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Harewood’s Sustainability Story: The Biomass Project

Biomass is fuel that is developed from organic materials, a renewable and sustainable source of energy. Harewood House and the Courtyard are heated by a biomass boiler.

We have over 800 acres of woodland on the Harewood Estate. Many areas are Ancient Scheduled Woodland Sites and some sit within our Registered Park and & Gardens. Nearly all areas are viewable from public rights of way and we have a wealth of wildlife that make our forests their home. So our woodland operations need to work sensitively within these constraints and are now geared towards protecting and enhancing the landscape for amenity and biodiversity value.

We conduct necessary thinning of our woodlands on a regular basis to help improve the timber stocks and the values we are trying to protect. Historically we have sent felled timber off to merchants round the country, but we now use it on site within our biomass plants to provide renewable heat for Harewood House and the Courtyard, as well as the Estate’s commercial office spaces, 10 holiday cottages and 15 residential properties. It’s a model of what a renewable energy district heating system of the future might look like.

Once the trees are felled the timber is taken back to the Walled Garden, stacked and left to dry to reduce the moisture content to make it suitable for burning within the biomass plant. Around 8 months later (depending on the weather!) the timber is dry enough to chip and we hire in a Diomante chipper, an amazing piece of kit which picks whole tree stems on the one side, feeds it through a chipper and produces the chip out the other side which is loaded directly into a wagon. The chipper can process up to 50 tonnes per hour!


With the chip created, we take it back to our chip store, where it is unloaded and spread out to aid further drying. We try to keep at least 6 months of chip in stock. Once it’s down to the correct moisture content (30-35%) it can be used in the boilers. We fill up each boilers chip store once a week and it then feeds into the boilers automatically. The feed store has a slowly vibrating floor that moves the chip from front to back to ensure a steady supply of chip to the boiler.


The main boiler at the time of installation was one of the largest in Yorkshire. It burns the chip at temperatures of up to 900°c which then heats the water. It’s incredibly efficient, with hardly any waste material produced, usually just a couple of ash buckets per week. From the storage tanks, which hold around a 24-hour supply, the hot water then goes into the district piping network and out to all the properties that are connected in.

As well as being a reason to reinvigorate our woodland operations, the biomass plants are a great source of renewable energy and have helped us reduce our carbon footprint as well as those of our tenants by association. Compared to an oil system we are saving over 440 tonnes of CO2 each year – if you also factor in the savings by processing the timber on site rather than transporting them to merchants elsewhere the total reaches almost 650 tonnes of CO2 saved each year. That’s roughly equivalent to 1,000 people taking return flights from London to New York or what 25 families would average during a whole year.

We’ve been working with the Leeds Climate Commission, Circular Yorkshire and Sustainable Arts in Leeds to share our story so others can build from our success.

Why craft matters now more than ever by Hugo Macdonald

Why Craft Matters, Harewood House

WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN by Anthony Burrill, Picture Credit – Charlotte Graham

“As we’ve dropped our public lives we’ve picked up tools in private and started baking, gardening, drawing, sewing, knitting, fixing and decorating in earnest”

Anyone who visited Harewood last year during the first Harewood Biennial couldn’t fail to have noticed graphic artist Anthony Burrill’s striking commission standing proud outside the entrance façade to the house. It became a poster for the biennial itself, travelling far and wide across the web and world. It divided opinion and provoked much discussion. This was a conscious act on our part, because it announced on its four sides four truths about the vital relationship between people and craft: we are who make; we are what we make; we are how we make; we are when we make.

I have frequently returned to these statements over the year since we opened the biennial, and more keenly over the last two months. Our first biennial introduced questions around craft: principally why it matters to people, today. You barely need scratch the surface of social media at the moment to see that it clearly does matter. Up and down the country and around the world, as we’ve dropped our public lives we’ve picked up tools in private and started baking, gardening, drawing, sewing, knitting, fixing and decorating in earnest. It is wonderful to see, and communities have emerged overnight, joined (albeit digitally for the time being) by a common desire to make.

