HERSTMONCEUX - GENERATING WORKS
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HISTORIC GEM - Archaeologically, the old Generating Works in Lime Park, is arguably, the most important building in the village, because it is the only surviving example of coal powered, early public supply, in the whole world. Saved from collapse in 1981, this unassuming complex saw the beginning of the new age of electricity at the turn of the last century. In 1900, the only people who could afford Thomas Edison's 'EdiSwan' light bulbs were wealthy landowners. Even then, only a very few could afford batteries to store power. But in Herstmonceux, they had a massive energy store, with a whole unit full of lead plate batteries on shelves, crammed to ceiling height with huge glass cases filled with gallons of sulfuric acid. This is the very first electricity distribution load-levelling arrangement, and the only example surviving anywhere in the world. The picture above is thought to be of the building around 2017. Over the last five years coal and glass have been dug up all over the site, confirming that when decommissioned, the batteries were sometimes smashed and buried on site. Conservation work continues with the reinstatement of the north wing, a section partly removed and partly collapsed before WWII - not visible in this picture.
Once upon a time in the sleepy Sussex village of Herstmonceux, there lived a very amenable German fellow called the Baron Karl von Roemer, who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War One. Karl had an exceptionally brilliant son called Charles, to carry forward his torch. Charles was an Etonian and all-round good-egg.
Before World War One, Charles de Roemer experimented with electrical apparatus, finally, building a series of large wooden houses in the northern corner of his estate for all his clever chums to install machines of wonder, that turned coal into gas, and gas into electricity via a single cylinder gas engine. This was around C. 1898. By 1909 part of his enterprise was included on an Ordnance Survey Map. By 1913, his exploits were recorded in the vicinity, by being included in the local paper. One mention in particular was for giving baking demonstrations using electric cookers. Well, I never! Electric ovens in 1913. Meaning that, the underground cables from Lime Park to Gardner Street, must have been substantial to carry the load. But where are they?
SUSSEX EXPRESS FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10 1913
- HERSTMONCEUX - AGENT FOR THIS PAPER - Mr T. A. Duly.
Because of the stigma of World War One, and former German nationals being treated with suspicion by the likes of the Home Guard (Dad's Army), the family dropped the titles 'Baron' and Von, and became the 'de Roemers.'
Since the name 'Herstmonceux,' or 'Hurstmonceux,' literally means a clearing in the wood - a "Hurst" - made by the "Monceux's," a tribe of French (Gallic) origin, their new name was most suitable. Especially as Charles formed the Eastbourne Aviation Company, and started building seaplanes for the British Royal Navy down on the Crumbles. He was a most enterprising man, but as Baron von Roemer, vis der German namen, the Ministry of Defence might have raised an eyebrow or two.
But for the little village of Herstmonceux, Charles de Roemer sparked up his gas-engine-driven generating plant and provided electricity, night and day, at between 48-56 volts DC, though accounts are somewhat conflicting as to the specifications. There is some mention of 110 volts. By day you would hear the rumble of the gas engine and watch the lights go bright and dim in rhythm with the single cylinder 'National' gas engine (36 horsepower), as the Crompton generator charged the batteries and powered the village, especially the bakery, that boasted loaves cooked by electric machines. At night the gas engine would be switched off, and the local grid switched over to battery power only. That way there was no noise in the evenings and the locals could get a good nights rest.
This is the earliest surviving example of commercial utility load-levelling in the world. Making the modest industrial complex rather more important than competing local developers may have you believe. To underrate the importance of ancient industrial buildings, just because they don't fit in with property developers ideals, to generate higher profits from refurbishments, is like calling Khufu's Pyramid at Giza just a pile of rock in a sandy waste. In our view such attitude is criminal; archaeological heresy.
There is no other building in the village with such a claim to fame. There are of course other listed buildings of various grades, but none that have been put on a Monument Protection Programme, and none with such importance internationally, as evidence of the modern Age of Electricity, that we live in today. Today we are reliant on, electronics, computers and the internet, and now even more so as we convert to electric automobiles from fossil fuels, to combat the man-made climate change crisis - as a matter of some urgency.
