‘I have wasted 10 years in this damnation hell’ - Embroidered rants and a horseman’s heritage as Gressenhall museum unveils new displays
08:50 10 March 2014
Archant © 2014
The angry embroidered rants of a workhouse inmate in the early 1900s have become one of the key exhibits for the new season at Norfolk’s museum of rural life.
Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, near Dereham, re-opened on Sunday with new displays including a colourful set of four samplers, hand-stitched by a woman called Lorina Bulwer more than 100 years ago – a rare survival of something made by a workhouse inmate.
Lorina stitched her thoughts into a patchwork of fabric more than three metres long, after she was admitted to the “lunatic ward” of Great Yarmouth workhouse sometime between 1896 and 1901.
It is not known why she was sent there, but her samplers, which often used confused, explicit and adult language, make it clear that she was not happy about it.
She vented her anger about her situation, her family and scandals that she had read about in the local newspaper, through a furious stitched monologue, accentuated by a lack of punctuation and with the letters all in capitals.
One passage says: “I HAVE WASTED TEN YEARS IN THIS DAMNATION HELL FIRE TRAMP DEN OF OLD WOMEN OLD HAGS NO YARMOUTH PEOPLE HERE”.
The museum’s duty manager Gina Ludkin said: “The detail is immense, and we don’t know where she got the material and how she found the time to do all this. I think she was quite an intelligent woman, very creative and certainly very angry.”
The “Letters from the Workhouse” exhibit is on display until 1 June.
The museum has also unveiled a special exhibition of items collected by – and dedicated to – “Norfolk’s Last Horseman”, Ray Hubbard, from Diss.
One of the more unusual items is a walking stick which belonged to Albert Saunders, a farmer at Langmere Hall Farm, where Ray started working with horses at the age of nine.
The bamboo stick has a silver lever which reveals a fully-extending brass measuring stick, complete with spirit level, which was used when judging a ploughing match or to measure the exact height of a stallion, gelding or mare.
Richard Dalton, farm manager at Gressenhall, said he had known Ray for more than 20 years. He said: “For me, this is a celebration of someone’s life, but also an acknowledgment that he has taken the opportunity to talk to the people who used these things in their work with horses, to put all these objects in context.
“This is not just a random collection of objects. It has got real integrity, and it reflects back to the days when the men and women who worked the horses were a common sight in our fields.
“Ray has got this extraordinary sense of place to realise we need to record this and pass it on, which is what his collection is enabling us to do now.”
The Norfolk’s Last Horseman exhibition will be on display until November 2014.