2016 Country House Bucks Oxon Surrey
Bucks, Oxon & Surrey
27th June - 1st July 2016
Led by Professor Marilyn Palmer MBE
Below are just a few images of some of the curiosities of the tour  and some snippets from the extensive notes provided for every tour member.
Halton House
Alfred de Rothschild worked in the family banking business and was also a Director of the Bank of England. On the death of his father in 1879, he inherited the Halton estate. As he lacked a country retreat, he set about building a house in the style of a French chateau in 1880 and the house was completed in 1883.

The house was one of the first to be supplied with gas and electricity from the outset. There was a gas works in Halton village, with coal being transported from Wendover station and the gas piped up to the house. The by-product of coke fired some of the house boilers. There are still well-labelled pipes in the basement which attest to there being once a gasolier in central hall and a Sun burner on the staircase.

After his death the house was purchased for the fledging Royal Air Force and has served ever since as the Officers’ Mess for RAF Halton and is not normally open to the public. The image is the magnificent electrolier in the central hall replacing the earlier gasolier.
Polesden Lacey
Originally a medieval house it was re-built in 1631 and adapted and extended many times of the years by Richard Brinsley Sheridan amongst others before ending up in the hands of in 1905 by Mrs Greville (heir to McEwan’s brewery of Scotland) and her husband Ronald who entertained their guests, such as Edward VII,  in a lavish style. The further improvements made included extensive development of the water supply which merited an article in The Engineer in 1907.

The image is of an early internal telephone with a pointer device for making connections to 10 extensions.
Waddesdon Manor
The house was begun 1874 for Ferdinand de Rothschild, in the style of a French Chateau but the structural design contained modern innovations appropriate to the late 19th century including a steel frame. Lighting was by gas, with the gasworks at nearby Westcott, to which coal was brought on the Wootton tramway. In 1889 some of the house was converted to electricity, generated in the existing Power House by means of a gas or oil engine. The battery room was in one of the cellars. The mains supply arrived in 1926 allowing electricity to be extended to other  parts of the estate, but the mansion remained with a 110v DC supply, provided by rotary converters which charged the batteries. The panel that controlled this equipment survives in the Power House.
Ascott House
Leopold de Rothschild became head of the family's banking business in London in 1874. He inherited Ascott House and employed the architect George Devey to enlarge it and this became a lifetime work for Devey as the house was continually expanded. The estate still retains good examples of technology. The original buildings for the generation of gas and electricity are still standing and contain a steam boiler by Marshall of Gainsborough.

The image is of the remains of the sewage works about 500m from the house, not normally open to the public. One of the valve chamber covers bears the name “T Crapper & Co Sanitary Engineers”.
Nuffield Place
Acquired by Lord Nuffield (founder of Morris Garages, the motor manufacturer in Oxford) in 1933 it was his home until his death in 1963. It is a very modest house at odds with the very considerable wealth which he amassed from the motor business. The house was built with both its own electric generating plant and central heating although little can now be seen.

The group visited the remains of a disused sewage settlement tank and filter bed but the most unusual item is the 'Vita' glass, developed by Pilkington to let in the 'Health ray'.
Greys Court
Greys Court is a Tudor manor house in origin, tucked away in a fold of the Chilterns, which was bought in 1935 by Mrs Evelyn Fleming, mother to Ian Fleming.

It later passed into the hands of Sir Felix and Lady Brunner, the former a Liberal politician and descendant of the great industrial chemicals magnate John Brunner who founded the Brunner Mond company, eventually to become ICI.

Parts of the house were open to visitors during the Brunner's life but following the death of Lady Brunner in 2003 the rest of the house can now be seen - mostly as it was found when Lady Brunner died. There are also beautiful walled gardens including a wisteria "tunnel" in this most tranquil of settings.

Perhaps the most fascinating object on the estate is the Wheelhouse, containing a donkey wheel which pumped water up into a lead tank, from which it was fed by gravity to the house.
This dates from the early Tudor period but was in use until 1914 when mains water was brought to the house
Blenheim Palace

The Palace was built to celebrate victory over the French as a gift to the 1st Duke of Marlborough, the military commander who led the Allied forces in the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. The grounds were laid out by 'Capability' Brown. The house remains in the hands of the Marlborough family but might have been lost at the end of the 19th Century had not the 9th Duke arranged to marry Consuelo Vanderbilt in 1896.

Gas was generated on the estate from the 1850s, for the service areas, and later extended to corridors etc. and some nice gasoliers with barley-twist downpipes remain, now converted to electricity. The central heating was also modernised and carefully concealed radiators can be found in various places.

The image is of one of the levers used to summon staff. The set of bells is preserved and can be seen on the "Downstairs Tour"
All images Copyright (c) 2016 Heritage of Industry Ltd