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Site   The Old Steam House, Lime Park, Herstmonceux, East Sussex                                NGR   TQ 6365 1223

                Project Ref  1146                Date of Survey  29/9/99                               This  revision  30/9/99






(Centred at TQ 6365 1223)






Project REF. 1146



by David Martin FSA IHBC MIFA


Barbara Martin AIFA




The report which follows was commissioned by Andrew Woodcock, County Archaeologist for East Sussex.  The brief was to carry out a rapid inspection of The Old Steam House, Lime Park, Herstmonceux, with the aim of ascertaining as far as possible how much of the original fabric of the two-gabled part of the building survives, and to identify clues as to its original form.  The survey excluded any evidence for plant, unless forming part of the standing elements of the structure.

The inspection was carried out by David and Barbara Martin, Historic Buildings Officers with Archaeology South-East, University College London, on Wednesday 29th September 1999 and was limited to three-and-a-half hours on site.  


The Old Steam House is centred at grid reference TQ 635 1223, approximately 150 metres to the north of the house known as Lime Park. And immediately to the north-west of a dwelling now called ‘The Old Rectory’.  It comprises a complex of attached single-storeyed tin clad structures, part aligned with its roof ridges running NE-SE (for convenience hereafter assumed to be N-S) and part aligned with its roof ridge running SE-NW (for convenience hereafter assumed to be E-W) – other sections have gently sloping mono-pitched roofs.  That part of the complex which forms the subject of this present report forms the northern element of the building as it currently stands and consists of a single block covered by two adjoining parallel roofs, both with their ridges running north-south (figure 2).  Formerly, there was a further range attached to the north of the complex, but only the foundations of this now survive.  


Interpretation of the structure was based upon a visual inspection and (apart from removing two small areas of loose coverings) included no intrusive techniques.  Externally the majority of the walls and all the roofs are clad in corrugated tin, whilst internally below roof level most of the constructional details of the walls are today masked by modern sheet claddings.  Only within a small area of the north wall is a section of framing

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Site   The Old Steam House, Lime Park, Herstmonceux, East Sussex                                NGR   TQ 6365 1223

                Project Ref  1146                Date of Survey  29/9/99                               This revision  30/9/99


Visible.  With the exception of the roof trusses and purlins, most of the constructional detail within the attic areas is masked by original boarding.  Only within the southern gable of the western roof and small areas where boarding within the roof slopes is missing is any constructional detail visible.  These factors greatly hindered assessment of the extent of the original fabric and interpretation of the structures sequence of development and original form.  These restraints should be borne in mind when considering the findings presented below.  


The building is not shown on the 1899 25” O.S. plan surveyed in 1872/3 and fully revised in 1898 (O.S. Sussex Sheet 56/11 – 2nd Edition).  A building is indicated upon the site by 1909 (Ibid 3rd Edition) but this scale only c.8.00 metres east-west x c4.00 metres north-south (excluding a small southward projection at the eastern end): the core section of the surviving building measures 11.75 metres x 6.25 metres.  In addition to this size variation, the building depicted on the 1909 O.S. plan is shown with a much larger gap than now between it and the adjacent Old rectory, whilst its rear (northern) wall is shown further south than that of the present building.  Even allowing for inaccurate surveying, the number of variations between the 1909 depiction and the present building make it all but certain that the 1909 representation is of a building which pre-dated the present structure.

No later editions of the relevant 25” O.S. plan (showing revisions of between 1910 and 1940) were readily available at the time this report was written, and thus it is not currently known when the present building was first depicted on the 25” O.S. plans.  However, a report in the Sussex Express for October 10th 1913 states:-

“Few villages of the size of Herstmonceux can boast of being so up to date as to have electricity installed, not only in the streets, but also in the private houses.  This was made possible by the enterprise of Mr C W von Roemer [the owner of Lime Park], who by his electric plant supplies electricity by motor.

During the week demonstrations in cooking by electricity have been given… and Mr von Roemer has generously offered to fit an electric stove in any house in the parish free, and to make a charge of 11/2d [per] unit for the use of the electricity.  Many people in the village have already accepted the offer, and the results obtained by this new means of cooking are very satisfactory”  [Quote supplied by Nelson Kruschandl, via Andrew Woodcock].

There can be no doubt from the physical evidence of the bases and pits for former electricity-generating plant remaining on site, of artefacts relating to electricity generation, and from the signed affidavit of Ronald Saunders whose father worked the plant and who remembers the equipment in situ, that the electricity generating plant referred to in the

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Site   The Old Steam House, Lime Park, Herstmonceux, East Sussex                                NGR   TQ 6365 1223

                Project Ref  1146                Date of Survey  29/9/99                               This revision  30/9/99

1913 newspaper article was located within the building which is the subject of this present report.  Although a precise date for the building is not possible based on the typological evidence, the surviving architectural details are entirely consistent with an early-20th-century date.  It therefore seems fair to suggest that the building shown on the 1909 25” O.S. plan was purposely rebuilt in or a little before 1913 in order to house the electricity generating plant.  As will be noted below, some alterations (currently not entirely understood) were made to thee building subsequently.  