In the UK and around the world, 2035 is a target agreed by the Paris Accord in 2015, as such in Europe they are doing their best to phase out petrol and diesel powered coffin makers, halting all such sales. Lithium batteries power most EVs today, with hydrogen fuel cells being forecast as the eventual winner to make use of green hydrogen for Smarter Cities.
The Trust that is charged with the upkeep of the historic site, is not keen to have the building listed. Before the latest round of conservation works, the Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) declined an invitation to list, citing the poor condition of the building - and more than likely, worried that they'd get lumbered with the repair bill. In 2021, having footed the cost of repairs, the latest invitation to list from Historic England, seems more like a recipe for disaster, in suddenly being hit with this and that Orders. Where were they when help was needed?
Historic England (formerly English Heritage) is notoriously behind the curve in keeping up with modern history, their hands being full coping with the thousands of ruins all over the land. There were only 3 buildings in England that were recorded on a survey in 1999 that included electricity. The other two were Rudyard Kipling's house at Burwash (Batemans), that had a small waterwheel driven dynamo to power 10 light bulbs in the house, and Battersea Power Station (1929-1935 and 1955) in London. None of these had any kind of load levelling. And Herstmonceux was the earliest to provide electricity to the public via a network of underground and overhead cables, to qualify as part of the developing National Grid.
RURAL ELECTRICITY SUPPLIES - A National gas engine of 36 horsepower, single cylinder, with a generator clearly visible on the right hand side of the crankshaft. An engine near identical to this one was fitted at Herstmonceux. This one being at Mr de Roemer's aviation factory at the Crumbles, Eastbourne. Famous visitors include: Lord & Lady Gage, Lord & Lady Hailsham and Lord & Lady Shawcross.
As if this was not interesting enough, we really must include a little intrigue, with the somewhat astonishing revelations, that despite WWI and WWII, both wars being fought to protect human freedoms and equality, it seems that local authorities in post war Britain, believed that they could say one thing when fighting against tyranny on the world stage, but act as tyrants in secret session when deciding who might own and develop property locally. No, really, this happened and could still be happening.
The level of hypocrisy is legendary, and you may not believe it at first. For that reason, we have adopted a tongue in cheek approach, to downplay the level of deviousness, or you might not feel safe in your beds. Because for one victim of this regime, he actually was shot dead in his bedroom, at 3:00am in the morning, during an armed raid by Sussex police, based on fabricated evidence.
Now, of course that is not amusing, but we would recommend that in this present case, you should try to see the funny side. Ignoring of course, that the rate payers footed the bill, and it could happen to you. If, that is, we didn't let you know about it. And by the way, we owe you what is called a "Duty of Care." Even if councils believe they are above the law.
It gets better. This is not an isolated incident. In Wealden and many other councils, it is quite common. Some of which stories hit the headlines. Hence, this is not a conspiracy theory. It is a series of facts.
Henry Tudor VIII, may be known to you for his six wives. But did you know he passed statute that made his wishes law? He dispensed with his adversaries using an axe, beheading around 57,000 people at the rate of 4.33 per day during his reign. If he said "off with his head," the head was lopped. No questions asked. You may think that Henry was a bit of a butcher! He created a religion to suit his purposes. The Church of England. That religion helps sustain the present British systems as the Lords Temporal and Spiritual.
Astoundingly, the law has not advanced that much since then in (not so merry) England, despite the Universal Declaration of 1948. We still have no written constitution to give us reliable justice. It is a system that allows the head of state to manipulate the outcome in courts, that are supposed to be independent according to the Declaration. By rewarding judges with knighthoods and allowing them to belong to secret societies, that aid an abet the State's police - this combination takes away their independence with what many see as bribes. And we still have no effective remedy by right. The Magna Carta was toffee, as is our Human Rights Act.
