We have been restoring Clencher’s Mill, a watermill near the edge of the estate off the Glynch Brook. It was bought in about 1700 and has medieval origins. It was modernised in 1812 and redundant after 1939.
Most of the original mechanical equipment has survived and has been put back into working order with the help of a number of grants, referred to in more detail in my earlier blog, but one vital machine was missing, namely the bolter, perhaps not unexpectedly given one alternative meaning for its name. When in place, its job is to separate the meal ie the ground wheat that comes out of the millstones and consists of flour and bran. Some mills just supplied wholemeal ie the mixture, but there is clear evidence that we had a bolter at our mill as certain elements remained.
Rather than have a new one made, we looked for an old one. Alan Stoyel from the SPAB: http://www.spab.org.uk/spab-mills-section/ identified one at Wormbridge Mill, near Hereford, which had closed in about 1900. It was still in place, and the owner, a good friend of ours, was happy to part with it as all the rest of the equipment had already been removed, probably for scrap. It did not quite fit through the door and needed quite a bit of wood replacing, which was undertaken by John Churchill of Burns & Churchill in Ledbury. It was also narrowed to fit.
The images show John, with Steve Howick, our project manager and dedicated volunteer, and Adam Marriott, our millwright, taking a break from fitting new parts and talking to Norman Walker, a retired gamekeeper who used to live at Wormbridge Mill and who remembers the bolter and rest of the mill machinery in place. He was glad to see it being restored and put back to work, though there is some way to go before fine bolted flour is available for baking.
We have also recently had the benefit of a visit by John Brandrick a great expert in the matter of recording mill structures and machinery. His skills in the art of technical drawings are clearly evident in the picture below which allows us to see in one view all aspects of the mill. John’s work is of exceptional quality and more can be viewed on his very informative website at http://milldrawings.com/
The team has made excellent progress and seems to have enjoyed the job so far. We hope to be ready when the mill has an open day on 14th May at 10.30am.
21st February 2016
Electricity first arrived at Eastnor in 1910 when a generator was installed where the Land Rover Experience centre is now. It was used to power 110 volt lighting circuits, some of which survived until a couple of years ago when we had the chandelier in the Pugin Gothic Drawing Room rewired, not before time, we were told. The old bulbs, with their robust tungsten filaments, produce some light and quite a bit of welcome heat, so they were still fit for purpose if supplemented by more modern lights at a lower level.
We have rewired gradually, introducing three phase in the 1990’s and a stand-by generator, acquired second hand from a local authority, to keep the lights on during power cuts. But the demand for power has risen, with multiple and simultaneous use of hair driers, more by wedding guests than by my wife and daughters, and the installation of a new electric oven, a ten rack Rationale, in the catering kitchen. I admit I have also caught my younger children using an electric fire occasionally in their draughty play room (my mother used to hide electric fires and reserve them for guest use only).
Our last distribution board has run out of capacity, so we are installing a new hager model to meet ongoing needs. The image shows Justin Hill and Jason Blewitt working on the two-day job. The mains and generator supplies are switched off, of course, but there is a temporary generator to supply light and my laptop and office. Justin and his father, Michael, fitted the original distribution board when the three phase came in. The house is unnaturally quiet, apart from the plaintive squeaking of the fire alarm system telling us the power is off. The emergency lighting has worked for the statutory time required and is now rather dim. I am using a head torch to access areas away from natural light. Most of the staff have a day off, though calls are being diverted to the Estate Office. It will be a relief to have the job done and to have a safer system with more capacity.
5th February 2016
In the image, from left to right, are Peter Walker, Stephen Price and Robin Whittaker who have been previously involved in the Worcestershire County Archives, Robin having just retired as the County Archivist, and Hazel Lein, the archivist at Eastnor. The gentlemen, with guidance and assistance from Hazel, have just complete 5 years’ work, at a rate of about one day a month, sifting through and cataloguing deeds that cover among others, land, in the parishes of s of Stoulton, Bransford, Leigh, Castlemorton and Strensham, where our family owned land until it was mostly sold at the beginning of the last century. The reason given for the sale was that the houses and farms had suffered from underinvestment in previous 40 years partly as a result of the Agricultural Depression and probably also because the family diverted the money to other purposes and were not fit to let. They could also make more money by selling off the land to developers especially in the area of the new town of Malvern Link, hence the road names like Somers Park Avenue and Somers Road.
