East Anglia
29th June - 3rd July 2020

Led by Prof. Marilyn Palmer MBE
Click here to register interest
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.
Based in Cambridge and the beautiful north Norfolk coast, this tour explores East Anglia with some magnificent examples of the great Country House from a Royal Palace to a property described as one of the coldest houses in Britain!

The tour begins with a visit to Audley End (left).
This Former royal palace dating from the 17th century, was improved for daily living by Sir John Griffin Griffin in the late 18th century. The house has one of the earliest sprung bell systems and a water supply system, including a water wheel, that dates back to the mid-18th century.
 On the Tuesday we will drive to Wimpole Hall for a full day’s exploration. The house dates from the 17th century but has been improved at various times, including by the architect Sir John Soane in the 18th century. It was bought in 1938 by Elsie Bambridge, daughter of Rudyard Kipling. Over the next 40 years Elsie, with the help of the royalties left her by her father, slowly furnished and decorated the house, seeking out pieces that were either once at Wimpole, or had strong connections to the estate or previous owners.

Our unique tour will reveal an amazing plunge bath, an extensive bell system and evidence of early gas lighting, including the famous Sun Light before continuing to the Model Farm which was designed by Sir John Soane in a rustic style, with a massive threshing barn and outstanding dairy.

On the Wednesday, in the morning we will visit Anglesey Abbey, Gardens and Lode Mill Anglesey Abbey is a Jacobean-style house once owned by Lord Fairhaven who transformed what was a run-down country house and desolate landscape into a place which would inspire and surprise visitors. For us there is a selection of communications, lighting, heating, sanitation and kitchen technology to discover. A mill is referred to here in the Domesday Book although the present Lode mill dates from the eighteenth century. In about 1900 the mill was converted from corn grinding to cement grinding. An engine may have been installed at this time, as inside the mill today there are some shafts, gears and a chain drive that are unusual in a watermill.

In the afternoon, as a short diversion from great houses and with a nod in the direction of Industrial Archaeology, we will visit Fakenham Gasworks the only surviving town gasworks in England and Wales, complete with all equipment used for the manufacture of gas from coal: retorts, condenser, purifiers, meter and gasholder. The works is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, a prestigious and rare distinction for an industrial site and, as such, is a National Treasure, providing an insight into our cultural, social and industrial heritage with displays of lighting, heating, cooking and domestic equipment.

On Thursday we will drive to Holkham Hall for a full day’s visit. Home of the great ‘improver’, Thomas Coke of Norfolk, the house has examples of early gas and electric lighting, heating and communications. Gas was installed in 1865 but was replaced in the early 20th century by electricity for lighting. The first demonstration was in 1909 when the future fourth Earl was due to return to London to see his newborn daughter but delayed his journey because “they hope to start the electric light on Tuesday and I should so much like to be here for that”! The walled garden has some early examples of greenhouse technology and the surviving gas retort house. There is also a thatched ice house. The visit will include a private tour of the parts of the house not normally open to the public and a visit to the archives to study some of the documents concerned with early technology.

On our last day we will drive to Felbrigg Hall. Felbrigg is an example of the absence of technological improvement! It is a small small country house which belonged to the Wyndham or Windham family from 15th century. ‘Mad Windham’ ruined the family and the house was sold in 1863 to John Ketton, a Norfolk merchant. He was reluctant to change the house in any way and Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer did not install any form of central heating until 1967 and then only in a modest flat in the north side of the service block which he adopted as his winter quarters – it is regarded as one of the coldest houses in Britain! There are lovely gardens and the remains of a horse wheel for pumping water which we shall be able to see.

Click here to register interest in joining the tour.