That is why the Pilgrims fled to America in the 'Mayflower,' to escape persecution for their beliefs, in doing so furthering the concept of democracy with a written Compact. The year was 1620. One hundred and more years later in 1776, on the 4th of July, the Declaration of Independence was signed. Six years later the USA was free of British taxation and cruelty. Food for thought!
The Batemanís estate consists of 300 acres of beautiful High Weald Countryside. Set within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this landscape is classically medieval; full of small fields, hedgerows, old trees, abandoned iron ore pits, hidden ponds and magical deserted trackways. Batemans has something in common with Herstmonceux generating station, in both being on the same Monument Protection Programme.
CONSERVATION & LAW
The forerunner to Historic England, English Heritage (EH), were not much help in getting the generating works recognised, sometimes more of an obstacle, clearly siding with Wealden, in seeking to diminish the council's wrong doing, in the form of an epic legal battle because the occupier was not in the village fold. This was/is despite discrimination being illegal as an agenda. No longer maladministration; institutional discrimination becomes malfeasance in public office and a conspiracy. One reason Wealden shred inconvenient documents, that should be retained on file. This is quite a serious criminal offence as it turns out, if the perpetrators get caught destroying evidence. Perhaps policy makers should take a closer look at such goings on, as this may go some way to explaining the considerable number of historic buildings being lost every year. We need stronger whistle-blowing laws. Perhaps a digital twin of every local authority, to help prevent corrupt practices.
All this was despite a Monuments At Risk Survey (MARS). There should be a zero-trust policy, with councils being the first needing to prove the legality of their intentions - and facts checked, that are presented by councils. Generally, EH and the courts side with sometimes devious officials who are actually nursing untruths and hiding inconvenient evidence - and crucially - not declaring their interests at meetings. Such deception costs the UK in the long term, raises taxes for honest citizens as councils seek to defend the indefensible, and brings the country into disrepute justice wise, contrary to SDGs 16 and 17.
Now getting back to our story (but bear in mind the above), in or around 1936, the Weald Supply Company took over the network in Herstmonceux, going over to 220 volts and alternating current, according to Seeboard Magazie. 1936 was the last time the 'National' gas engine ran in Herstmonceux, and that was to ensure that compensation was paid to Charles de Roemer for his role in promoting electricity. Then came World War Two.
Preparations for the War, included building a double skinned bomb shelter into the side of a hill, adjacent to the coal bunker, also built into a hillside. The roof of the bomb shelter has substantial girders encased in concrete. While the remainder of the building is brick.
At the same time, or a few years before, it is thought that the generating building was encased in corrugated iron. This was later to be the cause of much confusion on the part of the local authority, who were unaware of this fact, playing on what they thought at that time was the original construction method. They did not realise that the building was timber framed and match-boarded, originally. For, they never took the time to investigate for fear of being unable to continue arguing their lie. Nor would they refer the matter to the County Archaeologist, or English Heritage - even though Government Circulars said they should. They knew that if they followed the correct procedure, they would be forced to admit the history - and get this - would at that time have been liable to give a grant to the occupier, for such restorations. This is called a loss of opportunity, that opportunity, they would deny to the then owner, as you will see, hoping to give it to someone else, as per outrageously discriminatory practices.
Finally, amidst a cloud of obfuscation generated by WC, to hide their secret agenda, Archaeology South East a subdivision of London University, were commissioned to provide an independent survey and report, as to what the extant building actually was. Barbara and David Martin acted like a time team, measuring and recording what evidence they could in a few short hours in September 1999. The shocking conclusion was that the handyman had been right all along. The extant building was the original generating works. Even so, some devious council officers refused to accept the facts, continuing to spread disinformation to cover their tracks.