It has been a sometimes slow but for these historians a very exciting task. The original deeds that were still wrapped in the solicitor’s bundles had been placed in six large cupboards in the muniment room. Many of the deeds antedate our ownership of the properties concerned, as well as covering important manorial records. Some of the documents are mediaeval, most on vellum and often the lingua franca seems to be Latin, which Robin can read with ease. But he modestly asserts that that is quite normal for a man of his profession.
They have recorded 3500 items from 67 archive boxes. They have cleaned, sorted indexed and placed everyone in archive quality boxes. They have found deeds relating to various subjects such as houses in Worcester and Droitwich as well as land sold to build Malvern Link Station. There are records of the Worcester Yeomanry’s formation during the Napoleonic Wars, and include a note of a consignment of cutlasses being returned to the Tower of London, then an arsenal, because they were rusty. Attacking an invading Frenchman with a rusty weapon would clearly have been bad for our reputation and possibly not very effective.
Peter, Stephen & Robin have enjoyed the task and been genuinely excited by the chance to view documents that have not seen the light of day for several hundred years. We could not have had a more eminent, knowledgeable, group of experts. Hazel is thrilled to see the project complete, but will miss the fun and the ad hoc tutorials! A note of what we hold will go to the County Archive, and we will allow scholars and other interested parties to inspect the papers on certain conditions. We are very grateful to the team for completing the job.
After our review of what has happened in the 2015 visitor season, when we had about 42,000 through the gates, we have decided to change the layout of our shop and ice cream parlour. Here is an image of Andy Rollins, Andy Thornber and Bob Hayter from our Works Department at the slightly easier demolition stage of the project. They are fitting the work in around the refurbishment of the old Post Office, an attractive building with a thatched roof, at the main entrance to the Castle and Grounds. The new floors went in earlier this week, so there is no access while they are setting.
Buying ice creams and souvenirs is an essential part of the visitor experience, and it now makes sense to combine them by knocking down the temporary partition wall between the two areas. The aim will be to encourage a flow of visitors between the two outlets and streamline the operation while making it easier for visitors to access.
Ice creams sell in almost any weather, but the right sort of sun certainly helps. The parlour is conveniently situated on the way to the playground and to the tea room. We staff it with young people keen for seasonal work. Our shop, which is run by Rachel, who otherwise helps with our in-house catering, is a more complicated business, but not weather dependent. We stock some Eastnor Castle branded souvenirs, post cards and other gifts. At one time we also included remaindered books, which sold rather well, but I think Amazon may have taken that market.
We re-open at Easter when these adjustments will be put to the test. I am confident there will be an improvement, and it will not just be attributable to the weather.
Eastnor Castle, near Ledbury, are celebrating the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland over the Bank Holiday weekend with a specially designed family treasure hunt in the fairytale castle and grounds. The event will take place on Sunday 30th and Monday 31st August.
Visitors will follow in Alice’s footsteps and use a Wonderland map to navigate around the March Hare’s House, The Queen’s Croquet Ground, The Duchess’s House and the Rabbit Hole to find a number of curiosities, solve the riddles and win a prize. There will also be a Mad Hatter’s tea tent with entertainment throughout the day, including garden games for children of all ages.
All the other usual attractions will be available on the day including the maze, adventure playground, Little Off Roaders and entry to the castle.
Gates open at 11.00am to 5.00pm and admission prices for the Castle & Grounds are Adults: £10.00, Children: £6.50 and a Family Ticket (2+3) is priced at £26.50. Discounted tickets are available on-line.
Further details are available on the Eastnor Castle website: www.eastnorcastle.com or call 01531 633160.
20th August 2015
Please kindly note that the A438 which runs past the entrance of Eastnor Castle will be closed from 17th to 21st August. There is no access to the Castle through Hollybush; the best way to approach is from the A449. There are ‘Road Closed’ signs at the turning onto the A438 but access is still available to Eastnor Castle. Please call us on 01531 633160 if you need any further information.
We have made the decision this morning to cancel our Exotic Animals week following feedback posted on our Facebook page.
The Exotic Animal week has always been very well received at Eastnor and was based around educating our visitors about these animals and highlighting the associated conservation issues they face.
However, the enjoyment and safety of our visitors is paramount and on advice received from external agencies we have decided to cancel the event.
We are very sorry to all our visitors who were expecting to attend the Exotic Animal week and anyone who has purchased on-line tickets will be refunded in full.
Sarah Roberts started with us as Sarah Bullock 10 1/2 years ago and will leave us on Friday 17th July. We are very sorry to see her go as she has been in the Eastnor team over an exciting period of change and positive development and has contributed much to our progress in that time.
