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Harewood’s Electricity Story

Visit Yorkshire to see rare Georgian chandliers
Science and technology are not topics typically associated with historic houses or their inhabitants. They are often well known for their fine furnishings and great works of art, but it is perhaps quite unusual, and unexpected, to think of them as thriving hubs of technological advancement.

New research undertaken at the University of Leeds has focused on the unique relationship between country houses and the history of innovation and experimentation. With inhabitants who could often afford to invest financially and socially in new and somewhat mysterious technologies, country houses became some of the earliest venues for the installation of electrical appliances. They also exposed its householders (sometimes reluctantly) to the enormous social change and development that these innovations brought with them.

Visit Yorkshire to see Chippendale lights at Harewood

Harewood House Trust, in collaboration with Dr Michael Kay from the University of Leeds, has recently been awarded a grant of £5000 from The Culture Capital Exchange to research and explore the little known story of electrification at Harewood House. Initial research has established a basic timeline of electrification and has already revealed some fascinating stories: from the intriguing routine of Harewood’s Lamp Man to the curious practice of employing electricians to ‘stand by’ during dinner parties.

The first phase of the House’s electrification took place in 1901, commissioned by the 5th Earl of Harewood. Archival evidence shows that there was seemingly fierce competition between early electrical contractors to obtain the job, and the merits and weaknesses of utilising hydropower was carefully considered. The installation of electricity was continued in the early 1930s when the 6th Earl of Harewood and his wife, Princess Mary, moved into Harewood House. The Princess Royal made a specific request for electric lighting in her new dressing room along with other modern conveniences, such as the installation of a lift and the purchase of a Hoover vacuum cleaner was made.

Dr Kay’s interesting research will inform a number of workshop events at Harewood House and the University of Leeds, featuring a short drama performance exploring the story of electrification from the perspective of staff and servants.

Visit Yorkshire to see Below Stairs in the House at Harewood

Join us on the 21 August at Harewood for a day of illuminating activities that will explore the theme of electricity within the House.  You will be able to try your hand at making cup and string telephones in our crafts activity, and also have a go at a new technology trail. Our family friendly drama performance, taking place in the Steward’s Room, will be followed by an opportunity talk to the characters and ask them questions. Participants will then be able to handle some early electrical equipment with Dr Kay and Harewood staff. There will also be a special display of Harewood’s historic light fittings and related archival documentation, both Below Stairs and on the State Floor, as well as a 10 minute Discovery Talk focusing on Dr Kay’s research.

Similar workshops will also be taking place at the University of Leeds on 11 August for Year 5 and 6 pupils from the IntoUniversity charity‘s summer educational programme, and 11 September as part of the Heritage Open Days programme.

The Attingham Summer School visits Harewood House

On Friday 15 July, Harewood House had the pleasure of hosting the Attingham Summer School, a prestigious study course for heritage professionals and decorative arts scholars from Europe and America, dedicated to the study of British historic houses and their collections.

It was an exciting opportunity for the House team to highlight some of the key pieces in Harewood’s diverse collection and to discuss this year’s new exhibitions and displays. A programme for the day was put together to emphasise Harewood’s unique and ever-evolving history.

Visit Harewood in Yorkshire for specialist art and collections tours

David Lascelles, the 8th Earl of Harewood, welcomed the group and gave an overview of Harewood’s history, including its association with the West Indian Slave trade – a background that Harewood shares with very many British institutions and one it tries to pro-actively engage with and acknowledge.

The fifty students were then split into three groups and given an in-depth tour of the State Floor by our knowledgeable House Stewards. Members of the Collections Team were on hand in a number of rooms to give a short focus on works of particular significance, such as the iconic portrait of Lady Worsley by Sir Joshua Reynolds,  J.M.W Turner’s famous views of Harewood House and the landscape, as well as stunning, early photographs by Roger Fenton. It was also an opportunity to discuss Harewood’s current conservation project on the Yellow Drawing Room’s original 18th century Axminster carpet.

A picnic lunch surrounded by stunning Capability Brown views was planned but naturally thwarted by the often unreliable Yorkshire climate. Trevor Nicholson, Harewood’s Head Gardener, had to be particularly creative in his overview of Harewood’s gardens from the shelter of the Steward’s Room.