The section of building which forms the subject of this present report is a rectangular structure measuring 11.75 metres (38’6”) east-west and 6.25 metres (20’6”) north-south.  It is single storeyed and is covered by two parallel roofs aligned north-south and divided by a central valley.  There is today an attic floor supported by joists inserted during the 1990s, though these replaced a loosely-laid earlier attic floor [pers. Comm. Nelson Kruschandl].  The visible structural evidence suggests that this earlier floor was not original and that the building was initially open to its roof.  The storey height from floor to underside of the tiebeam is 2.73 metres (9’0”).

As far as can be seen from  the visible evidence, this section of the building is entirely of timber stud construction built off a brick ground wall.  Horizontal rails are morticed and tenoned (joints pegged) between the studs in order to carry vertical internal and external boarding.  The boards, where they survive, are beaded.  Most of the studwork and noggings are 104mm x 52mm (4” x 2”) scantling, but incorporated into the walls are heavier studs 104mm x c.225mm (4” x 9”) [only one of these (in the north wall) was visible: Nelson Kruschandl knows others exist}.  A small area of structural detail is visible at the north-western corner, and here there is no corner post, but instead a series of heavy horizontal noggings have been roughly sawn through and clearly formerly extended westwards.  They still support external boarding identical to that elsewhere in the building.  Insufficient is visible to ascertain why the wall detail is varied at this point, but the westward extension is known to have formed part of a now-demolished range which stood to the north.  Although it would need to be confirmed by intrusive investigation, it would appear from the available evidence that this northern range of building was of the same date as that section which forms the subject of this report.

Both sections of roof within that part of the building here under investigation are of  similar construction, but with some minor variations in detail (see figure 4 and below).  They are framed in three bays and have studwork gables to north and south.  They are of textbook kingpost construction with splay-cut jowls at the base of the posts (to support struts) and similar jowls at the head (carrying the inset principal rafters).  The principal rafters and purlins are exposed to view, but the common rafters which the purlins carry are hidden from view by beaded under-boarding identical to that used on the walls.  Investigation

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Site   The Old Steam House, Lime Park, Herstmonceux, East Sussex                                NGR   TQ 6365 1223

                Project Ref  1146                Date of Survey  29/9/99                               This revision  30/9/99


through small broken areas allow the constructional details to be ascertained.  There are no wallplates, but instead the common rafters are carried over the backs of the lower tier of purlins.  In addition, there is a central line of purlins.  At the head the common rafters meet at a ridgeboard.  The common rafters are set at approximately 660mm centres.  Located centrally within each slope of each bay within the western roof is an (apparently original) rooflight.  These are an identical number of rooflights within the eastern roof, but these are located less symmetrically.

Some original joinery details still survive.  The external and internal boarding and the rooflights have already been mentioned.  In the northern gable of the western roof is a shuttered hatch.  The shutter is top hung, opens inwards and was operated from the ground by a pulley (still extant).  In the southern gable of the same roof and within the northern gable of the eastern roof survive original four-pane windows, and there is another original window towards the eastern end of the northern ground-floor wall.  Many of the openings retain their moulded architraves, whilst the ground-floor window also retains external architraves.

The ground floors contain evidence in the form of plinths, pits and ducts as to the original form of the power plant, but these are beyond the scope of the present report.  In the main, the floor within the western part is of flag stones (interrupted by plant pits etc and at one point made good where a machine base has been removed),  whilst the eastern part is of concrete.  Between the two is an infilled internal ramp which allowed access to the eastern and western rooms.  The eastern concrete floor incorporates a 160-170mm upstand along its eastern and southern sides, together with a drain-down gully in the south-west corner and a raised plinth in the north-east corner.  According to Ron Saunder’s signed affidavit, when he knew the building this area was used to house accumulators.

There is some structural evidence to hint that the section of building under investigation is of two phases of construction, though if so the two phases are of very similar date.  The evidence, which is found both in the constructional details and in the building’s design, is not conclusive.  The variations in constructional details are slight, but may be significant.  The joints to the roof trusses within the eastern roof are pegged, though those within the western roof are not, whilst in the western roof the struts meet the principle rafters in line with the central purlins, whereas within the eastern roof they joint into the principle rafters above the central purlins.  The design anomalies are more puzzling.  Although the two roofs run parallel to one another (being separated by a central valley) they are of different spans and heights – the overall span of the western roof is 5.50 metres (18’0”) compared with 6.25 metres (20’6”) for the eastern roof.  If of one period, this would only make sense if there was an internal partition beneath the central valley, but such an interpretation is not supported by the surviving evidence – the widest room was beneath the narrowest pitch and encroached in to the eastern roof pitch.  Taken together these two pieces of evidence suggest that the structure was built in two phases and that when the addition was made the internal layout was modified.  Unfortunately, because the structural detail is not visible,

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Site   The Old Steam House, Lime Park, Herstmonceux, East Sussex                                NGR   TQ 6365 1223