Now you may think all of this was simply a misunderstanding and a big mistake, but sadly, it appears not. It appears that officers of this Council, were deliberately concealing inconvenient evidence, to be able to pursue a eugenics agenda, and that this (secret) programme extended to many people in the locality who like the handyman in Lime Park, lived low carbon lifestyles, where the Council's goal was and is to build an empire based on high rate-able values, and investment in oil companies, for pensions, and economic growth. Hence, anyone living in a mobile home became a target for ruthless enforcement, literally by way of Gestapo style raids. Having defeated the Nazis, British civil servants, it seems, decided to take over from where the Huns had left off.
2021 - The Battersea power station development is valued at £1.6 billion according to media sources, funded by Malaysian investors, now in 2021 with units available for residential occupation.
By 1981, the generating buildings were in danger of collapse, with many of the internal partitions rotted away as earth and flora had bridged the slate damp-proof courses. The building was actually leaning, like the famous Tower at Pizza.
Lime Park had been sold many times over, and divided up into smaller parcels of land as property developers swooped in for the kill. One of which was Wickens Estates. Lime House was divided into four terraces and the former stable converted to a very pleasing house and courtyard, with the former southern gatehouse (grade II listed) becoming a separate property. The gatehouse at the other end of the service road was demolished, with the insensitivity to archaeological preservation that the Parish Council has become infamous for.
So it was that in 1981, number 4 Lime Park saw a new owner divide off the generating complex, as being a liability, rather than as asset. And indeed it was a liability in the state it was. Fortunately, the engineer who purchased the site was also a handyman. Such that in very short order, the main structure had been shored up and all the sycamore trees that were causing significant damage to the historic remains, were mostly removed. Even this essential husbandry was resisted by local officials, rather than applauded by Herstmonceux Parish and Wealden District Council. These councils actually tried to prevent works that most councils would want taken care of on an urgent basis, under the good husbandry umbrella. They lumbered the site with a hefty Tree Preservation Order. This runs counter to the duty of all local authorities to protect historic buildings from the encroachment of flora. Hence, this was an unlawful act on their part, an abuse of authority and public office. One of many in a concerted attack.
For some reason, the council officers and members, appeared not to fear prosecution. You might be wondering why that might be? The answer is that they had protection from the police. What arrangement they had to grant such immunity is unclear. But is is unlawful not to investigate a crime. The only way the police would turn a blind eye, is because their officers are immune from prosecution also. When Chris Sherwood shot the unarmed James Ashley, he was not prosecuted by the State (CPS), though clearly guilty of manslaughter, at the very least.
Wealden District lawyers got around their 'duty' to protect archaeology, by instructing their Councillors not to reveal or admit to the history, when their planning officials would also bury this information, so as not to alert the Country Archaeologist or the then 'English Heritage' to their ploy. The aim was to disenfranchise the then occupier at any cost to the taxpayer. Despite discrimination being unlawful, under the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They calculated that the occupier would not know about his rights or planning law, and unfortunately for the poor fellow, they were right. He was but a babe in the woods, they were the bloodthirsty wolves, baying for a kill. They thought it was going to be a Turkey shoot.
They would teach him a lesson as to who controlled land in Sussex. It's something akin to a power complex, only with benefits. A fat, juicy, pension - and a golden handshake, for remaining silent.
Armed with unlimited taxes so as to be able to instruct the best London barristers, Wealden, supported by Herstmonceux Parish Council (in keeping Mum as to the history) rained down over 186 recorded enforcement visits from 1987 to 1999, a prosecution in the Magistrates Court (that rebounded as a quashing in the Crown Court), and around five High Court actions aimed at gaining injunctions and costs. This, despite the quashing in the Lewes Crown Court, making it clear their enforcement notice from 1986 was defective. But all of these actions were based on a deliberate deception. And for those of you who only know a little of the law, fraud unravels all. As does malfeasance in public office. Deception as to land value or material considerations, constitutes fraud.
