Record Details

NHER Number:2819
Type of record:Building
Name:Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse and Union House (formerly Mitford and Launditch Incorporation House of Industry)


The workhouse was built in 1777, one of the earliest 'Houses of Industry' in Norfolk. The main block and the east wing date from the 18th century, whilst the chapel, boundary wall and other buildings within the complex date from the 19th century. The building was in use as a workhouse until 1948, when it became an old people's home. The building is now a museum and the offices of the Historic Environment Service (formerly Norfolk Landscape Archaeology.)


  • The 18th century former workhouse in Gressenhall. This wing is now the offices of NLA  © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service
  • A 19th century brick drain recorded during a watching brief  © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service
  • A brick soakaway recorded during a watching brief  © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service


Grid Reference:TF 9740 1698
Map Sheet:TF91NE

Full description

Former workhouse, 1777; chapel of about 1860.
Site of windmill and hydraulic ram.
Now the Norfolk Rural Life Museum and offices of Norfolk Landscape Archaeology.
See details, photos, aerial photographs list and press cuttings in file.
E. Rose (NAU), 10 February 1984.

Two flints found, a scraper and a flake, ?prehistoric.
Report in file.
A. Rogerson (NLA), 20 October 1992.

5 January 2000.
Human skeletal remains found.
See report in file.

February 2000.
More skeletal remains, with slabs of tar, possible cholera burial?
See file.

See report on human skeletal remains in file (S16). Five individuals represented. Some interesting palaeopathology of workhouse inmates.
D. Gurney (NLA), 17 July 2000.

July 2000. Excavation.
Recorded an original wall and later woodblock floor.
See report (S1) for further details. This work was also noted in (S13).
D. Gurney (NLA), 3 November 2000.

Summer 2005. Watching Brief.
Monitoring of drainage works. Post-medieval drain, soakaway and inspection chamber seen.
See digital images of brick drain (S5). Works also examined by S. Pope (NMS) - see report (S17).
A. Hutcheson (NLA), 7 July 2005.

The workhouse was built in 1777 on Hoe Common, for £15,000, and was one of the earliest Houses of Industry erected in Norfolk. The main block of the building was H shaped. The main south façade has has a pediment with a clock, and a wooden cupola. A long L shaped wing projects eastwards from the main block. This wing also dates to 1777, but was originally separate from the main block. There was an open, arched arcade, visible on (S2), running along the ground floor of the east wing, which was bricked up in the 19th century. The east wing was originally used for 'cottages', or apartments for married couples. In the 19th century the east wing was used for dormitories and day rooms, and in 1871 became the infirmary. In 1835 alterations to the workhouse were carried out, including the construction of the boundary wall, as well as internal walls that created a series of separate yards. In 1853 Cherry Tree Cottage was built to provide accomodation for elderly married couples. The chapel, built in Gothic Revival style in 1868 was designed by R. M. Phipson. A separate fever ward was built in the 1870s. The other outbuildings around the complex are of 19th century date. The workhouse was known as Union House and Beech House (from the early 20th century). The building ceased to be a workhouse in 1948, when it became an old people's home. In 1975 the building was transferred to NMAS, and the Norfolk Rural Life Museum opened in 1976.
See (S2), (S3), (S4) and (S5).
S. Spooner (NLA), 13 January 2006.

Summer 2004. Re-roofing the eastern wing.
Whilst checking bricks reused to restore the roof of the eastern wing of Union House two examples of moulded bricks bearing the name 'Hubbard' who won the tender in 1871 to construct infectious wards, erection of new buildings at the workhouse as well as a number of modifications.
See (S6).
S. Howard (HES), 8 March 2011.

For details of laundry see (S7).
E. Rose (NLA), 22 December 2005.

29 May to 1 June 2007. Excavation. Learning Centre Yard.
Small-scale excavation in the Learning Centre Yard at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse exposed a brick wall footing. It is possible that the wall formed part of the yard boundaries that were demolished in the early 20th century.
See (S8).
M. Dennis (KLM), 14 December 2007.

October 2008. Alterations to the Café building
Proposal to remove an internal non load-bearing wall, relocate stud wall to include a new doorway into kitchen area, remove current flooring, level the sub base and replace floor and to provide an additional doorway and path to the building.
See (S9) for further information.
H. White (NLA), 22 January 2009.

August 2010.
Fragments of gravestones left behind by NAU Archaeology are to be reused in the Museum's herb garden.
It is believed that these came from excavations in Norwich (Heather Wallis, for NAU), and a wall behind the Shirehall (possibly NHER 429).
D. Gurney (NLA), 26 August 2010.

Detailed architectural plans show the uses of each part of the building as Mitford and Launditch House of Industry in 1780 (S10), Mitford and Launditch Union Workhouse in 1872 (S11) and Mitford and Launditch Poor Assistance Institute in 1930 (S12).
A. Cattermole (HES), 17 June 2011.

11 February 2013. Cable trench excavated across the south-east corner of the main courtyard, outside the entrance to the Historic Environment Service offices revealed a number of walls, and a deposit of ash and slag immediately outside the door. See digital photos.
D. Gurney (HES), 21 February 2013.

The wall running across the courtyard was a courtyard dividing wall, and the floor tiles and walls right outside the HES office entrance were related to a steam-jacketed boiler for the infirmary wards (S14).
D. Gurney (HES, 14 March 2013.

July 2014. Conservation plan.
History and significance of the work house buildings see (S15)
S. Heywood (HES), 30 July 2014.

