The Woodland Barn before and after restoration
Work began on the £1.6m project to restore the 17th centry watermill and outbuildings in January 2009. The official opening took place in April of 2010 with the great great grandson of the last Mrs Portman of Hestercombe House, Viscount de Vesci, cutting the ribbon to celebrate the turning of the watermill for the first time in a hundred years.
This dramatic phase in the restoration of the estate provides an invaluable hands-on educational experience showing visitors how a historic property was renovated and restored demonstrating historic and modern energies working side-by-side.
A collection of energy sources dating from Victorian and Edwardian times are showcased in the Dynamo House and Mill Room. The water wheel itself is an over-shot wheel having been restored by leading mill wright, Martin Watts.
The energy generated is used for demonstrations in the adjacent Mill Room to crush apples, grind corn and cut timber - activities that have all been prominent on the Estate over the centuries.
Hydro power from the water wheel is also powering the restored 1895 turbine that originally generated electricity for the Hestercombe Estate. The electricity was stored in glass batteries, many of which were unearthed during the development work.
The Dynamo House
The Dynamo House contains an acetylene plant which produced acetylene gas for the early gas lamps used in the House and a thermalume generator which produced gas from petrol and air - also to fuel the gas lamps. Taking pride of place in the centre of the Dynamo House is a huge, ornate Gas Holder, one of only two left in the country, used to store the gas.
As well as opening up exciting education opportunities, the new development also provides a stylish new venue for conferences, wedding and other big events in the beautifully restored Woodland Barn.
Take time for a homemade cream tea or a cooling ice cream at the Mill Tea Garden (open in the summer) - the perfect interlude to your walk around the gardens in the summer months.
Pop into the Dutch Tunnel to see a fascinating film about life on the estate in the 19th century.
There are several Mill Demonstration Days which are listed in our Events Diary - so come and meet the miller to hear more about Hestercombe in bygone days.