As an example of how electricity supplies developed prior to the introduction of the National Grid, “The Old Steam House” is a rare survivor indeed.  The building’s original architecture remains (save for the boiler room) to show Industrial Archaeologists in years to come how supplies were implemented in this location. The impact of the installation upon the rural landscape has survived almost intact for over 100 years and is as interesting evidence of a time of change.  The building remains a lasting reminder of how an enthusiastic entrepreneur expanded his private facility, to provide electricity to the otherwise isolated village of Herstmonceux and for much more than just street lighting, in true pioneering spirit.  Herstmonceux would not be complete without it.


That the building survives, is almost as interesting as the characters who occupied it.  The estate survives largely unaltered, except for extensions to East Lodge and 1 Lime Park, and the conversion of the Stables in the 1950's, for use by the local Rector as a Rectory (now The Old Rectory).  The grouping of the generating station within Lime Park is as important as the position of Lime Park in relation to the nearby village it supplied.  It is local opinion that the generation initiated by the Baron de Roemer and carried on by his son Charles was a Sussex first.  This however, is speculative and is the subject of ongoing research.






The Old Steam House coal bunkers 1983




All manner of questions arise from this discovery.  What became of the family von Roemer?  A whole host of interesting detail remains to be unraveled.  But, one thing is for certain, we have the frame of a valuable jigsaw puzzle upon which to build on our knowledge of technological achievement of days gone by and the way in which the inhabitants of a relatively isolated village came to terms with advances in technology.  In its own way this was a social experiment which by the recording of the events, we are lucky enough to be able to see today.


Electricity generation and its use by Consumers in the immediate area would have experienced commercial fluctuations.  The changeover from D.C. supply to A.C. supply being probably the greatest, causing its own transitional problems concurrent with absorption of the Enterprise into the National Grid.


The gradual spread of electricity in this way heralded the dawning of the modern age of electricity we currently enjoy.  In 1995 English Heritage, concerned at the disappearance of evidence of our industrial past, commissioned a Monument Protection Programme.  In 1998 Step 2 of the MPP included The Old Steam House, along with Batemans as the only two entries for East Sussex.  Step 4 of this Report identified The Old Steam House, recommending protection via the planning process in accordance with local policies.  In April of 2004 thethen occupier renewed approaches to his local authority, who were unaware of the Step 4 conclusions.  Subsequently, it was agreed that the local authority would take an active interest in the site, with a view to conserving local history.


There is much work to be done to complete this particular puzzle.  The writer will appreciate any and all input, which may assist in the recording of this find.  If you know anything of this building or can help in any way with newspaper clippings, documents, photographs, or personal recollection, please make contact on +44 (0)1323-831727 or write c/o The Old Steam House, Lime Park, Herstmonceux, E. Sussex, BN27 1RF, United Kingdom.


Alternatively, please see the contact page on this site for an email address.  We are particularly keen to obtain photographs of the building or machinery for publication on this site.  Please help us if you can.  Credit will be given for all contributions.






Herstmonceux Electricity Generating Works Circa. 1900 - 1936



Introduction  |  Instructions  |  ISBN  |  Batteries  |  Boiler Room   |  Floor Plan  |  Ron Saunders


Industrial Revolution  |   Lime Park  |  Machinery  |  Map  |  Power House  |  Argus 1999


Public Supply  |  Roof Construction  |  Rural SupplySussex Express 1913  |  Conclusion


Archaeology South East   |   East Sussex CC  |  English HeritageSIAS  |  Sx Exp 1999


Memories of Herstmonceux by Margaret Pollard






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