Electrifying the country house: taking stories of innovation to new audiences

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Sch of Philosophy

Abstract

For a world in which scientific innovation and historical tradition matter equally, a key resource for understanding both is the academic discipline of history of science and technology. But what of country houses, so often associated with the luxurious but extinct grandeur of Edwardian Britain? What of the upper classes who stereotypically cared more for the grandiose chandelier and silk furnishings than for the circuit-board or test tube? Surprisingly for some, there are deep and fertile connections that bridge the 'Two Cultures' divide between science and high society, in ways that history of science and technology is uniquely placed to mediate. Accordingly this project brings together the resources of social history with histories of technology and design, by drawing on the insights of PI Graeme Gooday's AHRB/AHRC-funded monograph Domesticating Electricity, to harness the role of such venues as key social laboratories in the late Victorian invention of electric lighting. After all it was at Cragside in Northumbria that electricity first lit the British home in 1881, with owner Lord Armstrong supporting the incandescent lighting experiments of his Newcastle friend Joseph Swan. Adopting the new illuminant slightly later, Lotherton Hall in Leeds and Standen in East Grinstead both still have original early electric lighting, marking them as pioneering sites of hi-tech illumination at the turn of the 20th century. Seen in this spirit, these sites offer an under-utilized resource for integrating public experience of social history and physical science for adults and young people alike.

The proposed project 'Electrifying the Country House' will work with the houses to develop generic resources to help visitors understand both the science of electric lighting and how these (and other) country houses played a crucial role in bringing that science into the home. At the same time, the special history and circumstances of each house will be cherished with dedicated bespoke resources on electrical lighting history that epitomize what the National Trust highlight as 'The Spirit of Place'. To complement Gooday's expertise, Abigail Harrison-Moore brings a long-standing relationship with Standen, and the work of its designer, Philip Webb, especially in relation to the Arts and Crafts aesthetic of the period, as well as her experience in teaching about the country house. The two have recently co-published on the relationship between electricity and aesthetics, at Standen and elsewhere.

Over the course of a year, the project's Postdoctoral researcher will work with the three houses to co-produce the specific kinds of visitor resources that each requires. These will include family packs and Key Stage 2 resources for schools, building upon a small-scale pilot project undertaken at Lotherton Hall with Gooday and University of Leeds colleagues last year. As well as training house staff how to deploy the resources supplied, the project will share activities and progress via Youtube, Twitter and a dedicated blog. Finally there will be a workshop for staff from other UK country houses to share best practice developed at Cragside, Lotherton and Standen, as well as contributing their own ideas on how this shared enterprise can continue after the project is completed. With the broader support of the National Trust to take this scheme forward nationally, and Leeds Museums and Galleries to pursue the project locally, we will facilitate a permanent shift in the overall roles of country houses as educational spaces, enabling them to enhance both the public understanding of science, and to appreciate the social history of country houses far beyond their traditional aesthetic appeal. Moreover, by ensuring that young people are familiar early on with the deep interconnections between science, history and art, the project can counter the tendency for secondary education to see an unproductive gender split into sciences for boys and arts for girls.

Planned Impact

When the original submission to the AHRB/C for the project 'Electrifying History' was made in 2005, we did not foresee and could not have foreseen the impact potential of that research endeavour for the educational activities of country houses that had been early users of electricity in the final decades of the nineteenth century. However, now that there is considerable interest in the country house sector to enhance their role in supporting the learning of science and technology through their historic collections, particularly as a result of changes to the national curriculum, this project to extend the impact of PI Gooday's historical research is very timely.

The main beneficiaries of this project will be:

a) Partner country house staff and volunteers:
i) they will be better informed about the electrical heritage of their respective properties and how this fits into the social history of electrification and the correlated evolution of electrical science and technology. They will accordingly produce enhanced resources for the properties to draw upon when engaging their visitors in stories drawn through academic research, but delivered in an accessible and tailored way.

ii) The project will highlight the ways in which country houses might be used by secondary schools not simply via the history curriculum but also via the science and design and technology curricula, emphasising the way such technologies both impact on and are integrated into our everyday lives; this could increase interest amongst prospective visitors via the project's online resources.

b) Visitors to partner country houses: these will benefit from having access to a new and different historical narrative, supported by up-to-date academic research; this will inform them about scientific and technological history, which is at present an under-represented aspect of country house interpretation.