Harewood might currently be closed, but we are busy planning our second biennial, which will open in March 2021. It coincides with the 250th anniversary of Harewood – a fitting coincidence and celebration of survival, not just after this difficult year, but over decades and centuries, too. 250 years is quarter of a millennium – isn’t it astonishing that the house has been kept alive and in pristine condition for such a period of history? It is people that have kept Harewood thriving; people using craft knowledge and skills to clean and polish, mend and repair. There is great pleasure to be found in these simple, timeless acts as we are all rediscovering in our own homes. Cleaning books are selling in their millions.

Useful Beautiful

If Chairs Could Talk by Yinka Ilori

I’m pretty sure the surge in craft that we are witnessing is not just about distraction, or filling time, or even learning new hobbies just to feel we are achieving. As Anthony’s piece declaimed in four succinct statements: making makes us feel alive. Faced with our current crisis, life-affirming skills and activities are fundamentally reassuring. I think the baking and planting, the cleaning, the quilting and mending are more than fads or lifestyle choices. They are primal responses, too. They say to me quite clearly that in an era when so much of our lives are governed by intangible technology and software, and particularly in times of crisis and uncertainty, we are capable still. We have basic skills for survival in our minds and hands and it feels good to practice them.

Hugo Macdonald, May 2020

Princess Mary: A re-imagined Wedding Dress

Over the past few months, our Collections & Engagement teams have been working on something very special, to bring a little piece of Harewood’s Royal history to life.

HRH Princess Mary was the only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. She lived at Harewood House from 1930 – 1965, following her marriage into the Lascelles family in 1922. Princess Mary sparks much interest with our visitors; commonly known as the ‘Yorkshire Princess’, she was a much loved royal figure both locally and nationally.

Today, Harewood House Trust cares for her archive, which includes a lifetime’s worth of letters, diaries and personal papers, as well as some of her outfits, including her beautiful wedding dress. Whilst the dress is now too fragile to be put out on display, the Harewood team has been working over the last few months to find a new way for the dress to be seen.

Princess Mary’s Wedding Dress: An Introduction

Princess Mary’s wedding dress was made by the English fashion house, Reville of London. It consisted of an underdress woven with silver thread that was covered by a sheer silk marquisette embellished with a rose-trellis design in crystal beads and seed pearls. The long silk train was woven using white and silver thread at Braintree silk mills, Essex. It was embroidered with a pattern of emblematic flowers of the British Empire, including the English rose, the Welsh daffodil, the Canadian maple and the New Zealand fern, enhanced by Indian lotus flowers embroidered in silver and gold metal thread.

The train was originally edged with Honiton lace, a gift from Queen Mary that was later removed for use by other royal brides.

Due to the fragile condition of the fabric, it is sadly now no longer possible to keep the wedding dress on display. So instead, we have brought the dress back to life, through the art of costume design, working with TV and film costume designer Rosalind Ebbutt, who has worked on productions such as Victoria and Downton Abbey.

A re-imagined dress

Approaching the project in much the same way that she would produce period costume for TV or film, Rosalind began the process of creating her interpretation of Mary’s dress with research. Working alongside the Collections Team, Rosalind looked in great detail at its original design, inspecting both the real dress as well as reviewing photographs and historic descriptions; it was important to determine the original cut, size and the types of fabrics used, in addition to their original colours.

Rosalind then worked with dressmaker Amanda Brennan to finalise a design that incorporated her research, as well as source appropriate fabric and embellishments. Once found, the dress was then assembled, with Amanda working straight onto a mannequin.

The fabric hunt commences

Rosalind and Amanda worked together to match the patterns and fabric to the real wedding dress

The dress design is sketched out

The dress begins to take shape

Great attention to detail was taken throughout project

Careful consideration was given to sourcing intricate pieces to create the headdress and jewellery

The finished gown captures the elegant design and visual splendour of the historic original, offering a glimpse into what Mary’s dress might have looked like in 1922.

The completed dress: re-imagined from the original wedding dress worn by Princess Mary in 1922.

You will be able to see this beautiful recreation in the Servant’s Hall, Below Stairs at Harewood, just as soon as we are re-opened to the public.