The aim of so many actions, was designed to accrue costs orders, gain local land charges, and finally, having drained their target financially, to pursue bankruptcy proceedings, to be able to secure the premises for their preferred occupier. In this case, it is alleged, for his neighbours, Peter and June Townley. As we say (incredibly) with the backing of many local politicians, at least one of which later admitted voting for renewed enforcement, even though he knew the planning officers were lying about the history of the building. He said he was voting to please the officers and other members, to get his feet under the table. He claimed it was common practice, in seeking to apologize for not standing up to be counted. He said he was "not proud of his actions." Repent oh ye sinner and you will be forgiven your sins.
SERVICES - Unusually, the Generating Works is the only building in the village served by three roads. The other properties in Lime Park have north and south access roads, with the southern access feeding off Church Road. While the northern access feeds from the A271 entrance (popularly) to the cricket grounds and tennis courts, etc. Whereas, the Generating Works has a third access, from Lime Cross (also known locally as Suicide Junction) heading for the coal bunker to the rear of the building. These service roads are important features historically and must be preserved for posterity. The car in the picture is electric, by the way. We will all be driving clean one day, with a bit of luck. Sporty too this one, a BMW i3, 170 horsepower and made of carbon fibre. This model with an onboard generator, as a range extender.
PLEASE NOTE: There is no access for ordinary (public) traffic, this is a private road (right of way) for services to Lime Park.
The local authorities miscalculated as to the staying power of some individuals and the long term effect that the revelation of their dastardly deeds would leave as a legacy - an indelible stain on their administration. Not unlike Margaret Thatcher and Boris Johnson's forced departures. Most people would have given up after just a couple of legal encounters, and just one marriage Gone With The Wind. But our protagonist in this at times unbelievable - but true tale - dug deep into the trenches of legal caselaw and planning policy guidance, aiming for the long haul. He hoped that eventually the truth of the matter would be revealed, since DNA, in this case physical evidence contained in the structure, does not lie - and so would eventually prove his case.
Other evidence surfaced from time to time, first with Ronald Saunders in June of 1997, then with Margaret Pollard in 2005. Ron Saunders was a gardener, whose father Albert was the chief engineer in charge of the generating machinery. Margaret's father, William Green, was chauffeur to Lady and Charles de Roemer, driving them to functions in an Armstrong Siddeley limousine. Both in person witnesses were kind enough to share their memories of life in Herstmonceux between the wars. With our grateful thanks.
You may have concluded from the above, that there was a lot more local knowledge, and that the Parish Councillors in particular, would have similar recollections, but were rather shamefully staying silent. Yes, it is shameful, and also a Joint Enterprise, each as guilty as the perpetrators of the original deception.
The protagonist in this story also knew that it was his closest neighbours who were the antagonists, where they were interested in purchasing his property, at times openly saying so, even generating false actions to gain costs orders - exactly as the council were doing. There is nothing wrong with making an offer to buy something. There is everything wrong with conspiring with others as to sustain an undervalue, based on an unlawful campaign.
You should know that the nasty neighbours concerned no longer live in or around Herstmonceux, though in 2022, a potential party wall dispute began, no notice having been served as to excavations. So, other than the immediate neighbour situation, think kindly of those in Lime Park today, they were not to blame for those decades. Whereas, it is unclear just how many of the perverse politicians and civil servant miscreants from times past, remain in office in the Wealden or other council areas.
There is no other way of looking at it. Libel laws prevent us from telling anything but the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Everything we are publishing about this important historic building is accurate, supported by documentary evidence. The perpetrators have had the opportunity to challenge such statements (of fact) and failed to do so. Thus admitting their wrongdoing. But still failing to provide an apology, or other Just Satisfactions.
These thugs knew exactly what they were doing. It was fully planned and executed, not with the slightest chance of a mishap. They worked with Sussex police and other agencies to maximize pressure, attacking from all sides, to mentally pummel their victim with SLAPP actions, where many would have succumbed to suicidal thoughts - and no doubt this had crossed their minds more than once or twice. Or maybe, such notions drove them on. Think twice then, about moving into Herstmonceux. Ye be warned!
