Major Charles William de Roemer - technology advocate





As the story began to unfold in 1997, with Ronald Saunders paying a visit to the site, then Ron Martin, of the Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society (SIAS) in 1998. It would not be long before the County Archaeologist chimed in.


When he did, Planning Policy Guidance Notes (PPGs) 15 and 16 came to the fore, where nobody had mentioned these before. The other big player was English Heritage, who were in the throes of completing a Monument At Risk (MARs) identification survey, in connection with the Early Electrical Generating Industry.


Soon all of these academic departments were quite pleased to be able to include Herstmonceux Electricity Works on the MARs survey, which in turn triggered a Monument Protection Programme listing with English Heritage (now Historic England).


Where in some quarters, doubts as to the heritage, continued to be touted around, the only way to put these to bed, would be an authoritative, and fully independent Survey. It could not be East Sussex County Council's team. What was needed was a survey and Report from the acknowledged experts. And they don't get any better than London University, and their Archaeology South East team.


Thus it was, that with flak coming from all angles, to provide some kind of positive proof, one way or the other, East Sussex County Council commissioned London University to compile a Report. You can read this Report, reproduced on this site, with the kind permission of all those involved.








Herstmonceux Museum in 2016-17, match boarding revealed, with the well head reinstated, some tree work still needed to ensure survival of the historic buildings. The building served as a hospital for wounded airmen in World War Two. Hence, became known as RAF Herstmonceux, by the Ministry of Defence.





As you might imagine, some of the players were less than pleased with the results. Many proponents had argued for quite some time, that the Museum was not an original building, despite all the clues being very evident, unless the bifocals are steamed up. When the Report was published, attention seemed to turn to belittling the archaeological significance, making reference to the absence of machinery, and alterations. Rather than being in awe that a wooden building, not in use, had survived the ravages of two world wars. No doubt, they had their reasons.


Another curious fact, is that nobody at that time had offered any suggestions as to how to restore the complex, and there was not one word as to how the building might in time become more important as the missing link between energy generation and storage. This was not down to Dr Woodcock. He was instructed not to make any more of the building, other than in the Report, and soon Dr Woodcock left ESCC. One possible explanation for the malaise, being there was no Local List, a bit of an oversight maybe, in light of the World Heritage Convention of 1972. But, it's better late than never. A very good argument for whoever is responsible, getting their act together.







An aerial view of Herstmonceux Museum in 2022, showing the public footpaths north of the generating buildings. Many of which are unregistered, but well trodden for over forty years, from our records.







It was either fated, or the most incredible set of coincidences, that brought the Generating Station's savoir together. For sure, without him, Nikolai Askaroff, had it in mind to demolish what he saw as a liability. That was until he was running short of change, and wanted to secure the skills of his best decorator & handyman.





And that was the very reason for the MARs programme. English Heritage were complying with Articles 3, 4 and 5 of the Convention, in compiling a list, that Herstmonceux Museum, was almost not included on. But through a series of coincidences, beginning with the revelations of Ronald Saunders, and then Ron Martin, of the SIAS, this unique building, the only surviving example in the whole world, of early energy storage in a proportionally, quite large, battery room - was squeezed in as a late entry, alongside Rudyard Kipling's 'Batemans' and Battersea Power Station. These were the only three entries for the south of England.


Big thanks then to all the contributors, not least of which is the good Dr Woodcock, who played his part, true to the archaeologists code of conduct. And true to his profession, given the limitations he was working under. Archaeology is a science. Not supposition or guesswork. It is the search for facts, no matter how inconvenient to other agendas, budgets or errors. Archaeology is about correctly recording the evidential facts.


It must seem obvious to a professional, that the present building arrangement, can reasonably easily be returned to the original condition, even including the re-installation of the generating machinery. The real problem is the cost and the time it will take. How to achieve that is proposed in (draft) in the Phases section, on this website. Which "how do we do it," could of itself be the subject of a study. And on which, the Trust seeks the assistance of everyone involved in heritage conservation.





According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, Archaeology is: the study of the buildings, graves, tools, and other objects that belonged to people who lived in the past, in order to learn about their culture and society, and/or the study of ancient cultures through examination of their buildings, tools, and other objects.

From 1961 onwards archaeology was taught as a so-called further education course, which followed studies in another discipline lasting four to five years. Theoretical debate has moved beyond the subject of interpretation of the past, to the necessity to reflect on archaeology itself, as a means of understanding who and what we are. 

Archaeology or archeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. The archaeological record consists of artifacts, architecture, biofacts or ecofacts, sites, and cultural landscapes, such as the inclusion of the Generating Works, just outside the village of Herstmonceux, with the Windmill grinding flour, for the Bakery, that was the first to use electricity for baking in a rural setting. Archaeology can be considered both a social science and a branch of the humanities. It is usually considered an independent academic discipline, but may also be classified as part of anthropology (in North America – the four-field approach), history or geography.

