Lottery grant will ensure traditional skills survive at Gressenhall museum

A �600,000 lottery grant will ensure traditional skills are kept alive at a Norfolk rural life museum.

Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, near Dereham, submitted a joint application with the Museum of East Anglian Life, in Stowmarket, to the Skills for the Future heritage lottery fund.

Over the next four years, they will share a �617,800 grant to deliver a project aimed at ensuring the traditional skills celebrated at the museums are continued.

The money will be used to run a series of internships and apprenticeships in areas like caring for rare breed animals and managing historical buildings.

They will be aimed at young unemployed people as well as those considering a career change, perhaps as a result of redundancy.

Robin Hanley, western area manager for the Norfolk Museums Service, said the day-to-day running of the Gressenhall museum was reliant on a number of traditional skills which were becoming increasingly rare.

He said: 'It's critical for sites like Gressenhall. Think about the farm there – the management of the rare breeds of horses, cattle, sheep and pigs takes a lot of skills and knowledge. It's not knowledge that is resident in the standard farming sector.'

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Mr Hanley said there was an increasingly small number of people armed with those skills and, without them, Gressenhall would 'be in a pickle'.

The apprenticeships would ensure there were new people coming along able to do the work and educate visitors to Gressenhall about the traditional methods.

'What we want the general public to do is learn about life in the past and the skills of the past,' he said.

Recruitment for the museum's new courses is set to begin in April.

Farming apprenticeships, lasting 12 to 18 months, are likely to be run in conjunction with Easton College with students gaining an accredited qualification.

Mr Hanley said the courses would involve livestock care – including working with the rare breeds – cultivation, day-to-day management of the site, as well as contemporary farm skills.

Shorter internships, spanning three, six, or 12 months, would cover areas such as historic steam engines, working with rural museum collec-tions, and managing historic buildings.

Mr Hanley said: 'We will be targeting some of our recruitment at people who are not in employment, education or training – the so-called neets – and some who are wanting to change direction with their careers.

'We are hoping that, through our programme, people will go on to work full or part-time in the heritage sector, or become life-long volunteers.'

It comes as the number of unemployed 16- to 24-year-olds nationally topped 20pc – the highest figure since records began in 1992.