c) Primary school pupils: they will be able to participate in workshops on the history of electricity in an exciting and interesting setting, and will thus learn not just about the scientific facts of electricity but also about how it impacted on different people's everyday lives. This fits well with the themed nature of the International Primary Curriculum used in 1300 schools in the UK. The project also aims to address the challenge of gender bias in subject choice that has been demonstrated to begin at primary level.

d) Primary school teachers: they will have downloadable, accessible and fit for purpose resources to draw on when teaching about electricity (as noted above) which will link into national curriculum requirements.

e) Local history groups: these will be able to learn about the responses of a broad range of the region's citizens to the history of the domestic uses of electricity, and the scientific issues associated with them.

f) Staff and visitors at non-partner country houses: in future more such houses will be able draw upon the outputs we create and develop similar activities or resources for themselves, developing a larger national network of resources that will long outlive this AHRC project.

Overall this project will enable country houses to enhance their traditional roles as repositories of art, culture and social history, by enabling them to become an integral resource in the national curriculum for science education. Accordingly this impact project has the potential to enhance the nation's wealth by facilitating greater engagement of the nation's school pupils - and country house visitors - with opportunities to understand, and in the longer term participate more comprehensively and vigorously in, the socially transformative potential of electrical science, power and technology.
 
Title Musical theatre production 'Electrified', by University of Leeds students on the history of domestic electricity; 
Description The original inspiration for this production was PI Gooday's 2008 monograph 'Domesticating Electricity'. This musical was developed by final year theatre and performance students in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries (PCI) at the University of Leeds. Having read through Gooday's book and other related publications, they wrote the script and song lyrics, composed the music and choreographed the dance scenes, as well as designing a period-appropriate set. There were 24 students in all and they supervised by Dr. George Rodosthenous (Associate Professor in Theatre Directing) and Dr. Tony Gardner (Lecturer in Performance Processes & Techniques). The students' own Vlog can be found here https://electrifiedsite.wordpress.com/ Subsequently several of the students were enthusiastically involved in further adapted versions of this show at partner house Lotherton Hall, and the nearby Harewood House. See information on the Harewood House productions at http://www.electrifyingthecountryhouse.org/harewoods-electricity-story-drama-and-displays-part-1/ http://www.electrifyingthecountryhouse.org/qq-htm/ 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact Additional extension of the show in smaller form to Harewood House, Lotherton Hall and potential extensions to other locations. These educational resources: http://www.electrifyingthecountryhouse.org/files/2015/06/Educational-Workpack-FINAL-to-print.pdf 
URL http://www.electrifyingthecountryhouse.org/history-onics/
 
Description The three country house partners on this project, Cragside, Lotherton Hall and Standen, have found considerable benefit in deploying narratives of their electrical heritage deriving from Gooday's book 'Domesticating Electricity' in engaging their various audiences. Textuial and video materials produced by the postdoctoral researcher Michael Kay have resulted in enhanced visitor displays (with dedicated trails) and educational videos for visitors and schools, as well as training for the staff in each house on how to use these resources. In addition, public lectures and dramatic materials for student performances have been effective at accomplishing wider publicity for the project and the partner houses.
Exploitation Route Additional work on this project has already been extended to Harewood House near Leeds, and another AHRC project application is under planning to work with Hatfield House, Blenheim Palace and Chatsworth. The Musical 'Electrified' could be developed - subject to further funding for redevelopment - as a commercial musical theatre production.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.electrifyingthecountryhouse.org/
 
Description Light Night performance: In October we participated in Light Night, a Leeds-wide evening of arts events, by putting on a short performance with Theatre and Performance students at the University. The show addressed the hopes and concerns surrounding domestic electricity at the turn of the twentieth-century. Between the four performances over the course of the evening over 110 people attended. 90% of the feedback forms we received said that the show was either 'quite good' or 'very good', and praised the show for its creativity, educational content, humour and costumes. This output allowed us to engage with an audience which we would never otherwise have reached. The Electrified musical: We worked with 3rd year Theatre and Performance students to support them producing a musical inspired by the themes of the project; this involved helping with the script, props and educational outreach work. As with the Light Night performance, this output increased the impact of the project to involve live theatre audiences, but it also engaged a large number of students with our research, giving them experience in interpreting and performing historical materials incorporating elements of the history of science and technology and art history. This also led to an educational workshop for local Year 4 pupils which addressed curriculum areas such as history, science and technology, art and design, and drama. Lotherton Electrified short film: We shot a short historical film about the electric lighting at Lotherton Hall, Leeds in order to provide them with video materials for display at the house. This can now be made available for use in the house and as an additional resource to complement our online interactive. As this can be viewed online as well as at the house this output greatly increases the overall impact of our project. :
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description Collaboration with Lotherton Hall, Leeds City Council 
Organisation Lotherton Hall
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution For the AHRC Follow-on funding project 'Electrifying the Country House'' supplied resources and postdoc labour to produced vistor trails based on electrical heritage.
Collaborator Contribution Gave staff time, advice and space for events
Impact The Lotherton House Trail http://www.electrifyingthecountryhouse.org/files/2015/06/Lotherton-Electricity-trail-FINAL.pdf Interactive House tour: http://www.electrifyingthecountryhouse.org/ks2interactive/ Video 'Lotherton electrified': https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFdHnUki-ZE
Start Year 2013
 