When Sarah joined us from Challenge Business, the office was still squeezed into one side of the Portcullis, which was not ideal, though in a good position physically to intercept callers and visitors as portcullises traditionally should be. In those days, when we were only just getting our website started, we used to rely heavily on advertising in local newspapers, and so Sarah had a busy time mostly saying ‘no’ to a number of very persistent sales teams, who wanted us to use them every week during the season. Over all this time, she was responsible for producing our print run of annual leaflets for distribution round the area into camp sites, hotels, pubs, shops, other attractions and Tourist Information Centres. Sarah gradually formed an excellent working relationship with our designers and printers at Ad-lib Design Parnership in Worcester and our leaflets are clear and appealing, it seems, standing out well against a lot of competition in the outlets we are able to use.
As we have moved firmly into digital era, Sarah has worked closely with our web site designers and managers, extracting all the information needed from her colleagues in the office and getting it up loaded, including my blogs, which she always tactfully reminds me are due, though the subject of this one is not her choice. Using the internet and a website requires great patience as what is done today is likely to be superseded by some new technology tomorrow, making the old look positively steam age. Mostly, those who have visited our website have liked it and some have enquired who produced it-, and we have had every confidence in Sarah’s ability to distil complaints or ‘suggestions’, so that we only hear about the more important ones. But she has to keep all involved on their toes as the website is now the place where visitors have their first impression of Eastnor and so it is vitally important.
Throughout all this time, Sarah has maintained a heavy pace of work, under even greater pressure after she returned to work part-time from maternity leave. She has been a cheerful and valued member of the Castle Office team, and we will miss her. We are very grateful for all her hard work.
12th July 2015
We are lucky enough to have a lot of weddings at Eastnor. They are usually very happy occasions, though making all the arrangements can sometimes be quite demanding as every ceremony and reception is different. Proposals and engagements are inevitably more private affairs, and if any couples get engaged at Eastnor, we rarely hear about it.
So it was wonderful to learn of the engagement of Gareth Roberts & Rachel White at the recent Midland Rovers Owners Club rally in the Park. The MROC have been coming to Eastnor for over 40 years, but this part of the programme was a first. Gareth persuaded Rachel to drive to part of the park where there is a good view of the Castle and where Land Rover Experience drivers often take a coffee break. He said they were to collect a piece of equipment left there earlier in the Rally, and when they could not find it, he suggested they should wait there for a while and take in the view. Shortly afterwards, the convoy shown in the image appeared and the answer to his question was “Yes”, although the words read from right to left. He gave Rachel a conventional engagement ring supplemented by a special ring in the form of a hexagon nut as Rachel is a Land Rover enthusiast too.
It was all recorded on video and can be seen on You Tube. We wish the couple every happiness, and many more rallies in Eastnor Park. The MROC should be back for the annual Memorial Trial in memory of my father next autumn. I wonder if others will follow Gareth’s romantic lead?
Many thanks to gareth and Rachel for agreeing to this blog and to Russ Brown, Clubs Editor, of Land Rover Owner International for the background information!
23rd June 2015
Our annual vintage weekend, which this year included a celebration of the 100th birthday of our Ransomes traction engine, went well, attracting about 4000 visitors over 2 days. It was a different crowd from the Chilli festival, with many local families turning up whose grandparents and even parents could remember seeing some of the exhibits in their earlier working lives. As we had a nice gathering of original Minis, you did not have to be very old to have seen them running about in their original condition.
There were 2 steam wagons and quite a few steam rollers. We had a hand-driven juvenile carousel – the owner and wheel turner was an impressive 70 years old, but the ride was older. I also exhibited my showman’s van, and it attracted a lot of attention as I allowed the visitors to look around inside and the stove was alight. The tug-of-war proved popular, though the engine at the end of the rope seemed more resistant to slipping on the courtyard gravel and so did rather better than the human team in the end.
A more permanent attraction is our Land Rover Little Off Roaders circuit in the old Kitchen Garden near the visitor entrance. The Land Rovers are battery powered and can be turned off remotely in case of need. They are one or two wheel drive and useful for steering and braking training, if not speed management. The circuit does not have the usual challenges of mud and ruts, but is proving popular nevertheless, and we are lucky that Land Rover itself has sponsored the facility and the vehicles. One day, perhaps, they will be vintage too, but in the meantime they are available to ride most weekends at a small extra cost.
JHB 22nd June 2015