Historic engine house at Brandon Country Park officially opened after restoration works by 90-year-old whose family lived on site
A historic Suffolk engine house brought back to life after restoration works has been officially opened by a man whose father used to look after the building's machinery.
Ronald Rule, 90, said returning to Brandon Engine House at Brandon Country Park brought back “vivid memories” of when it provided water and power to Brandon Park House and the estate buildings.
During the 1920s Mr Rue’s family moved onto the estate, where his father was the chauffeur for the estate owners and looked after the vehicles and engine house machinery, and lived there until he was nine.
He first revisited the building, which is believed to have been built between 1883 and 1900, 11 years ago and it was falling into a state of disrepair.
Highlighted as one of the Breaking New Ground Landscape Partnership’s (BNG) flagship projects, restoration works, funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £200,000, began in January this year.
The engine house and an adjacent building known as the Bothy will now be used as a multi-functional community facility.
Mr Rule, who lives in Cringleford, said: “Being here brings back so many memories for me. This building was the beating heart of the estate.
“They have done an incredible job. Restoration is a very difficult thing but they have managed to have a good facility for modern use but still retaining the old feel.”
The engine room will be used as ‘dirty’ space for practical workshops and a new extension links it to the Bothy which can be used as a conference room. The building will be available to community groups, organisations and businesses.
Some of the original features, including old machinery and the 150ft deep well, are still in place.
Interpretation boards celebrating the history of the park and buildings have also been installed.
Nick Dickson, BNG project manager, said: “It was about saving the building and the unusual thing about this is the machines were still in place. That is what was most exciting as a lot of these buildings have been restored as holiday lets.
“The heritage of the building has been saved and brought back to life and can be for modern use. It is a community space for the community.”
History of the Brandon Engine House
The Engine House, also known as the Pump room, has quite a history.
It was built some decades after Brandon Park House, which was constructed in 1826.
The building generated electricity to power the house and water was pumped to feed the grounds - and the estate was the first part of Brandon to have electricity.
The park was sold to the Forestry Commission in 1936 who then began to re-plant much of the estate as part of Thetford Forest.
It was requisitioned during the Second World War and part of the park was used as a training ground for the Home Guard.
The Bothy probably housed ammunition and similar supplies.
More recently the building was used for storage, as a kennels and workshop, while slowly deteriorating through lack of maintenance.
In 2012 BNG was established and funding secured.
BNG is hosted by Suffolk County Council. The facility, owned BNG partners the Forestry Commission, will be leased and managed by the team at Brandon Country Park.