Agenda item

Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse (Agenda item 6)

Report of Western Area Manager.


Dr Robin Hanley presented the report that covered the summer months from July to September 2014 which had been one of the busiest periods for Gressenhall.


Events and Activities


During the 2014 season Gressenhall had continued to offer a broad programme of events, based around three operational models:


  • Main event days – major events such as Apple Day with a full event staffing establishment including the use of parking fields. Free to Museum Pass Holders.
  • Days with a Difference – smaller themed event days such as Horse Power requiring a smaller staffing complement and utilising core parking.  Also free to Pass Holders.
  • Ticketed Events – pre-booked and pre-paid events such as Ghostly Gressenhall.  Reduced charge for Pass Holders.


The costs of delivering and marketing the Gressenhall event programme continued to be subsidised with funding from the Arts Council England (ACE).


On 26 July, Gressenhall worked in partnership with Breckland Council to deliver the third Festival on the Farm.  This successful family focused event day attracted over 1500 visitors.  Both Gressenhall staff and Breckland staff had worked well together.


The main event Village at War ran over two days of the August bank Holiday weekend and marked the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.  This event featured a World War One home front theme on the farm, including a period Girl Guide camp and displays from the Royal Norfolk Regiment Living History Group.  The Museum also featured the traditional World War Two home front theme.  Despite very wet weather attendances reached over 3,000 across the two days.  This year’s flypast by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight was performed by a Dakota, the first time this addition to the Flight had visited Gressenhall.  It was a real spectacle to watch.  To help promote the Village at War event, members of the Royal Norfolk Regiment Living History Group paraded in Dereham Market Place, where they were all inspected by the Mayor of Dereham.  This made excellent media coverage (the press coverage was circulated).


Gressenhall once again supported the National Heritage Open Days (HOD) programme and all tours were fully booked and represented the largest total for a HOD event to date.  The programme included tours of the recently re-organised Norfolk Collections Centre stores.  The final event of the year and normally the biggest was Apple Day which was being held on Sunday 19 October 2014.  This event would be delivered in partnership with the East of England Apple & Orchard Project.


In advance of the schools breaking up, leaflets had been distributed to schools about the activities at the Museum during the summer holidays.  The same had been done for Thetford.


On Monday, 20 October, an events review meeting was being held providing staff volunteers and freelancers with an opportunity to review and evaluate the 2014 event programme and begin the process of shaping the programme for 2015.


Other Museum Developments


Phase 1 of the Shine a Light project funded the Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund had been completed.  £90,000 had been allocated to this project.


As part of an ongoing review of social history collections and under the terms of the agreed strategy, it was being recommended to transfer the Diss Pipe Hoard collection from Gressenhall to the Diss Museum.


RESOLVED that the Breckland Area Museums Committee supports the proposed dispersal of the Diss Pipe Hoard collection to the Diss Museum, subject to the approval of the Joint Museums Committee.


The Round 2 Heritage Grant application to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the Voices from the Workshop project had been submitted to the HLF in July 2014.  A pre-assessment visit from the HLF had just taken place and the project would be debated at its meeting at the end of November.  The outcome of this application was expected in December 2014.  The Friends of Gressenhall had confirmed their support for the project with a match funding pledge of £20,000.  The match funding bid for £20,000 to Breckland Council had also been successful of which the Museum was very grateful.  Members would be provided with an update of the outcome as soon as possible and hopefully it would be good news.


Gressenhall continued to maintain its strong social networking presence with active and growing profiles on Twitter and Facebook.  At the end of August the Museum had over 2,500 followers on Twitter and over 1,200 on Facebook.  Gressenhall had recently been awarded an excellence rating on Trip Advisor.


The new traditional oak-framed building, Keppel’s Lodge located adjacent to the event day parking fields had been successfully operating on major event days during the 2014 season.  The building had been funded through NCC capital development programme and provided new toilet facilities which had pleased the visitors.


Gressenhall also continued to develop a range of commercial activities as a means of generating further income.  One of the current priorities was to develop a site appropriate for weddings; this wedding offer was in the process of being refined.  The Chapel and the Board Room had been given the green light for holding civil ceremonies.  Room hire was also being promoted for birthday parties etc.  Dr Hanley said that he was trying to promote every part of the site in the best way he could.


Friends and Volunteers


The Friends continued to support a range of activities across the site. 


The Curator had co-ordinated, managed and developed the volunteer teams at Gressenhall.  Around 120/130 continued to be active on the site, organised into a number of specialist teams.


Dr Robin Hanley said that Gressenhall could not operate without the Friends or the volunteers.


Learning and Outreach


The award winning Gressenhall Learning Team continued to deliver a broad and varied programme to children and young people at pre schools.  The Team had developed and delivered a new session for Key Stage 2 children exploring aspects of Neolithic Britain, a key part of the new national curriculum for primary age children.  Almost 1,000 children had booked to take part in this active day in which they hunted for animals in the woods and used replica Neolithic tools of flint, stone and wood.  Dr Hanley was confident that the Museum could retain schools for the future.


School numbers remained strong across the summer term with a good level of bookings across the autumn term.


The HLF Skills for the Future training project was continuing to run at Gressenhall, in partnership with the Museum of East Anglia Life and had done what the Museum had hoped.  Members’ attention was drawn to the Executive summary on page 6 of the pamphlet that was circulated at the meeting.


Gressenhall also continued to host a traineeship delivered as part of the NMS Teaching Museum programme.  Events trainee Charlotte Billingham had supported the development and delivery of the Gressenhall events programme.  Trainees Tabitha Runacres and Emily Shepperson were in attendance and would be providing Members with a brief overview of what each of them had been doing at the Museum.


Gressenhall continued to be registered with NCC as a Care Farm.  The site was currently offering funded work-based placements to a number of adults with learning difficulties, many of whom worked at the Museum on a regular basis.


Visitor Numbers


A paper highlighting visitor numbers by Museum and County for 2014/15 was circulated which suggested that Gressenhall should reach a total of 65,000 visitors by the end of the year to March 2015.  There had been a dip in visitor numbers in August due to the weather.


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