River Wissey Lovell Fuller


June 2006

Ron gives a graphic account of a recent family visit to the gressenhall Museum.

We went with the family to Gressenhall Museum of Rural Life on Easter Monday. Apart from the usual and well known areas of interest in the museum buildings and on the farm, there were a number of additional attractions which included a small fun fair, craft and gifts stalls, a range of Norfolk foods, including a traditional Norfolk ice cream as well as stands by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and other organisations. Activities for the children included Easter egg painting and Easter Bonnet making, with a parade later in the afternoon. The weather, for Easter, was benign with only one or two short showers around midday. It proved to be a most enjoyable day for all.

For me the most enjoyable part of the day, however, apart, that is, from being with the family all in happy mood, was the opportunity to revisit the established parts of the museum. The downside with all these places, however, is they remind me of just how old I am (as if I needed reminding). It is very sobering to realise that the 1930s, when I was a child, are as remote to the children of today as the American civil war, or the crushing of Napoleon III was to me. To them the second world war is far more ancient history than the Boer war was to me, indeed to them the Falklands war is about as remote as the Boer war was to me. To me, as a child, the American civil war, the Boer war, even the first world war, were all ancient history and so, I imagine, many of the events in my life time, events which I regard as quite recent, probably appear as ancient history to today's children. Although perhaps it is possible that the existence of so much film from the past does help to make recent history more real to today's youngsters than it was for us.

I liked the re-created thirties post-office at Gressenhall, the cottage and the 1950s exhibition and yet there is always some disappointment when I see these types of exhibits. Of necessity the tools and equipment are old, the packets and tins on the shelves of the post office are old, the paint on the tins has yellowed and is as likely as not scratched with some rust spots. In the cottage the 'dummy' representing the teacher occupier is sitting at a table reading a genuine 1930s newspaper, needless to say the newspaper is yellow and frayed at the edges. I just wonder what impression all this creates in the minds of young people, does it suggest times when everything was tatty and dismal? The fact that the dummy in the cottage was made of a uniform grey substance did not help, it is a pity that they could not have had a more realistic and cheerful looking model, and the tattered yellow newspaper was really the last straw and quite unnecessary. Is it possible for the youngsters to imagine the scene when most things in it were relatively new and pristine? Wouldn't it be nice if some of the displays could be restored to the condition that they most likely would have been in in the thirties or fifties. This is not a criticism of Gressenhall in particular, it applies to most museums dealing with the 20th century, and I recognise that it would be quite unrealistic to renovate every artefact that has been saved from the past but just to see one or two examples where a true picture of the period was created would be pleasing.

I would not like the foregoing to detract from the value of the museum at Gressenhall, it is an excellent museum and offers a glimpse of rural life in the past and of life in the workhouse and I recommend it to anyone who has not been there. An additional feature of Gressenhall was new to us and that deserves a mention is the new woodland playground that has been created which is sure to give the place more appeal to the quite young.

Ron Watts

Copyright remains with independent content providers where specified, including but not limited to Village Pump contributors. All rights reserved.