserveNMS to see other objects being prepared for the Voices From the Workhouse.

For full updates on the project follow @GressenhallFW

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