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A Week on the Estate: Efficiency, Repairs & Distillation

The working year began in earnest at South Ormsby Estate this week, with various exciting new developments in the offing.


From this month, the estate will set about improving the efficiency of eight estate properties by switching them from oil to ground-source heating, and by adding better insulation. We want to cut each house’s heating energy consumption by a massive 88%, i.e., from 45,000kW to 5,500kW annually.


In the winter of 2018-19, the Hall’s boiler guzzled 14,331 litres of fuel oil. This winter, the biomass boiler installed by Glen Farrow of Spalding is letting us turn renewable fuel sources into reliable heat. Ultimately, we hope to widen our efficiency programme so that no oil is used on the estate at all.

This month, the inner hall will receive some much-needed attention. Its portraits will be taken down, cracks and fallen plaster repaired, and it will be re-painted – for the first time in perhaps 50 years – to match the existing colour scheme. In the garden, a six-month project to preserve the gardener’s store will soon be underway – it presently has cracked walls, no window and a fallen-in roof, and keeping it standing will be the priority.


Elsewhere on the estate, hedge-layer Matthew Davey made an early start on plashing the estate’s hedgerows. Plashing is a traditional way of forming strong, long-lived and biodiverse hedgerows so that they become havens for wildlife and impenetrable boundaries to livestock. As well as helping to preserve an attractive and sustainable countryside, plashing also preserves the valuable skills of craftsmen like Matthew.


We were afforded a welcome glimpse of the summer to come with the news that Chapterhouse Theatre Company will return to South Ormsby to stage Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on Sunday 5th July.

Gin Distillery Manager Tristan Jørgensen now has nearly everything he needs to produce South Ormsby’s own classy brand of artisan gin. At the heart of the distillery is a handsome 120L hybrid still, hand-built by DES Subotica of Serbia – a company respected by Tristan for its careful craftsmanship.


The shape of a still – its internal process and reflux – is key to the character of the gin, as is the time and attention given to the process. Large gin producers use 10,000L or bigger stills, and their production tends to be rapid. By contrast, the combination of a smaller still with a minimum two weeks of resting prior to bottling will give Tristan’s gins a smoother and intensely flavourful character without the harsh alcohol-burn characteristic of mass production.

Key to Tristan’s craft is maintaining a consistent flavour. The fact that his gins will feature local and therefore seasonal botanicals makes some variation inevitable, but only the most discerning palates will detect these idiosyncrasies – and will doubtless be delighted by them.


Tristan hopes his gin will hit the market within months. In the next few weeks, the distillery’s electrics and plumbing will be upgraded to production levels, and the bottles will be screen-printed with gorgeous, colour-boosted images drawing on the estate’s rich history. Tristan will then have his hands very full with distillation, blending, bottling and packaging.