Tag Archives: South Downs

Secrets of the South Downs: Parham House & Gardens

PARHAM HOUSE & GARDENS

South elevation of Parham.
South elevation of Parham.

Before the present house existed, there was once a fortified medieval house, and some of this building was incorporated into Parham’s east wing. Parham Manor, later owned by the Abbey of Westminster, was granted by Henry VIII to Robert Palmer in 1540 following the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  Thirty seven years later the foundation stone for the Elizabethan house was laid by Robert’s two-year old grandson Thomas.

Part of the north and west elevations.
Part of the north and west elevations.

The house is built of stone rubble with stone quoins, with a Horsham slab roof, and many brick chimneys.  The main elevation is south facing and is built to the traditional E plan, with a central hall with a two storey porch, flanked at either end by two gabled cross-wings.  The porch, which was probably the original entrance, has a doorway which is flanked by pilasters, and surmounted by a cornice and a cartouche.  Such classical detailing would have been an expression of the owners taste and learning.

The Stables and Laundry Wing built in the 18th century.
The Stables and Laundry Wing built in the 18th century.

At the beginning of the 17th century the estate was sold to Sir Thomas Bisshopp (also spelt Bysshopp), whose descendent Sir Cecil Bisshopp became the twelfth Baron Zouche in 1815.  During the 18th century Sir Cecil Bisshopp, the 6th Baronet, built the current Stables and Laundry Wing to the north of the house.  The Bisshopp family remained at Parham for over 300 years until it was eventually sold to the present Pearson family in 1922.  The Hon. Clive and Alicia Pearson set about carefully restoring the beautiful old house to its former glory.  Both they and their daughter Veronica amassed a fine collection of sympathetically chosen furniture, paintings and textiles to fill the house.  Alicia opened the house to the public in 1948 following the end of the Second World War.

One of the beautiful greenhouses.
One of the beautiful greenhouses in the garden.

The Great Hall is a spectacular example of how a wealthy, ambitious courtier wished to show off his status.  The tall mullioned windows fill the huge two-storey room with light.  The decorative panelling reaches to the first floor, and is filled with classical pilasters and arches.  Parham’s most fabulous treasure is hidden in this room: Robert Peake’s portrait of Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, riding a white horse.  This portrait, of James I’s eldest son, portrays him as the popular, strong, war-like, intelligent heir to the English throne that he was considered to be.  He is shown to be pulling the winged figure of Father Time by the forelock, possibly symbolising Henry’s capability of  “taking opportunity by the forelock” (a contemporary saying).  It was not until the portraits restoration in the late 1980’s that the figure of Father Time, the plumed helmet, lance and brick wall were revealed for the first time to modern eyes.  They had been painted over in the late 17th century.  Unfortunately, all the hopes and dreams that had rested on Prince Henry wilted away when he died tragically young at the age of 18 from typhoid fever.

One of the entrances to the Walled Garden.
One of the entrances to the Walled Garden.

Parham consist of seven acres of Pleasure Grounds and four acres of wonderful gardens.  The current Walled Garden originates from the 18th century and is a delightful mixture of vibrant colours, ornamental statues, box hedges, herbaceous boarders and interlinking paths,  There’s a romantic orchard with a range of fruit trees, a herb garden which harps back to Parham’s Tudor roots, a Wendy House built in 1928 by Clive Pearson for his three daughters, flower-filled greenhouses, and an 18th century Orangery.  The Pleasure Grounds consist of sweeping lawns and pathways, a tranquil lake and specimen trees dating from the 18th century, a classically inspired Summer House called Cannock House from the early 19th century, and Veronica’s maze created in 1991.  On a warm summers day, there really is nowhere better to escape to.

One of the many ornamental statues.
One of the many ornamental statues.

Parham Park comprises 875 acres, including an historic deer park with approximately 350 fallow deer, a fine dovecote dating from the 18th century and the church of St. Peter which lies south-west to the main house.

The lake and boathouse.
The lake and boathouse.

Parham is still enjoyed by the Pearson family and as such it’s opening times are restricted.  This should not deter you as it still retains its family feel and makes a visit feel all the more special.