                Project Ref  1146                Date of Survey  29/9/99                               This revision  30/9/99


The evidence to confirm or deny this hypothesis is not currently available.  If the structure is indeed of two phases, then it is the eastern section which is the earlier part, for the two tiebeams which cross the building east-west are each formed from two timbers (one to the eastern roof and one to the western roof).  These two sections of timber extend past one another and are joined together by means of three bolts.  In both instances the eastern section of tiebeam terminates in line with the valley, whereas the western section projects by some distance into the eastern roof.  There are slight traces of stain on the side faces of the eastern tiebeams, a little from the end, possibly indicating the ghost of a removed wall.  Given the doubts, for convenience both elements of the section of building under investigation are deemed to have been constructed during phase 1, but the eastern (possibly earlier part) will be referred to as being phase1A and the western (possibly later part) as phase 1B (figure 2).

Interpretation of the internal layout is hampered by the degree to which the structural details are hidden.  One alteration causes no problems, having been made during the last five years or so.  This involved removing the wall between the western room and central service ramp and replacing it by a new wall some distance to the west, thereby narrowing the western room and widening the central area [pers. comm. Nelson Kruschandl – compare figures 3A and 3B].  The line of the earlier wall is clearly visible as a stain on the tiebeams.  If the structure is indeed of two main phases, then even this earlier wall may have dated from phase 1B, replacing a phase 1A running beneath the western end of the eastern tiebeams.  There is some slight staining on the side of the phase-1A tiebeams to support this conclusion, but the evidence is far from conclusive.

There is structural evidence to show that there has been modification to the layout within the eastern part of the building.  A heavy structural post in the northern wall and located approximately beneath the ridge line of the eastern roof is notched for a heavy (c150mm x c. 310mm) bearer running north-south immediately beneath the tiebeams.  Although, now hidden, there is a corresponding post in the south wall [pers. comm. Nelson Kruschandl].  The line of the bearer is shown as a stain on the underside of the southern tiebeam – the soffit of the northern tiebeam is masked by later work.  Further, the marks of a light fitting on the southern tiebeam are located centre span between the stain left by the bearer and the eastern wall.  As additional proof, the southern upstand on the concrete floor is made good on the line of the removed bearer.  Given this evidence, there can be little doubt that the removed bearer formed the headplate of a now lost partition (figure3C).  What is clear from the evidence contained within the structural ground floors is that the modified layout as shown in figure 3B belonged to the period when the building was still in use for the generation of electricity.

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Site   The Old Steam House, Lime Park, Herstmonceux, East Sussex                                NGR   TQ 6365 1223

                Project Ref  1146                Date of Survey  29/9/99                               This revision  30/9/99



Attached to the north of the section under investigation, and projecting slightly to the west, was a second attached building or range.  This has been demolished, though its foundations and plant bases still survive.  From the structural evidence visible at the north-western corner of the surviving building (see above) this demolished range appears to have been contemporary with the surviving phase-1B section.  Attached to the south wall of the section under consideration is a further building or range, roofed east-west and apparently representing an addition to the main part made whilst the building was still in use as an electricity generating station.  Beyond this to east and south are later ‘flat roofed’ additions (figure 2).  At the extreme southern end of the complex is a ‘faggot store’: located upon the site of a building shown on the 1909 25” O.S. plan and may incorporate some external brickwork of that period.  


Despite alterations to the original internal layout, there can be little doubt that much of the original structure still survives.  Despite some minor modifications, the roof structure and internal finishings within the roof void remain largely intact.  Regarding the external walls, the west wall has been completely rebuilt during the last 10 years, but although elsewhere within the external walls little of the structural evidence is visible, the survival of early external boarding beneath the later corrugated coverings indicate that most of the early structure still remains.  To judge from the small area exposed (which shows evidence of a lost partition) this hidden detail will contain much information which would allow the development of the building to be better understood.  Likewise, although excluded from the present report, the floors contain much significant surviving evidence.

It will be clear from the contents of this report that, although the building was in use for the generation of electricity over a relatively short time between 1909x1913 [O.S. plan and newspaper report] c.. 1925 [sworn affidavit says about 1920, but from other evidence probably nearer 1930] the plant appears to have developed and expanded during that period.  The generation of electricity lies outside the competence of the present writers, but it is interesting to note that the 1913 newspaper article refers to the generation of electricity ‘by motor’ whereas the sworn affidavit relating to the plant late in its life refers to generation by steam engine.  Was the take-up by the local community sufficient to require an initial small-scale operation to be considerably enlarge and improved, thus accounting for the apparent major expansion hinted by the architectural remains?

This present report is limited to an investigation of the standing remains of one part of the surviving complex ad is entirely dependant upon the visible evidence.  The significance of the remains which survive lies outside the scope of this document.


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Herstmonceux (Museum) Electricity Generating Works Circa. 1900 - 1936


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


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


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


Archaeology South East   |   East Sussex CC  |  English HeritageSIAS





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