Monument Types

  • FINDSPOT (Unknown date)
  • FINDSPOT (Prehistoric - 1000000 BC to 42 AD)
  • CEMETERY (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • CHAPEL (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • DRAIN (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Post Medieval to 21st Century - 1540 AD to 2100 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Post Medieval to World War Two - 1540 AD to 1945 AD)
  • HOUSE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • HYDRAULIC RAM (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • MUSEUM (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • SOAKAWAY (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • WINDMILL (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • WORKHOUSE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • WALL (19th Century to Mid 20th Century - 1835 AD? to 1948 AD?)

Associated Finds

  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Unknown date)
  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Lower Palaeolithic to Late Iron Age - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • TOBACCO PIPE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Post Medieval to 21st Century - 1540 AD? to 2050 AD?)
  • VESSEL (Post Medieval to 21st Century - 1540 AD? to 2050 AD?)
  • WINDOW GLASS (Post Medieval to 21st Century - 1540 AD? to 2050 AD?)
  • POT (19th Century to 21st Century - 1900 AD? to 2050 AD)
  • TILE (19th Century to World War Two - 1900 AD? to 1940 AD?)

Protected Status

  • Listed Building

Sources and further reading

---Aerial Photograph: TF9717 A-D,H-Z,AG-AN,AQ-AU,AW-ABZ.
---Publication: 20 March 1971, Parson Woodford Diaries. 20 March 1781.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1977. Museum Cottage enlists WI. 27 January.
---Newspaper Article: Dereham and Fakenham Times. 1975. Gressenhall institution finally closes. 7 February.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1975. Grim recollections of Norfolk's poor. 8 February.
---Photograph: JJY 29-36.
---Drawing: Various. Various. Architectural plans.
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Article in Serial: Turner, M.. 1996. Times Past at the House of Industry and the Workhouse.. The Norfolk Plough. Vol 7.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1987. Heavy overload for museum floor. 13 June.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1996. Photograph of machinery in museum. 16 April.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1999-2000. [Articles on the proposed work at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse].
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2000. Car park work starts despite protests. 19 May.
---Newspaper Article: The Journal. 1975. Crowds visit Beech House displays. 26 September.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N and Wilson, B. 1999. Norfolk 2: North-West and South. The Buildings of England. 2nd Edition. pp 370-371.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2010-2012. [Articles on the proposed and work carried out at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse].
---Article in Serial: Lodey, J.. 2004. The Story Behind a Brick.. Rural Life: The Journal of the Friends of Gressenhall.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1974. Beech House approved as museum. 15 November.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1996. Museum project awaits go-ahead. 18 May.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2010. Norfolk's spooky past. 27 October.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2012. Museum marks milestone. 29 March.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2011. New plans for museum. 30 December.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Slide: Various. Slide.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2013. Seeds of shop's past grow into exhibition. 22 May.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2013. Green fingers are twitching as Radio 4 reveals Norfolk location. 4 June.
---Photograph: BPN 15-18, BYN 9 CLJ 32-6, EGL 30-36, GYT 3-5,HRA 4.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2013. Mammoth project to shine light on historic treasures. 21 June.
---Unpublished Report: Pope, S. 2005. Excavation Report Summer 2005 Norfolk Rural Life Museum Gressenhall.
---Collection: Norfolk Historic Environment Record Staff. 1975-[2000]. HER Record Notes. Norfolk Historic Environment Service.
<S1>Unpublished Contractor Report: Ashwin, T. 2000. Report on an Archaeological Excavation at the Norfolk Rural Life Museum, Gressenhall, Dereham. Norfolk Archaeological Unit. 535.
<S2>Illustration: Kerriman, R.. 1810. Painting of Gressenhall House of Industry.
<S3>Unpublished Document: Reid, A.. 1988. Gressenhall Workhouse (Norfolk Museums Service Information Sheet)..
<S4>Unpublished Document: Rose, E. (NLA). 1996. Building Report.. Building Report.
<S5>*Digital Archive: Hutcheson, A. 2005. Brick drain seen at TF 97421 16955.
<S6>Designation: Historic England. National Heritage List for England. List Entry 1168637.
<S7>Article in Serial: Pope, S.. 2005. Gressenhall Workhouse Laundry.. NIAS Journal. Vol 7, no 5. pp 5-8.
<S8>Unpublished Report: Dennis, M. 2007. Report on an Archaeological Excavation at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, Dereham, Norfolk.
<S9>Unpublished Document: 2008. Design and Access Statement for minor alterations to the Café building and associated garden area at Norfolk Rural Life Museum, Gressenhall.
<S10>Illustration: Pope, S.. 2004. Mitford and Launditch House of Industry, Gressenhall c.1780. Floor Plans.
<S11>Illustration: Pope, S.. 2004. Mitford and Launditch Union Workhouse, Gressenhall c.1872. Floor Plans.
<S12>Illustration: Pope, S.. 2004. Mitford and Launditch Poor Assistance Institute, Gressenhall c.1930. Floor Plans.
<S13>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. and Penn, K. (eds). 2001. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk 2000. Norfolk Archaeology. XLIII Pt IV pp 707-728. P 713.
<S14>*Verbal Communication: Pope, S.. 2013. Gressenhal House of Industry.
<S15>Unpublished Document: Heywood, S. 2014. 'The House of Industry' Gressenhall; A Conservation Plan.
<S16>Unpublished Contractor Report: Anderson, S. 2000. Human Skeletal Remains from Union House, Gressenhall. Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service.

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