Please refer to the link for more information: http://www.parhaminsussex.co.uk/index.html

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Secrets of the South Downs: Hinton Ampner

HINTON AMPNER

A view from the terraces looking back towards the principal front.
A view from the terraces looking back towards the principal front.

Of all the secrets that the South Downs possesses, Hinton Ampner is probably one of the best kept.  I stumbled across this wonderful country house last year whilst enjoying a scenic drive en route to Goodwood House (where I was doing an Internship at the time).  What a marvellous find it was!  2014 has been a rather difficult year for Hinton, and it is only now after many months, that the house has been reopened to the public following restoration to the roof after it suffered severe damage in the February storms.

The north front, and main entrance.
The north front, and main entrance.

Hinton has had a rather colourful past.  The original Tudor manor that once stood near to the site of the current house was pulled down as it was believed to be haunted in 1793.  A Georgian house was built, and this was later enlarged in 1864. The house that stands today is principally the sole vision of its last owner, Ralph Dutton, Lord Sherbourne (1898-1985), who had a great passion for all things Georgian.  Consequently, on his inheritance in 1935, he swept away the dark and oppressive Victorian interiors and replaced them with lighter, fresher and arguably more elegant neo-Georgian interiors.  Guided by his architects Lord Gerald Wellesley and Trenwith Wells, he sought to rediscover and breath life into the original 18th century decorative scheme that had been hidden for the past century or so.  Disastrously, a major fire in 1960 destroyed most of Dutton’s hard work, and much of the collection was lost in the flames.

A view from the terraces looking out over the South Downs.
A view from the terraces looking out over the South Downs.

Dutton, determined not to be beaten, decided to rebuild and recreate the 18th century interiors. Dutton had an appreciation for the style advocated by Robert Adam and consequently saved, bought and relocated many original Adam fixtures and fittings. Dutton even rescued an original Adam ceiling from 38 Berkeley Square, before its destruction, and reinstalled it in the Dining Room.  This was destroyed by the terrible fire, so Dutton had the ceiling recreated. The Sitting Room has a fireplace from Adam’s demolished Adelphi Terrace, and the Dining Room has a giltwood pier glass (one of a pair) designed by Adam in 1773 for Derby House, Grosvenor Square.

The stunning little temple in the gardens,
The stunning little temple in the gardens,

Dutton was a great collector of Georgian and Regency furniture, as well as 18th century Italian paintings, including Esther fainting before King Ahasuerus by Francesco Fontebasso (Venice 1709 – Venice 1769) and David kneeling in his Palace before the Prophet Nathan by Tobias van Nijmegen (b. Nijmegen c.1665).  His interests included high quality ceramincs, and there are fantastic examples of Sevres porcelain and Staffordshire figurines.

The gate into the walled garden.
The gate into the walled garden.

The beautiful gardens at Hinton were recreated alongside the house, and as such demonstrate the same good taste and style favoured by Dutton.  Consisting of manicured lawns, terraces with hedges, topiary, ornaments, a dell, a fabulous little temple and wonderful mature trees and planting, one cannot help but marvel at the beauty and tranquillity.  The restored walled garden is delightful, as is the short stroll to the parish church of All Saints, dating from the 13th century, which really cannot be missed.

The walled garden.
The walled garden.

If ever you are travelling through the South Downs and need a quick stop to recollect your thoughts and to restore your inner calm, then make sure that you discover Hinton Ampner as I did.  Although recreated interiors are not usually my ‘thing’ it must be said that Hinton has something quite special to offer.  It is a house that everyone could imagine living in.  It has that wonderful balance of elegance and homeliness that makes it infinitely welcoming to weary travellers and visitors alike.

Beautifully manicured lawns and hedges, with the medieval church in the distance.
Beautifully manicured lawns and hedges, with the medieval church in the distance.