NORTH LODGE - This is the entrance from the A271, Hailsham Road. North Lodge was the gatehouse at the other end of the service road to Lime Park. In their wisdom, the Parish Council allowed yet another historic building to be destroyed for rabbit-hutch housing. It is as if their agenda is to wipe out all traces of interesting buildings from the village, and turn it into a housing estate, just another area to milk for taxes. Heaven help the Castle, just a mile away outside the village. And what of the community infrastructure levies from these developments? Don't ask. Would you believe Wealden have been investing your taxes in fossil fuel companies. What with petrol and diesel fuels set to be phased out. You can imagine where the CIL payments are going. These civil servants have fat pensions to worry about! They don't care about the infrastructure these levies should be going to. You only have to look at the potholes to see that. Or would they care to counter?
That said, we are most keen that the political skullduggery should not detract from the history of the industrial complex, which is more important than who owns or controls what - and how much money they are going to make with a quick development. Given that it is only when a preferred developer has his hands on the deeds, that planning favours might then be traded. Then, and only then would all the objections to restorations suddenly evaporate, as if there had never been a problem. That is how it works folks. Typically!
As we write, the world's only surviving wooden electricity distribution station, has no reasonable or beneficial use. The Trust who is the deemed owner from long occupation, is seeking a use to generate an income for the upkeep of what is quite a sizeable roof area, with weed encroachment and grass to cut, etc. The Charleston Trust, faced a similar problem during Covid-19.
Fortunately, the building endures and will do so long after the antagonists are dead and gone. But only because of the staying power of the protagonist. Those good deeds should be remembered, clear of the mist of antagonistic negatives. Save that it would make a cracking novel, or even a film script. An Agatha Christie style who-dunnit, without Hercule Poirot. Or a Downton Abbey style TV series.
Interestingly, housing development continued all around this site, planning consents being handed out liberally. It is as if the Parish and District councils had not realised what they were doing, is building a case of institutionalised discrimination for their victim - with every consent that they gave in this geographical location. It is not "each case on it's own merit," as many council officials would say as part of their justification repertoire to committees. A collective, as any analyst will tell you, reveals a pattern. And that pattern is clear and impossible to erase, for any prosecutor in the future to seek an explanation from those in the witness box on oath. There is no statutory limitation on such crimes.
HERITAGE VIEW - A familiar sight to walkers in Herstmonceux, but the building in the distance is one of the most important surviving generating buildings in the world, because of the load-levelling of the public electricity supply, using a large battery store. An added complication, that most municipal installations lacked. But this feature is essential in the fight against climate change. Where renewable supplies are not constant, so need buffering, a bit like a large capacitor is used to smooth current flow in electrical circuits. We need to protect this unique example of rural electrification, so many years ahead of its time in terms of the technology applied to solve, what was at the time a noise problem.
POTENTIAL FUTURE UNESCO CONTENDER - See: Margaret Pollard's memories of Herstmonceux 2005, London University survey 1999, and Ronald Saunders statement July 1997, if you like reading in-person historical accounts. The generating works is seen here in 2014. Note, that in this picture, the north wing has been taken down. This is now partially re-instated.
TIME STANDS STILL FOR NO MAN
Technology is moving at such a pace, that we may now expect to see robotically operated autonomous vehicles, that literally drive themselves. These are called robotaxis and robotrucks. With solar and wind power replacing coal and nuclear, the world may finally have a chance at creating a circular economy based on renewable electricity and hydrogen storage. How will Historic England respond to that? Will they protect petrol and diesel pumping stations. How many have they earmarked so far as potential sites to be protected? None, we bet! But that does not stop us mentioning it.
Once day we might not need civil servants or local councillors. Anti-corruption programs might run cloud based councils, strictly applying the correct algorithms, to actually plan for housing and essential services, approve and decline planning applications. Such AI, might plan to save historic buildings, and provide affordable homes for a sustainable Britain - to combat climate change - and balance the books. Where will all those committee members get their jollies from then! They might actually have to work for a living.
LINKS & REFERENCE
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