With special thanks to:

Rosalind Ebbutt, Costume Designer
Amanda Brennan, Dressmaker
James Hare, for the provision of the satin to create the train for this dress


New Team Members Boost Harewood’s Charity Profile

Harewood_NewStarters_Jan2020Two new additions to the Head Office team at Harewood House bring a wealth of experience from similar backgrounds to help raise the profile of Harewood’s charitable status and vision for sustainability for the future.

Rachael Brothwell joins as Senior Membership Manager, responsible for managing and growing the Harewood membership scheme, which this year alone saw strong growth in new members. Rachael has worked for the National Trust, one of the UK’s largest and most successful membership organisations, in addition to the Meningitis Trust.

Rachael said, “This role fulfils many aspects for me and I am really excited to start looking at how we can increase engagement and a sense of ‘ownership’ with our members. Each visitor to Harewood is a potential new ambassador, and I’d love for them to start sharing the many visions of the charity, as a place of living stories and also of wellbeing.”

Emily Booker joins as Development Manager, with a focus to generate income and support from foundations, companies and individuals. She will also lead the newly launched Patrons Programme. Emily was involved in the setting up of the fundraising department at Chatsworth House for the past four years and prior to that has worked on historic building redevelopments, whilst studying for a Master’s degree in ‘Conservation of the Historic Environment’.

Emily highlighted; “For a charity, partnerships and external support from companies and individuals are vital, in order to continue to deliver great quality work and experiences. My aim is to enable Harewood to be more accessible and ambitious with its plans, through acquiring funding from those who believe in our work and align with our values. My immediate focus is on establishing the Patrons Scheme. This is a wonderful opportunity to get people even more engaged in our charitable work and to enable vital support through philanthropic donations.”

You can find out more about joining Harewood as a Member. 

A night at the movies: Downton Abbey première

Walking down a red carpet will always be thrilling, but even more so last night at the Downton Abbey world première of the film in Leicester Square.

With the Earl and Countess of Harewood, I waited with bated breath to see Harewood on the big screen and it didn’t disappoint. From beautiful sweeping shots of the house outside, to gorgeous drawing room scenes with Princess Mary (6th Countess of Harewood), and the final ball scene with such glamorous costumes … The grandeur of Harewood was captured by moonlight for a final romantic scene, demonstrating just how beautiful Harewood is.

As a charity, filming always provides such a vital income stream, in order to keep the house and collections open. But it is also a juggling act as I am determined to try and keep as much of the house and grounds open to the public whilst filming commences. It does pay off though, as glimpses of Maggie Smith walking back to the Base unit of over a hundred people in our main car park, give visitors an unexpected treat!

You may notice that throughout the film, the characters pronounce ‘Har-wood’ as it would have been known at that time. Today we are all one ‘Hare-wood’ whether it is the village, house or family. The truth is also skewed for fiction as you see the relationship between the 6th Earl and Princess Mary unfold … it makes for a good storyline, but in reality we know there was actually a great deal of affection between these two. In over 170 boxes of Princess Mary’s personal letters, objects and diaries, which Harewood House Trust is now responsible for, the Earl refers to himself as Princess Mary’s little ‘owl’ (she loved these birds) and she was his little ‘canary’. We’ll be giving all of our visitors a very special glimpse into this personal archive in an exhibition in the house this autumn.

It’s a hard job of course (!) as we spent a rather glamorous few hours at the after-party chatting to actors Jim Carter (Carson) Kate Phillips (Princess Mary), to the Director and Producer and of course to writer Julian Fellowes. They all praised Harewood for its beauty and how well we managed the filming. The lavish scale and opulence of the film far outstrips the TV series.

As Julian Fellowes said, it has been ten years since the beginning of Downton and none of them could have predicted where it would lead. America is next as they all get on the plane next week to New York. In the meantime we’ve invited Kate Phillips back to Harewood to delve into her character’s life – Princess Mary, sister to two kings and a fascinating, thoughtful Countess of Harewood.

Photography © 2019 Focus Features LLC