Visit: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hinton-ampner/

Secrets of the South Downs: Petworth House

PETWORTH HOUSE

Petworth House is located in the charming village of Petworth, West Sussex. The main body of the current house was commissioned by the the sixth (or “Proud”) Duke of Somerset between 1688 and 1696.  However, Petworth’s origins stretch as far back as the 12th century when the estate was gifted to Jocelin de Louvain, by his half-sister Adeliza of Louvain (widow of Henry I).  Jocelin married into the powerful Percy family whose stronghold was based in the north.  In 1309, Jocelin’s descendent Henry de Percy, 1st Baron Percy of Alnwick (1273–1314), obtained a licence to crenelate.  The Percy family were elevated to the Earldom of Northumberland during the 14th century, but it was not until the lifetime of the 8th Earl that Petworth saw a substantial rebuild between 1576 and 1582.  This was primarily due to the fact that queen Elizabeth I was suspicious of the Percy’s allegiance to Mary, Queen of Scots, so confined them to their southern estates.  The 9th Earl, also known as the ‘Wizard’ Earl due to his scientific interests, remodelled part of the house after 1621, of which part of the walls survive to the north of the building.

View from the landscaped park towards the principal front.
View from the landscaped park towards the principal front.

In 1682 Lady Elizabeth Percy, the heiress of the Percy estates, married Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset.  Together, they set about remodelling the largely outdated Petworth in the most fashionable style of the day: the Baroque.  It is debated whether the architect was Pierre Puget or Daniel Marot, but in truth, there is not enough evidence to conclusively say.  The house is 322 feet long and the main front has two principal storeys each with 21 large sash windows, and an attic storey with 21 smaller windows, thus creating an impressive elevation.  Above the first floor there is a heavily moulded cornice which runs the length of the elevation, and above the second floor (attic storey) there is a second cornice, with parapet and a decorative balustrade, to hide the roof.  The central three bay ground floor windows as well as the three at either end of the elevation are picked out with extra decoration: each have cornices with consoles.  The three windows at either end are also surmounted by busts.

Close up of the main elevation, showing the busts above the ground floor windows.
Close up of the main elevation, showing the busts above the ground floor windows.

The interiors followed in the Baroque taste and perhaps the most impressive of which is the Carved Room: the specacular work of Grinling Gibbons.   A fire in 1714 is said to have triggered the building of the Grand Staircase.  A breathtaking sight with its murals painted by the famous Louis Laguerre, it is even possible to spot Elizabeth, the Percy Heiress, riding in a triumphal chariot.  When the 6th Duke died in 1748, quickly followed by his son in 1750, the titles and estates were divided.  His son-in-law took the Northumberland estates and titles, and his nephew, Charles Wyndham (1710-1763) took Petworth and the title 2nd Earl of Egremont.  It was this heir who commissioned ‘Capability’ Brown to sweep away the formal gardens and re-landscape the park.  He also commissioned what is now regarded as one of the finest examples of an English Rococo state bed.  Attributed to James Whittle and Samuel Norman and dated to the 1750s, it is riot of detail, including a Chinese dragon, shells and a small squirrel  eating a nut.

View of the principal front.
View of the principal front.

The 3rd Earl of Egremont was a patron of the arts, and it is during his lifetime that he collected some of the finest art in existence.  Amongst his friends he could count JMW Turner and John Constable.  He added extensively to Petworth’s collection as a whole, and today the art collection is considered one of the best owned by the National Trust.  With works by Lely, Van Dyck, Turner, Titian, Kneller, Reynolds, Gainsborough and Claude, to name but a few.

Rotunda in the gardens.
The Ionic Rotunda in the gardens.

The National Trust was gifted Petworth in 1947 as the family were lumbered with extortionate death duties.  The current Lord and Lady Egremont continue to live in part of the house.

The beautiful parkland.
The beautiful parkland.

Petworth Park is a stunningly beautiful place to experience, dating back nearly 1000 years.  The park is home to a 900 strong herd of fallow deer which can often be glimpsed in the distance as they graze.  The serpentine lake, designed by Brown offers a lovely vista from the House.  Strolling through the Pleasure Grounds offers even more delightful views, such as the marvellous Ionic Rotunda, and the graceful Doric temple.

It cannot be denied that Petworth is a special place. Its beautiful setting, its fabulous collections, its delightful gardens, its charming restaurant, its tranquil park all serve to make it the perfect place to restore ones energies.

Secrets of the South Downs: Uppark House

UPPARK HOUSE & GARDENS

View of the south and west elevations.
View of the south and west elevations.

