BULLDOG ANT - The real ant, all the way from Australia, is an exhibit at Herstmonceux Museum.





It takes a certain kind of person, to listen to the (so-called) experts, and swim against the tide. Most people follow the herd, like lemmings, and jump over the cliff together. Cattle in a herd, don't apply logic, they just stampede with their mates, not giving local gossip a moment's thought as to the accuracy, but just agreeing with the majority. Slaps on the backs all round in the pubs, as they imbibe another pint, having put the world to rights:


"It matters not if they are wrong. 

It matters only what they agree upon.

Authority is always right, tho wrong.

The truth in time will out so strong"


Not our Vic. He likes to take a good hard look at the evidence, and make deductions for himself. A modern day Sherlock Holmes, if you will. And just as well. Because genial and unsociable, failed to detect the glow of the jewel in their midst. Indeed, Nikolia Askaroff, as practical as ever, was all for demolishing what he saw as a liability. And, indeed it was. Like the windmill at Windmill Hill, it just stood abandoned for years, slowly rotting away. And nobody cared.


This is Vic's story. How he slowly uncovered the truth, where all around him were looking elsewhere, telescopes to their blind eyes: "I see no ships."


To be fair though, Vic was bit slow off the mark. Operating on the assumption that those the multitude pay for services could be trusted to know what the building was, and how best to preserve it.


With ears straining for positivism. It is hard to detect from silence, what is not said, the most important clues of all.


Being a simple fellow, Vic did not get this at first. He did not engage locally, and even when he did, he was stonewalled, with yet more silence. When he entered a room or chamber, a deathly hush fell, with lots of telling awkward looks. Hands caught in invisible cookie jars.


A person that is not represented, is a non person. A man without a voice to speak on his behalf.


As part of this charade, they painted him as being crazy. This defence to be a recurring theme. In the corridors of power, the building was branded the "Tin Shack," a derogatory term, and code used in the context of painting the person asking questions out to be a lunatic. He must be. Nobody else was lifting a finger to help shore the building up; to save it from collapse. Only a nutter would do such a thing.







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.







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.





After a while, gossip like that tends to become ingrained, as part of local culture. If repeated often enough, though with slanderous intent, and even malicious motives by the few, the majority of ordinary people who don't have the time to delve into the facts for themselves, actually begin to believe the stories circulating. Then repeat the same untruths themselves, believing them to be factual.


The stuff of legends born.


This spiral of gossip, only ever goes one way. For to stand up and ask questions, would have anyone so foolish as to propose an alternative view, a loon themselves. So much so, that when confronted with undeniable evidence, such as a professional archaeological survey, that those disbelievers, will still denigrate the subject of their imbibed merriment. They will continue to malign and pour scorn on what the experts are telling them is the truth. For it cannot be true, the local know it alls, had been telling them for years, the antithesis.


What was the motive behind such gossip mongering?


When something like that happens, do what all good detectives do when investigating a suspicious death: follow the money. Who stood to gain from the life insurance policy for murdering aunt Agatha? Why was there a giant hound on the Moors at Baskerville?


In this case, there were many paid to develop amnesia and cloud the clarity. And having accepted fiscally by pot of gold. Well, they had to keep Mum, didn't they. Layer, upon layer of memory lapses.


The master of detection, though a fictitious character, is of course none other than the pipe smoking deer stalker of Baker Street. Coincidentally, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, being a resident of Crowborough. This location also the HQ of the local authority, the District Council for Wealden, in years gone by. Oh joyous happenstance!


Although the physical evidence has always remained for anyone to see, in the foundations and woodworks - all original. Desk jockeys almost never visit a site for purposes of verification. Fearful that might trigger expensive duties to reorder budgetary agendas. Better then, to stay uninformed. Cheaper to pay the wigs and silks, than the piper. For they to shuffle parchments creatively, rendering a hundred different explanations to squash views of lesser convenience. And the problem with this, is that nobody knows, as this is said behind closed doors. Transparency, being banished long ago from the civil service. And that's the way they like it. Untouchable.


Praise then to gossip, where people want to believe the worst. giving the why to most news on the radio or television, being bad news.


Fortunately, with support from a few friends, family, and finally academia, the truth became indelibly inscribed in data bases at 'The Keep' and English Heritage. As proofing to the droplets of scorn. Strengthening Vic's strong shoulders. Water off a duck's back if you like, though intolerable to some.


Yet still remnants of malicious intent remains. Sniggers in the pubs. Sticks and stones. Though, such voicing rapidly diminishing, as those who take the time to look at the evidence for themselves, begin to outnumber the naysayers. Hurrah, for freedom of the press. The right for a local non-person to be heard. Behold, the invention of the internet.











The big break for Vic, came in July 1997, with the finding of Ron Saunders, a local gardener cut off from the digital world, but whose wife needed her sewing machine serviced. He was found by chance, by Alex Askaroff (Big Al).


Then in 1998, another chance phone call, ended with a meeting, and Ron Martin paying the site a visit. He was an amateur archaeologist with the Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society. Ron immediately knew what he was looking at. And was not afraid to tell.


Next, came the County Archaeologist, Dr Andrew Woodcock, and finally English Heritage.


That said, progress was slow, mainly due to a relationship falling apart with tragic consequences. That event making lots of officials very happy as you might imagine, as they were then able to apply more spin to great effect. Aimed at undoing the value of the local jewel, to carry on as before. Tho wrong, not right.


Then the dust settled, and the view became clear again. Having gained planning consent to build 70, then 140 houses on the adjacent field, the Heritage asset was once again under threat. This time from developers with three and a half million reasons in the bag, who would not be pleased to find out that the industrial complex they had virtually ignored during the application process, is once again considered to be important, but this time internationally. Being the only surviving example of early battery load levelling in grid stabilisation, anywhere in the world.


It was time for Vic to get his magnifying glass out again. There may yet be a pumping heart, for the common good, for the preservation of our proud heritage. Blood once again flowing for what is right. For the lives of our children yet to come.








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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