Killerton House Workshops visit, 25th September 2017

Club Visit to the Workshops at Killerton House, Devon 25th September 2017

Text by Des Ransom and Michael Coleman: photos by Ben Metherell.

On the afternoon of a very hot Friday 25 August, members of our club made a pre-arranged visit to the National Trust’s Killerton Estate. This had come about after one of our members recalled that there was a vintage Ruston and Hornsby stationary engine there that had been restored by our former member, the late Ernie Luxton. Upon enquiring of the Clerk of Works, Bill Baker, it transpired that it was started periodically to maintain it in running order and he kindly invited a group of us to attend on the next ‘working day’ and to have a tour of their carpentry and joinery workshop. Space limitations restricted our number to around 25.

On the day, there was an initial delay as there was a problem with the auxiliary Petter engine which charges the air cylinders to start the larger Ruston. This was resolved when several members put their heads together, produced the relevant tools (that they ‘happened’ to have with them) and, after a bit of tinkering, the Petter ran long enough to produce sufficient compressed air to start the main engine. This was really quite impressive as the large engine, which historically was used to power the sawmills and timber yard for the estate, is now ‘retired’ to a comparatively small brick building.

The Ruston Hornsby is a full diesel 9XHR 67hp of 1932/33 with a brass commemorative plaque recording that it was installed in August 1933 for Sir F.D. Acland Bart MP (of Killerton) by John L.C.Flew of Broadclyst, Devon (see also the club Gallery).

After we had all taken turns in witnessing the engine running, we were given a tour of the woodworking workshops where some excellent work produces an extensive range of wooden objects and materials for the upkeep and maintenance of the hundreds of buildings for which the workshop is responsible. There was also a comprehensive historical collection of woodworking tools from one family that had been ‘rescued’ and was now on display in a specially adapted building. It was all very impressive, as was a subsequent demonstration we were given showing how traditional lime wash is mixed, incorporating a carefully measured quantity of e.g. yellow ochre to produce the right shading for painting the estate buildings.

A very interesting visit, for which we are grateful to the staff of the workshops at Killerton.