Uppark is located in the heart of the South Downs National Park, West Sussex.  It is happily situated on the top of a great hill commanding spectacular views over the surrounding countryside.  Built in 1689 by Ford Grey, 3rd Baron Grey of Warke, later created Earl of Tankerville in 1695.  Lord Grey lived a dangerous life; he was arrested in 1683 for his involvement in the Rye House Plot against King Charles II, but managed to escape to France.  Two years later he became one of the main leaders of the Monmouth Rebellion, leading the cavalry, but was defeated and condemned for high treason.  Remarkably, he escaped death by turning against his former conspirators.  Earlier, in 1682 he was even accused of seducing his wife’s sister, Lady Henrietta Berkeley, for which he was found guilty, but again, escaped punishment!  It is, therefore, remarkable that he ever found the time to build himself a country house at all.  The design of Uppark has been attributed to William Talman, which may explain its exemplary symmetry and simplicity.  It is constructed from red brick and comprises two main storeys, with attic and basement.

View of the principal elevation.
View of the principal elevation.

In 1747 the house was sold to Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh and his wife Sarah, and it is their coat of arms that is displayed prominently in the pediment on the south front.  They were also largely responsible for the delightful interiors, commissioning the extensive redecoration in the mid 18th century.  Sir Matthew and Lady Sarah embarked on a two year Grand Tour of Europe whilst work was being carried out and during this time they purchased much of collections that now fill Uppark.  The crowing glory of Uppark’s fabulous 18th century interiors must be the Saloon, which is attributed to James Paine, who also built Dover House in Whitehall for Sir Matthew.  Sir Matthew also commissioned the building of two balancing blocks located behind Uppark, an elegant stable block to the north-west and a service block containing a laundry and kitchen to the north-east.  Both are constructed of matching red brick and are adorned with decorative features, such as pediments and turret cupolas.  These service wings are both connected to the main house via underground tunnels, which enabled the servants to go about their work without being seen by their employers.

The edge of the south front with the stable block in the distance.
The edge of the south front with the stable block in the distance.

On the death of Sir Matthew in 1774, his only son and heir Harry inherited Uppark.  Sir Harry was a true Regency playboy and is well known for his friendship with the Prince Regent and his liaison with Emma Hart (who later became Lady Hamilton and Lord Nelson’s lover).  He scandalised society in 1825, by marrying his young dairymaid at the age of 70!  Nonetheless the marriage was very happy and lasted 20 years until his death at the age of 90.  Sir Harry commissioned Sir Humphry Repton to partially update Uppark in 1810, including the addition of a stone colonnade to the north front, a dairy and the landscaping of the gardens.

A closer view of the south front of the stable block.
A closer view of the south front of the stable block.

Tragedy struck Uppark on 30th August 1989 when a fire broke out, caused by builders using a blow torch for repairs up on the roof.  It destroyed the upper two storeys completely, but thankfully due to the dedication of the fire-fighters, staff, family and members of the public, as much of the collection that could be saved from the lower storeys were saved.  Although the main ground floor interior wasn’t gutted by fire, it was still damaged by the water, smoke and soot.  Amazingly, although Uppark came close to demolition at this point, the National Trust decided to embark on its largest conservation project to date.  Calling on skills and expertise from accross the country Uppark underwent an estimated £20 million restoration plan.  Such has been the success of the project that when walking around the house today it is nearly impossible to conceive that a fire ever ravaged the building.

View from the dairy towards the east front of Uppark.
View from the dairy towards the east front of Uppark.

Highlights of the collection include a magnificent 18th century dolls house with all of its original fixtures and fittings.  It is a remarkable sight because it is so interesting to glimpse the fashions and tastes prevalent in that era.  There are an array of fabulous paintings including works by Batoni, Zuccarelli and Vernet.  If the life of the servants is of interest, then the basement won’t disappoint with its wonderfully preserved and presented servants quarters, including the Housekeepers Room, Butlers Pantry and Beer Cellar.

View from Uppark looking out over the South Downs.
View from Uppark looking out over the South Downs.

Before you leave Uppark make sure that you: take a stroll around the gardens, enjoy the views of the South Downs, find the Gothic Seat designed by Repton, indulge in a tasty afternoon tea at the restaurant and browse the well-stocked gift shop!

Please visit: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/uppark/