Description National Trust 
Organisation National Trust
Department Cragside
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Through the AHRC 'Electrifying the Country House' Follow-on Funding project we developed new educational resources and visitor engagement materials on electrical heritage for the two sites Cragside and Standen
Collaborator Contribution Made available staff time, heritage resources and house space for events.
Impact ? A supporting document for our three Cragside animations, including YouTube links http://www.electrifyingthecountryhouse.org/files/2016/07/Cragside-animations-supporting-information-for-web.pdf ? Electrical heritage house trail produced for Standen in June 2016. http://www.electrifyingthecountryhouse.org/files/2015/06/Standen-electrical-heritage-trail-final.pdf ? 'Bright Lights and Fashionable Fittings' early electricity trail for kids, produced for Standen in July 2016. http://www.electrifyingthecountryhouse.org/files/2016/07/Standen-family-trail-Bright-Lights-and-Fashionable-Fittings.pdf ? The interactive resources for the whole project: http://www.electrifyingthecountryhouse.org/ks2interactive/
Start Year 2015
 
Description Enhanced visitor engagement at three country houses for the Electrifying History project 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Visitor materials, specifically trails and animations on electrical heritage for Cragside, Lotherton Hall and Standen were developed collaboratively with groups of house staff and with their visitors.

The result of these engagement activities was these:

- Lotherton house trail
- Standen house trails (one for adults, one for kids)
- Guide on Cragside animations, including YouTube links.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.electrifyingthecountryhouse.org/downloads/
 
Description Lotherton Hall Public lecture by Dr. Michael Kay: 'Electrifying Lotherton: the history of electricity in the home'. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was a Public lecture by Dr. Michael Kay: 'Electrifying Lotherton: the history of electricity in the home' on Wednesday 20 April 2016, 2pm.

It explored the place of Lotherton Hall in the development of electric lighting, especially the role of the Gascoigne family in residence in commissioning electrical lighting in the house and the role of the engineer from the local family-owned coal mine in connecting the electric generating systems in both mine and country house.

The audience engaged the speaker afterwards in substantial discussion..
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.facebook.com/LothertonHall/photos/a.458473997529508.104600.142044545839123/1076412862402...
 
Description Musical theatre production 'Electrified', by University of Leeds students on the history of domestic electricity; 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The original inspiration for this production was PI Gooday's 2008 monograph 'Domesticating Electricity'. This musical was developed by final year theatre and performance students in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries (PCI) at the University of Leeds. Having read through Gooday's book and other related publications, they wrote the script and song lyrics, composed the music and choreographed the dance scenes, as well as designing a period-appropriate set. There were 24 students in all and they supervised by Dr. George Rodosthenous (Associate Professor in Theatre Directing) and Dr. Tony Gardner (Lecturer in Performance Processes & Techniques).

The students' own Vlog can be found here https://electrifiedsite.wordpress.com/
Subsequently several of the students were enthusiastically involved in further adapted versions of this show at partner house Lotherton Hall, and the nearby Harewood House.

See information on the Harewood House productions at http://www.electrifyingthecountryhouse.org/harewoods-electricity-story-drama-and-displays-part-1/
http://www.electrifyingthecountryhouse.org/qq-htm/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.electrifyingthecountryhouse.org/history-onics/
 
Description Old Science Week: workshops for children at Lotherton Hall on the history of electricity in the home 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Old Science Week was a series of events over several days at Lotherton Hall with workshops for children based around the history of electricity in the home..

The aim was to enable them to understand electrical science and technology as part of those house's heritage; to learn to identify the older electrical appliances on display and to discuss openly how this contrasted to their present day homes.

