The South West
26th - 29th June 2017
One of a series of unique, small-group tours, led by the key experts in the field, exploring the impact of technology on our great country houses and the people who lived and worked there.
Led by Professor Marilyn Palmer MBE
3 nights, half-board in very comfortable accommodation - from £575 per person
( Includes about £89 of entrance and special tour fees. Discount for NT members )
Special half-price book offer:
"Technology in the Country House" by Marilyn Palmer and Ian West available with this tour
Booking is now closed

During the late 18th and 19th centuries a variety of technological innovations were becoming available to enhance the comfort and convenience of domestic life but, far from urban centres, the great Country Houses had to be self sufficient in the provision of gas, electricity, sanitation and water supply if they wished to make use of them.

Subsequently, the decline of many country houses, together with their being donated to the National Trust and their opening to the public, has meant that less alteration has taken place than in domestic property and evidence survives of the impact which these innovations had on the buildings, landscape and social structure.

For a number of years Professor Marilyn Palmer and Dr Ian West have been studying the technology in a wide range of country houses, examining both the physical remains and the historical evidence and trying to place them in the wider context of the effects they had on country house servants as well as house owners, families and guests.

Heritage of Industry is delighted to have secured Prof. Palmer and Dr West to lead this series of unique tours where they will guide us through some of theses grand residences, help us to understand some of the fascinating artefacts still to be seen and explain how they changed the lives of those who lived there – both above and below stairs.

Unlike coach company tours, which rely on the normal guides, our expert leaders, working in conjunction with the Collections Managers, give a unique insight to these properties. In most cases, we secure access to the properties early in the day when the houses are not yet open to the public so that we will have the place to ourselves for the duration of the tour and in certain cases are granted permission to see areas not normally open to the public.

At each property, after our special tour, we try to make time for you to further explore the house and gardens.

This tour visits Somerset, Devon and Cornwall with some magnificent examples of the great Country House and the remains of some fascinating early technology. It is bound to attract great interest so book early to avoid disappointment.

Note that the order of visits may vary from that shown below


Day 1

Our first night is at a comfortable 4* hotel on the outskirts of Bristol, which is a convenient point for gathering the group close to good road and rail connections from the rest of the country. After dinner there will be a talk by Marilyn Palmer: “An Introduction to Country House Technology”

Day 2

In the morning we will be going headfirst into technology at Tyntesfield House. Outside we can see where gas and electricity was generated and inside we will take a look at some examples of how it was used. Big houses were always draughty and we can see how improvements to the heating systems had to be made. Its always fun to inspect the bathrooms and we can discuss why there are three taps on the sink in the scullery. Another problem Upstairs was how to summon those from Downstairs when you needed them and we can see how mechanical and electrical systems were used.
Lunch is available in the café or restaurant on site.
In the afternoon we will visit Hestercombe where there will be time to visit the beautiful gardens created by Lutyens and Jekyll in about 1903, but our first objective will be the restored water mill/turbine house, which was rebuilt in 1907 by Lutyens. A water wheel powered a saw mill and a turbine was installed c1895 to generate electricity. The turbine house also displays an acetylene plant and petrol air plant and nearby is a ram pump – a mysterious device which our guides will be happy to explain.

In the late afternoon we make our way to our hotel in Devon.

After dinner the evening is at leisure.

Day 3

After an early start we will head for Lanhydrock House in Cornwall. One of the most interesting things to see here is how the servants were separated from the owners and how female staff were separated from male - the main kitchen being the only room where staff could meet! And those kitchens remain today with the best examples of 19th Century kitchen equipment.
Lunch is available in the restaurants on site.
In the afternoon there’s just time to get to Saltram House. Electric light did not reach Saltram until after the 2nd war so there is plenty of evidence of gas fittings to be seen above stairs and in the Great Kitchen where we can also marvel at the ranges which were in use from the early 19th century right up until 1952.

After dinner Prof. Palmer will address the more technical aspects of country house technology, including lighting, heating and communications.

Day 4

Another early start is required to reach the last castle to be built in England: Castle Drogo. The castle contains a mass of artefacts relating to the early use of electricity in a domestic environment including its use for heating, driving a passenger lift, electric bells, telephones and who would want to miss the electric tablecloth?

After lunch at the café we head back to Bristol.


