The Country House Technology Project

The owners of country houses, together with the vast army of staff they employed, formed the background of much rural society until  at least 1914. From the 18th century, many technological innovations (such as gas and electric light, bells and telephones, piped water supplies, heating systems and sanitation) became available but the isolated nature of many country estates meant that country-house owners were usually unable to take advantage of public utilities and had to be self-sufficient in adopting these advances, with considerable effect on their estates, buildings and their workforce.

Waddesdon Manor
Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire - built for Ferdinand de Rothschild 1874-83, containing all the latest conveniences
Whilst many country house estates implemented such changes, others did not and continued to rely on older and often more labour-intensive technologies until the First World War forced change on landowners; an assessment of motivation for change is a key aspect of this research project. The decline of many country houses in the early 20th century means that considerable physical evidence has survived, showing  the impact of technological innovation on the building fabric, landscape of the estate and artefacts within the house, which the project team of Professor Marilyn Palmer and Dr Ian West are using to assess how these changes affected the social structure of the country house and its household in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

This project was funded in part by The Leverhulme Trust

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