Press Release & Media Info

Norfolk County Council PR 12408 - 11 April 2014  [For Immediate Release]

Onion gruel order of the day for one Norfolk woman living the workhouse diet

Life as an interpretation officer at Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse working with more than 10,000 Norfolk schoolchildren a year is never dull.

Now Rachel Duffield is preparing for the biggest challenge of her career: living the workhouse diets of more than 100 years ago for three weeks.

From 26 April, Rachel will swap her modern day sweet tooth and soft spot for a cuppa for the diet of an inmate living in the Gressenhall workhouse in 1797, 1834 and 1901.

It’s a diet consisting of milk broth, onion gruel, pease pottage and boiled meat dumplings, among other dishes.

Of the 21 meals, 12 involve beer...and five mean beer at breakfast for Rachel.

She said: “My job is about bringing to life the stories of the people who lived and worked in the workhouse, and food was an important part of their lives.

"This is a great way of experiencing a little of how they lived, as well as doing a bit of myth busting. Oliver Twist’s gruel is here and in 1834, things went Dickensian and grim but food had improved in 1901 with the arrival of suet.

“The hardest thing for me is going to be missing my cups of tea - there is a lot of tea in 1834 but no mention of tea in 1797, so the first week is going to be tough for me because I have a very sweet tooth and I'm a real tea pot.

“The more people say ‘you’re doing what?’ the more I look at the recipes, and start to think, I don’t know if I’ll be able to do this for three weeks."

Margaret Wilkinson, Cabinet Member for Communities, including museums, said: “I don’t know if I could go without my cup of tea for a day, let alone tolerate the other dietary choices of our ancestors so, best of luck Rachel and thank you for making the effort to go the extra mile. This is just another example of the dedication and commitment that exists in our museums’ service.”

Steve Miller, Head of Norfolk Museums Service, said: “Rachel's powerful and exciting experiential learning project promises to provide us all with an invaluable insight into the lives of people in the workhouse…and 'I'm hooked!”

This trip back in time to the culinary delights of yesteryear coincides with a major project to transform Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse into a national centre of excellence for workhouse interpretation.

The project has secured £150,000 from The DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund and a further £80,000 in development funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, ahead of another major funding bid later this year.

At the heart of the new centre of excellence on the 50-acre site will be the Voices from the Workhouse project – a collection of original accounts and stories from inmates. Other highlights include the recreation of a poverty-stricken family’s cottage and the interior of a workhouse, complete with a steam laundry and work yards.

Visitors to Gressenhall will also be able to see the UK’s largest collection of more than 300 workhouse objects including the bells that woke the inmates, wooden scales for weighing rations and dolls dressed in uniform and made by inmates.

You can keep up to date with Rachel’s workhouse diets at:
- Twitter at @workhousediet
- Living the Workhouse Diet channel on YouTube. 

Admission to Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse costs £9.90 for adults, £8.60 for visitors with disabilities, unwaged, over 65s or those in full time education and £6.50 for children and young people aged four to 18 years. A 12-month museum pass offers great value and unlimited admission to 10 of the best museums in Norfolk. For more information,

Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse is part of Norfolk Museums Service. The joint committee consists of members of Norfolk County Council and district councils, and manages museums through the county wide service.

For political comment:

Communities (cultural services and comms)
Cllr Margaret Wilkinson (Lab) - Cabinet Member for Communities on 01553 766531
Cllr Harry Humphrey (Cons) on 01945 430539 or 07866 590632
Cllr Denis Crawford (UKIP) on 01842 761577
Cllr Brian Hannah (Lib Dem) on 01263 823791
Cllr Adrian Dearnley (Green) on 01603 812212
Cllr Alexandra Kemp (Independent) on 07920 286636

For further information please contact:
Media Team at Norfolk County Council
Tel: 01603 228888

No comments:

Post a Comment