Weald of Kent & Sussex
3rd - 6th June 2019
One of a series of unique, small-group tours, staying in good quality hotels and 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 Dr Ian West
3 nights, half-board in 4 star accommodation - from £695 per person
( Includes about £85 of entrance and special tour fees. Discount for NT & AIA members )
Book online now

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.

The Wealden area of West Kent and Sussex is famed for its densely-wooded landscape, with deep valleys, picturesque villages and historic market towns. The area is also rich in country houses, from medieval castles to 20th-century neo-Gothic fantasies. This tour offers the opportunity to enjoy the full range of such properties, including unique access to many areas not normally open to the public, to explore the remains of historic building services and understand how these shaped the development of the houses.


Day 1

The tour begins at our hotel Tunbridge Wells.

Dinner will be served in a private room after which there will be a talk by Ian West: “An Introduction to Country House Technology”

Day 2

In the morning we will drive to Petworth (NT) for a private tour with the head curator. Petworth contains some of the National Trust’s finest works of art, but is also is noted for its large, detached service wing, that includes one of the most impressive country-house kitchens in Britain. Our tour will take us through the underground passageways that link this to the main house (normally not accessible due to roosting bats), containing more unusual evidence of the owners' adoption of the latest technology. Other remarkable survivals are the unique three-chamber ice-house and a massive electricity generator house.

Lunch is available in the café on site (own expense).

After leaving Petworth, we will visit Coultershaw to see the restored working water-powered pump house, dating from 1782, which supplied water to the Petworth Estate.

After a group dinner in a private room the evening is at leisure.

Day 3

In the morning we will travel to Nymans (NT). Nymans is well known today for its magnificent gardens, created from 1890 onwards by Ludwig Messel, a German Jewish émigré, and his wife Anne. Their modest house was transformed in the 1920s by their son, Leonard, turning it into a massive Gothic-style mansion, which was largely destroyed by fire in 1947. A small portion was rebuilt but the rest survives as towering ruins, like some medieval abbey. We will have a rare opportunity to explore these ruins and see the ‘skeleton’ of the house and its services. Another of Nyman’s secrets is one of its two electricity generator houses, built inside the earlier timber Riding House, to which we will be allowed unique access.

Lunch is available in the café on site (own expense).

In the afternoon we will drive to the Salomons Estate. Our visit to the estate, now in private corporate ownership and mostly inaccessible to the public, is arguably the highlight of the tour. The house, known as Broomhill, was built by the banker and MP David Salomons in the 1850s. His nephew and heir David Lionel Salomons was more interested in science than banking, and transformed the house into a technological showpiece from the 1870s – it was probably the first house in Britain to have electric lighting (predating Cragside in Northumberland). Salomons published some early reference books on electricity and on motoring, and built one of the finest sets of motor houses in the country. The large theatre, where the public could watch scientific demonstrations from a gallery, still contains much original 19th-century electrical equipment. Salmons also built a state-of-the-art stable block in 1894. Access to some of these unique features may be slightly restricted by corporate events taking place on the day, but this promises to be very special visit.

After dinner in a private room, Ian will talk on “Technical aspects of Country House Technology

Day 4

In the morning we will first visit Bateman’s (NT), a Jacobean manor house bought by Rudyard Kipling in 1902 and another property with important evidence of early electricity generation. Amongst the many improvements the writer introduced was a hydro-electric plant housed in a water mill on the estate. Remarkably, this plant has survived and has been restored.

Our second visit is to Scotney Castle (NT) where we will arrive in time for a slightly early lunch (own expense)

 Scotney Castle offers two houses for the price of one: a 14th-century moated castle and a 19th-century mansion, designed by Anthony Salvin. The castle was occupied until the new house was completed in the 1840s, and survives as the most dramatic garden folly. With our focus on domestic services, the two houses provide an amazing contrast in levels of comfort and convenience.

After the visit the coach will return to Tunbridge Wells railway station and then our hotel where the tour ends.


Dr Ian West
Ian graduated in Engineering before joining the gas industry. He became a Chartered Engineer and held a number of engineering and senior management posts before leaving industry to study Industrial Archaeology at Birmingham University’s Ironbridge Institute, where he obtained his MA. He did his Doctoral studies in the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology, researching the impact of artificial lighting on early factories. He is an honorary visiting fellow at the University of Leicester and has given numerous papers and lectures on utility industries, domestic technology and other aspects of industrial archaeology.


The 4* Spa Hotel describes itself as “being set in 14 acres of picturesque grounds close to the centre of Royal Tunbridge Wells, the spa town from which its name is derived, our hotel first opened its doors to guests in 1880 and has since built a reputation for style, sophistication, relaxation and fine dining. Originally built in 1766 as a country mansion, The Spa Hotel has a long-established history in the town, and with its recent refurbishment it offers a stunning location to stay”

All rooms are en-suite, have TV, telephone, tea making facilities and wi-fi is available throughout the hotel.

 Note: The hotel is unable to offer us any twin bedded rooms for these dates.


The tour starts at our hotel in Tunbridge Wells on the Monday evening and ends there after a drop off at the railway station by about 15:30 on the Thursday afternoon.

As we expect group members to come from many different locations we leave you to make your own travel arrangements to and from Tunbridge Wells to suit your own convenience and use of alternative departure points.

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

Detailed joining instructions will be supplied in good time.


The cost of the tour is £695 per person sharing, single supplement £125. The single supplement reflects the additional charges made by the hotel for single occupancy.

There is a discount of £50 per person for National Trust members. NT membership cards must be carried with you. If you're not an NT member and want to visit at least one other NT property during the year it would be worth your while joining.

In addition Heritage of Industry is pleased to offer a discount of £10 per booking to any paid-up member of the Association for Industrial Archaeology at the time of the tour.

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
  • Luxury air conditioned coach transport to all sites and driver tip
  • All entrance and special tour fees (amounting to about £85)
  • Uniquely qualified expert guiding and services of an experienced 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 8th April 2019, 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.


Non-UK residents must ensure that they carry a valid passport for entry into the UK and may need a visa. To check visa requirements visit the UK Border Agency website: http://www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/visas-immigration Heritage of Industry cannot be held responsible for any problems with entry into the United Kingdom.


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 8th April 2019 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 £70 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.

Click here to book online

Click here to download a printable version of all the above and a booking form to post

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)
Email: bill@heritageofindustry.co.uk

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