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  • Writer's pictureKitty

Workhouse Woes

Updated: Aug 10, 2018

A patchwork piece measuring 12 feet and recording the anger of a workhouse inmate c. 1901, Norfolk, UK. Her mental disturbance is apparent at a glance.
Patchwork and embroidered text by workhouse resident Loraine Bulwer c. 1901. Norfolk Museums.

I came across this fascinating piece of needlework today at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, part of the Norfolk Museums, while out researching something unrelated. What a find! It's a tiny part of an immensely long embroidered rant that I can only hope acted as a sort of proto art therapy for its poor creator. Her name was Lorina Bulwer and you can read her story here and see more of Lorina's grievances -

I wondered: if sent to the workhouse, would it be better to be mad or sane?

Then I bought a fridge magnet in the Gressenhall shop on the way out, noting the irony that Lorina would never have known what a commercial use licence was. She died well over 70 years ago so not even her descendants come in for anything. Poor Lorina. Maybe I'll offer it up as a psychology book cover one day.

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