Discover royal stamp of approval for agricultural research base in Silsoe after the Second World War

King George VI tours Wrest Park in 1948
King George VI tours Wrest Park in 1948

The latest in English Heritage’s popular series of one-off events which delve into the history of Wrest Park in Silsoe will explore the period from 1947 to 2006 when the property was home to the internationally-renowned National Institute of Agricultural Engineering (NIAE).

Visitors will be able to join Wrest Park’s team of volunteer Historians as they present their research on this period in the estate’s history, on Sunday, November 25, from 11am to 3pm.

Set up in 1924, the NIAE - later the Silsoe Research Institute - was the main centre for agricultural engineering research in the country and was largely responsible for Britain becoming self-sufficient in terms of food production after the end of the Second World War. Scientists working at the institute carried out research into farm mechanisation, food processing and environmental management, and ran trials on new techniques and equipment.

Over the years the institute was visited by many dignitaries, including Prince Phillip and Prince Charles. In 1948 – 70 years ago this year – the organisation was given the royal stamp of approval by King George VI and a recently discovered plan which shows the route taken by the monarch during his visit will be on display at the event for the first time.

People will also be able to see models of some of the agricultural machinery which was invented at Wrest Park, including a blackcurrant harvester and anaerobic digester, and hear about the other pieces of machinery which were created at Wrest Park, such as a milking robot and a mushroom picker, which was designed to only pick the correct size mushrooms from the ground.

Alison Austin, English Heritage’s operations manager at Wrest Park, said: “The Silsoe Research Institute is a fascinating period of Wrest Park’s history. At this special event – which marks 70 years since it was visited by King George VI – people will be able to learn more about the institute and its personalities thanks to the research our volunteer historians have carried out. They’ll also be able to meet former members of the Institute to discover more about the life and times of an organisation that has left a lasting legacy on the world.”

A small exhibition will showcase photographs and extracts of research, while Richard Luscombe, Wrest Park’s volunteer archivist, will be giving an introductory talk into the work of the Institute at noon and 1.30pm.

For admission details visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/wrest