Voices From the Workhouse

Megan Dennis, Curator of Gressenhall

March 2018

We are becoming quite experts on how poor and disadvantaged people were treated in the past. Some of us are looking at what our archive tells us about how the poor were treated in Martham before the advent, in the 1700s, of “Houses of Industry”. Last year’s AGM was visited by our own Janet Edwards in the guise of a (supervisor) at the Great Yarmouth workhouse. Then along came Megan.

Many of us have been at least once to Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum. Well, after Megan’s talk, we have very good reason to go there again, and to encourage those who have not yet paid a visit to do just that. Over 50 were in attendance and, remarkably, included amongst them a small girl descendant of a resident of the Gressenhall workhouse.

Megan has been leading a Heritage Lottery Fund project, upgrading the workhouse element of the museum and bringing us closer to an understanding of what the workhouses were trying to achieve and to what it really was like to live and work there. New and interactive displays make the stories of a hundred residents come alive.

Dickens did not get it absolutely right after all. Careful research of the experience of individual residents has shown that many people fought, even in court, for their right to be admitted; that many walked miles and pleaded for a place. Others received education and training and moved on to successful careers and marriages.

Their stories are told at Gressenhall.

Theirs are the Voices From the Workhouse.

              images display

(Above: Ghostly images display at Gressenhall Rural Life Museum)
(Below: Megan Dennis in chapel at Gressenhall)

              Denis in chapel
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