This work was undertaken by postdoctoral researcher Michael Kay in collaboration with staff at Lotherton Hall. This enabled us to use the usual setting for family activities at the house, and allow for all sorts of interaction, engagement and creativity. The week fitted into Lotherton Hall's "Six Weeks of Summer" programme, a series of themed weeks aimed at school aged children during the summer holidays. As such, a handling table of old electrical domestic appliances was on offer: an ice cream maker, hair dryer, toaster, plugs, electricity meter, telephone and vacuum cleaner all from the early 20th century,.

Although Lotherton's themed weeks are largely for younger children, we knew our engagement would be with visitors of all ages, some as part of a family and some alone or with friends. Thus the format chosen was a series of drop in sessions which people could join and leave as they wished. It was thus easy to engage with visitors for longer periods, and to encourage them to think about what each object was and how it was used. Relating this to electrical appliances and gadgets in their own homes was also very effective.

We got some intriguing responses when asking the children to work out what the appliances were for: the toaster was fairly easy; a heater was a fairly obvious guess, but a bug zapper and a laminator were definitely evidence of some pretty good out-of-the-box thinking from the visitors. As one of the items was an ice cream maker, which was not electrical, we asked the children to think about which of the items was the odd one out and did not use electricity. Some were surprised to learn that not everyone had liked electric lights at first, because they were considered to be too bright, and also to learn that old telephones were not as easy to use as their modern equivalents.

Further information can be found here: http://www.electrifyingthecountryhouse.org/the-toaster-the-hair-dryer-and-the-vacuum-cleaner/
http://www.electrifyingthecountryhouse.org/hello-hello-are-you-there/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.electrifyingthecountryhouse.org/evaluating-old-science-week/
 
Description Project workshop 1 Feb 2016, University of Leeds 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact This event disseminated information about the project's accomplishments to a wide audiences of stake holders, with partner organisations representatives from Standen, Lotherton Hall and Cragside presenting on what benefits they had derived from working in collaboration with us. The event closed with a discussion of potential future plans and collaborations.

We invited representatives from country houses around the UK who might be interested in our work to join us at the University of Leeds in the Brotherton Library, from 12-5pm, followed by a drinks reception from 5-6pm. We made funding available to cover transport costs, and provided lunch.

Attendees were from University of Leeds; Lotherton Hall, National Trust, Cragside, Chatsworth. Hatfield House, Temple Newsam, Leeds City Council, Harewood House
English Heritage, Brodsworth Hall, University of Leicester, Burton Constable; Cusworth Hall, Doncaster Council, University of Manchester. Bateman's Sewerby Hall, East Riding Council, Shibden Hall, Calderdale Museums Service.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.electrifyingthecountryhouse.org/invitation-to-our-project-workshop-1-feb-2016-university-...
 
Description Public lecture by Dr. Abigail Harrison Moore: 'Webb and the aesthetics of electric lighting'. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was Public lecture by Co-Investigator Dr. Abigail Harrison Moore on the origins of electric lighting in this house: 'Webb and the aesthetics of electric lighting'.

This was addressed to members of the public and the house curators to enable them better to interpret the significance of the electrical fittings in this house.

Audience questions and an open discussion followed the talk.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Public lecture by Dr. Michael Kay: 'Standen and the history of electricity in the Victorian home' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The talk 'Standen and the history of electricity in the Victorian home' was presented by Michael Kay to the employees, volunteers and visitors at Standen.

This followed on from the talk given by co-I Abigail Harrison Moore in September 2015 that focused on the architect of the electrical fittings Beale, now turning the attention to the roles of the householders Mr and Mrs Beale, the latter especially.

This was the advertised rubric: 'Standen was one of the first houses in the country to be built with electricity in the plans from the beginning. But in the late nineteenth century, electricity was a strange and mysterious force which few understood but many believed could be dangerous. It was not obvious that everyone would want it in their house. Why, then, did the Beales decide on electricity when designing their new home? And how did this fit into the national story of domestic electrification unfolding at this time around the country? On 14 April, Dr Michael Kay from the University of Leeds will be addressing these questions, as well as sketching out the hopes and fears surrounding electrification in the Victorian period, and highlighting the importance of Standen within this broader historical narrative.'

There was extensive discussion after the talk from the audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/standen-house-and-garden/features/standen-and-the-history-of-electr...
 
Description Public lecture by Professor Graeme Gooday and Dr. Michael Kay: 'Electrifying the Country House' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Graeme Gooday and Michael Kay gave the presentation 'Electrifying The Country House' Nov 17 2016, University of Leeds, Rupert Beckett Lecture Theatre.

