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Discovering hidden technology at Tatton Park

By Caroline Eadsforth

Sheep meeting the park ranger’s Land Rover at the gate to the Mill House enclosure.  © National Trust/Tatton Park/Cheshire East Council/Caroline Eadsforth

Sheep meeting the park ranger’s Land Rover at the gate to the Mill House enclosure. © National Trust/Tatton Park/Cheshire East Council/Caroline Eadsforth

Earlier this year, when Tatton was covered with a blanket of snow, Dr Ian West, an industrial archaeologist from the University of Leicester, explored the estate for the remains of early systems of technology. His investigation took us to parts of the estate which are off the beaten track and to parts of the mansion and service buildings which are not seen by visitors or even by many members of staff!

Ian’s investigations at Tatton have looked at water supplies, heating, electric lighting and many more aspects of country house technology. He believes that Tatton was at the forefront of technological innovation. Steam power was particularly important and was integral to many aspects of technology here, not just providing heating but also refrigeration, laundry and transport!

Ice House in the parkland.  © Dr Ian West.

Ice House in the parkland. © Dr Ian West.

This Ice House is hidden in a bank of earth, rather like the home of a Hobbit. Located next to the ice house is Ice Pond. Ice was cut from ponds like these in the winter and stored in ice houses on the estate. The ice was not pure enough to use in drinks, but would have been used for refrigeration.

Mill House, Tatton Park.  © Dr Ian West.

Mill House, Tatton Park. © Dr Ian West.

Tatton’s primary water supply was pumped to the house from this water mill approximately 1.5km away. The present mill is thought to date from the mid-nineteenth century, but it is probable that a mill has stood on or near this site for several centuries. The high wall that the mill is attached to forms a dam for a large mill pond on the other side.

‘No Access’ sign on the Mill House.   © National Trust/Tatton Park/Cheshire East Council/Caroline Eadsforth

‘No Access’ sign on the Mill House.© National Trust/Tatton Park/Cheshire East Council/Caroline Eadsforth

An iron water wheel inside the mill drove two water pumps, one on either side of the wheel. The wheel now drives a modern pump which supplies water to the gardens.

Visitors to the Mansion can find out about the project to date in an autumn exhibition running from 14th September to 27th October 2013. Normal opening times and charges apply.

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