Visit Yorkshire to enjoy art and collections tours at Harewood House

After lunch, students were treated to a number of expert lectures. Professor Ann Sumner, Harewood’s Historic Collections Advisor, gave an analysis of the restoration of the Gallery in the 1980s whilst revealing the fascinating history behind the Old Master paintings that now adorn its walls. Dame Rosalind Savill, former Director of the Wallace Collection and Sèvres expert, delivered an enthusiastic history of Harewood’s remarkable collection of Sèvres porcelain in the Dining Room.

Visit Yorkshire to enjoy contemporary art tours at Harewood House

The day was brought to a close with an In Conversation with artist and curator Diane House, 8th Countess of Harewood. The discussion revealed how the first dedicated contemporary art space in a country house, the Terrace Gallery, was formed and emphasised the unique relationship between contemporary artists and the Lascelles family, an aspect that the students found particularly interesting.

As is tradition at the end of each day on their tour, one of the students was nominated to give thanks to their hosts. On this occasion, an American 18th century historian, reflected how she often thinks about the history of sugar, when having a spoonful in her English cup of tea, and that she would always remember how illuminating Lord Harewood’s remarks on the relationship of Harewood and the sugar trade had been in this respect.

Overall, the day was a great success and we would like to thank the Attingham Summer School for the opportunity to share the treasures of Harewood House with its students.

Outside Learning for your Class

Harewood is a place families can learn about history and life below stairs

Children can discover a history Below Stairs at Harewood.

The summer term is upon us – make sure you have your school trip to Harewood booked in!

This summer term at Harewood we have a jam packed educational programme on offer, with over 40 educational sessions for you and your class to enjoy! Our programme spans all elements of the curriculum, including Science, Maths, History and Art: explore the past with one of our guided house tours, or enjoy our gardens and Bird Garden, and discover more about the great outdoors.

In addition to our educational sessions, we also offer freedom visits so you and your class can explore Harewood independently. To help you make your trip extra special we have a range of trails and packs for you to complete during your visit. These packs can all be downloaded at www.harewood.org/learn.

If you would like to make a booking, or chat more about a specific session you are looking for, please give me a ring on 0113 218 1043, or email me at learn@harewood.org.

I look forward to hearing from you, and we hope to see back at Harewood this summer!

Teapots, Trails and Textiles

Embroidery inspired by Sèvres

Examples of Hannah Lamb’s work for our Stitch & Ceramic Embroidery Workshop

This year at Harewood, we have an exciting new season of learning events, walks, talks and workshops on offer. We open with our first family event of the year, Spring at Harewood. This offers craft activities, talks and trails across the park and even a chance to see Pekins chicks hatching in the Information Centre! We have a new season of adult workshops planned, including our Time for Tea, a teapot making workshop, (which includes a delicious Afternoon Tea), and a Stitch & Ceramic Embroidery Workshop, inspired by the new Sèvres exhibition displayed in the House, as well as the launch of our Morning Lectures Series, running across the season and brand new for 2014.

We will also be launching two new family trails this year, focussing on the Sèvres exhibition and Sculpture at Harewood, to keep you and your family busy on your visits to Harewood! Call me to discuss any of our talks and tours or contact the Information Centre to book.

A new pond for the Harewood Learning Garden…

Work has continued today in the Learning Garden, with the help of Audrey, Trevor and his team.  Today, the focus was clearing the pond area, and preparing the vegetable plot.

After last week’s session, and our battle with the Philadelphus shrub, Trevor and his team were today successful in removing the plant from our pond area.  In addition to this, the team cleared the rest of the pond area, and dug the hole read for the pond to be put in place.

With Trevor’s expertise, the shrub is finally removed from the pond area

Once the pond area was cleared, work then began on the plot in the opposite corner of the garden.  This plot will become our vegetable garden.  Before any planting of vegetables could start, the area needed to be cleared, and Audrey spent the morning raking the leaves and weeding the flower beds, ready for the digging to begin.

The corner of our garden to become our vegetable plot, cleared by Audrey

Next session, we hope to put the pond lining in place, and finish preparing the plot ready to plant some vegetables!

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The Harewood Learning Team.