This was presented to the University staff, students and public under the aegis of the University's new Cultural Institute.

Gooday explained the origins of the AHRC follow-on funding project in his book 'Domesticating Electricity' and Michael Kay demonstrated some of the interactive learning resources developed for the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/cultural-institute-public-lecture-electrifying-the-country-house-tick...
 
Description Public lecture by Professor Graeme Gooday and Dr. Michael Kay: 'Electrifying the country house: Armstrong's electrical innovations at Cragside' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was a free event at the Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society Wednesday 13 April 2016 - 6pm

The target audience was both Society members and the general public, aiming to present them with a fresh view of the important of nearby Cragside as a pioneer house in the domestication of electrification.

The talk focused on how Cragside, the home of William Armstrong, was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity, and the first to be lit using Joseph Swan's lightbulbs in 1880. Armstrong was known as a technological pioneer and innovator, and his house contains many interesting electrical features. We explored how this fitted into the national story of domestic electrification sketching out the hopes and fears surrounding electrification in the Victorian period, highlighting the importance of Cragside within this broader historical narrative. As both Armstrong and Swan presented their work at the Lit & Phil in the nineteenth century, this was a great opportunity to tell their story in the venue which saw it unfold.

There was extensive audience discussion after the lecture.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.litandphil.org.uk/whats-on/2016/apr/electrifying-the-country-house-armstrong%E2%80%99s-el...
 
Description Theatrical performance at Light Night 2015: It's Electrifying! 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact On Friday evening, 9 October, Postdoctoral researcher, Michael K\y, put on a special performance in the University of Leeds Brotherton Library's Brotherton Room with the help of four student actors from the School of Performance and Cultural Industries (PCI). Called 'It's Electrifying!', the show was organised as part of Leeds Light Night, an annual civic evening of free arts events (exhibitions, performances, installations) all based around the theme of light that takes place across the city, including the University - closely tied with the themes of our project.

Working closely with a colleague from the School of PCI, George Rodosthenous, who is also one of the lecturers supervising the production of our Electrified musical, we recruited four drama students as volunteers to take part in our show. Fitting in planning, script writing, rehearsals and organising costumes around everyone's busy schedules was a challenge, but the students worked hard, and other members of PCI staff were also very helpful.

We started with the maid cleaning outside the room and humming, before noticing the audience and inviting them in.

We used the performance to address the hopes and fears surrounding the introduction of electric lighting into people's homes around the end of the nineteenth century. There were four characters, representing a range of classes and opinions, for example the young lady of the house, excited at the aesthetic possibilities of the electric light, and her mother-in-law, who was sceptical, didn't understand what electricity was or how it worked, and didn't think it should be brought into their home.

We also had the housekeeper, who was happy that the new lights didn't give off any soot or smoke to blacken the paintwork, but who was sad to need to make redundant the boy who had been in charge of the candles and oil lamps. Finally, the maid was wary, knowing that people had died through accidents involving electricity.

The 15 minute show ran four times over the course of the evening, and over 110 people came to see it. We even had a song about the electric light from the 1880s, which the characters sang and hummed over the course of the performance. The Brotherton Room itself was also the perfect venue for the show; dating back to the 1930s with the rest of the main body of the Brotherton Library, it is an incredibly atmospheric space, and made a very passable country house library for the performance. It looked great lit up with electric candles.

Also forming part of the event was a display of historic electrical objects from the University's Museum of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, which we used to tell the story of domestic electricity from its generation to its use in the home, from the 1880s until the 1940s. These included an old battery, a copy of a Mrs. Beeton book from the 1920s which dealt with electric cookery, and an Overbeck Rejuvenator, a 1920s electrical therapy kit for use by individuals in their own homes. The audience was encouraged to take a look at this display after the performance.

We got great feedback on the creativity, the costumes, and of course the singing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.electrifyingthecountryhouse.org/456-2/
 
Description Youtube channel for Electrifying the Country House 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This youtube channel was set up by the project postdoc Michael Kay to supply educational videos of the three partner organisations in the 'Electrifying the Country House' project - Cragside, Lotherton Hall and Standen, to KS2 school children. Three servants tell the story of how electrical fittings and facilities first arrived in their houses, what new possibilities these opened up, and what effect these new technologies had on the lives of the entire household. At the time of submission to Researchfish (March 14th 2017), this resource has only just been launched, so we do not have many viewings yet to record. A public launch of these resources is planned before the end of 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
URL https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQP9wJoIGojQfJMSitRbq_g