Archaeology has various goals, which range from understanding culture history to reconstructing past lifeways to documenting and explaining changes in human societies through time. Derived from the Greek, the term archaeology literally means "the study of ancient history".


The discipline involves surveying, excavation, and eventually analysis of data collected, to learn more about the past. In broad scope, archaeology relies on cross-disciplinary research. 

There is no one approach to archaeological theory that has been adhered to by all archaeologists. When archaeology developed in the late 19th century, the first approach to archaeological theory to be practised, was that of cultural-history archaeology, which held the goal of explaining why cultures changed and adapted rather than just highlighting the fact that they did, therefore emphasizing historical particularism.

Archaeology can be a subsidiary activity within Cultural resources management (CRM), also called Cultural heritage management (CHM) in the United Kingdom. CRM archaeologists frequently examine archaeological sites that are threatened by development. One such site is Herstmonceux Museum, where the Trust who own the site are keen to restore the industrial complex, and displace other uses. If at all possible.

The application of CRM in the United Kingdom is not limited to government-funded projects. Since 1990, PPG 16 has required planners to consider archaeology as a material consideration in determining applications for new development. As a result, numerous archaeological organizations undertake mitigation work in advance of (or during) construction work in archaeologically sensitive areas, at the developer's expense. 


The protection of archaeological finds for the public from catastrophes, wars and armed conflicts is increasingly being implemented internationally. This happens on the one hand through international agreements and on the other hand through organizations that monitor or enforce protection. United Nations, UNESCO and Blue Shield International deal with the protection of cultural heritage and thus also archaeological sites.


To help preserve archaeological sites through education and fostering public appreciation for the importance of archaeological heritage, archaeologists are mounting public-outreach campaigns.

Common methods of public outreach include press releases, the encouragement of school field trips to sites under excavation by professional archaeologists, and making reports and publications accessible outside of academia. Public appreciation of the significance of archaeology and archaeological sites often leads to improved protection from encroaching development or other threats.

In the UK, popular archaeology programs such as Time Team and Meet the Ancestors have resulted in a huge upsurge in public interest. Where possible, archaeologists now make more provisions for public involvement and outreach in larger projects than they once did, and many local archaeological organizations operate within the Community archaeology framework to expand public involvement in smaller-scale, more local projects.

Archaeologists prize local knowledge, and often liaise with local historical and archaeological societies, which is one reason why Community archaeology projects are starting to become more common. Often archaeologists are assisted by the public in the locating of archaeological sites, which professional archaeologists have neither the funding, nor the time to do. 


As anthropogenic climate change affects our environment, projections show that there will be changes in rainfall with increased drought and desertification, increases in intensity and frequency of rainfall, increases in temperature (winter and summer), increases in both the temperature and frequency of heatwaves, rising sea levels, and warmer seas, ocean acidification and changes in oceanic currents. These climate drivers will result in changes to flora and fauna, and changes in ground conditions (both on and below the surface) and so will also affect archaeological deposits and structures, while human responses to the climate crisis will also impact archaeological sites. The archaeologist's knowledge and skills are relevant to supporting society in adapting to a changing climate and a low carbon future. In the case of Herstmonceux Museum, being of wooden construction, serious consideration must be given to combating rising temperatures, with the addition of cooling devices, fire retardant treatments, and perhaps, a sprinkler system.


As battery storage is now seen as a way of implementing solar and wind renewables more cost effectively, the old Electricity Generating Works at Herstmonceux, may be considered to be the earliest anthropological evidence of that part of societal adaptation, in the quest to overcome global warming, and rid the planet of dependency on fossil fuels.












Alexander Igor Askaroff

Sewing machine engineer

Casper Johnson

County Archaeologist ESCC

Clare Askaroff (nee Martin)

Wife of Nikolia

Dr Andrew Woodcock

County Archaeologist ESCC

Greg Chuter

County Archaeologist ESCC

Igor Askaroff

Russian émigré

John Hopkinson

Electrical Engineer

Sir Joseph Wilson Swan

Inventor light bulb, UK

Major Charles de Roemer


Margaret Pollard (Peggy Green)

The chauffeur’s daughter

Max Askaroff

Donated the Australian Bulldog ant

Neil Griffin

County Archaeologist ESCC 2023

Nikolia Fawley Askaroff

MD Simplantex, deal maker

Ron Martin

Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society

Ronald Saunders

The engineer’s son

Rosemarie Violet Twentyman-Turnbull (Askaroff)

Austrian seamstress

Sophie Unger

ESCC historic environment records officer

Thomas Alva Edison

Inventor, light bulb USA

Vic the Handyman

Archaeological sleuth, amateur detective










If you know of any information that may help us complete this story, please get in touch.













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