Professor Marilyn Palmer MBE
Marilyn read History at St Anne’s College, Oxford, and then worked in teacher training before joining the History Department of the University of Loughborough and becoming its Head in 1983. She transferred to the University of Leicester becoming Head of the School of Archaeology and Britain’s first Professor of Industrial Archaeology. She is President of the Association for Industrial Archaeology and was a Commissioner with The Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England before its amalgamation with English Heritage. She serves on committees concerned with her discipline for The National Trust and the Council for British Archaeology and is the Subject Adviser for Archaeology for the University of the Third Age, for whom she runs study days as well as a large Archaeology Group. She was awarded an Award of Merit by the Society for Historical Archaeology of the USA in 2005 for her success in integrating industrial archaeology into mainstream archaeology and then an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in June 2015 "for services to Industrial Archaeology and Heritage"


Not forgetting your own comfort and convenience, this tour includes accommodation at a modern hotel on the outskirts of Bristol which is a both a very comfortable place to stay and a convenient point for gathering the group close to good road and rail connections from the rest of the country and at an historic property in South Devon.

The hotel in Bristol offers modern, comfortable rooms with Wi-Fi, air conditioning and tea/coffee facilities. All rooms have a satellite TV, and luxury bathroom. The hotel offers a fitness room, pool, sauna, steam room and whirlpool.

In Devon rooms are ensuite or have a private bathroom adjacent. Rooms face a medieval courtyard and have easy access to over 800 acres of glorious Grade 2* listed gardens and the best in local and seasonal food and drink.


The tour starts and ends at our hotel near Bristol.

Travel during the tour will be by luxury, air-conditioned coach.

We leave you to make your own travel arrangements to and from Bristol to suit your own convenience and use of alternative departure points.

For those travelling by car, the hotel is close to the M4/M5 junction and there is parking at the hotel and cars may be left there until the end of the tour.

For those travelling by rail, the hotel is just a few minutes by taxi, from Bristol Parkway Station. The coach will drop off at Bristol Parkway at the end of the tour.

Bristol airport is about 18 miles, 35 minutes by road, from the hotel.


The price of this tour is £575 per person sharing, single supplement just £30, with a discount of £46 per person for National Trust members (NT membership cards must be carried with you). The single supplement reflects the additional costs for single occupancy charged by the Bristol hotel.

In organising these very specialist and unique, small group, tours we do not enjoy the same economies of scale which are available to us for our larger group tours. Nevertheless we believe that the cost represents excellent value for money and compares very favourably with other specialist operators.

This includes:
  • An itinerary packed with visits to fascinating sites
  • 3 nights dinner, bed & breakfast in 4* accommodation
  • Luxury air conditioned coach transport to all sites and driver tip
  • All entrance and special tour fees (amounting to about £75)
  • Expert guiding and services of a tour manager throughout
  • Research for the visit
  • Professionally produced, comprehensive tour notes
Excluded are:
  • Lunches
  • Drinks
  • Expenses at the hotels other than dinner, bed & breakfast
All costs are in Pounds Sterling (GBP) and are based on present accommodation, transport costs and taxes. Any change in these may necessitate a price change.


Please note that cancellation charges will apply from 1st May 2017, and, although these will be modified to the extent that costs are not actually incurred, you are strongly advised to insure against the need to cancel.

Non-UK residents also need to consider medical treatment and repatriation charges in the event of illness etc. Participants who do not have travel insurance must nevertheless accept full responsibility for these eventualities.

UK residents who do not already have travel insurance may like to contact Avanti Travel Insurance, who specialise in providing cover for older travellers and those with medical conditions, both single-trip and annual policies, quoting reference “Heritage of Industry” for a competitive quote.

Website:  Email:  Phone: 0800 888 6195


Bookings will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis, subject to space availability. Booking is subject to a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 20 people . Book as soon as possible and by 1st May 2017 to ensure a place but please feel free to enquire after that date if a place is still available. We will contact you as soon as possible to confirm the booking and to issue an invoice for the balance of the price.

A non-refundable deposit of £55 per person is required on booking. Bookings can be made definite only when the booking details and deposit are received and accepted in writing/email by Heritage of Industry Ltd. The company's standard terms and conditions apply. The balance of the price is to be paid to Heritage of Industry Ltd on presentation of the invoice. All monies paid to Heritage of Industry Ltd will be held, in accordance with government regulations**, in a customer protection account until the tour is complete so that your money is safe no matter what happens.

If you wish to take advantage of our special offer of a copy of Marilyn and Ian's book "Technology in the Country House" tick the box on the booking form and include the additional cost of £30.00 with the deposit.

Books will be dispatched as soon as they are available - this should be in early September depending on the delivery time from the publisher. Note that if for any reason we are unable to run the tour then your deposit of £55 will be returned to you as normal but you may keep your copy of the book.

Payment should be made via electronic banking but sterling cheques drawn on a UK bank are also acceptable.

Booking is now closed

Enquiries about this tour should be directed to:

Bill Barksfield
Managing Director
Heritage of Industry Ltd, The Gables, 20 Main Road, East Hagbourne, Oxon OX11 9LN UK
Tel: +44 1235 352275  (9am - 5.30pm GMT)

** The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 (SI 1992 No. 3288)