Parham – the Perfect Place to Celebrate Easter

Parham House bathed in the spring sunlight
Parham House bathed in the spring sunlight

As you approach Parham through the soft folds of her parkland landscape this fine Elizabethan house reveals herself in a timeless and welcoming way.

It is five years since I wrote my first column and I am returning to where I began. I love revisiting this remarkable place and today I am rewarded by the sight of Parham’s stone walls glowing in the light of the first spring sunshine of the year. The house sits comfortably in the landscape against the backdrop of the Sussex Downs.

There is an excitement in the air as Parham’s team busy themselves with the final preparations before welcoming the first visitors of 2018 this coming Easter Sunday.

Lady Emma Barnard in the Long Gallery at Parham

I am greeted by Lady Emma Barnard whose home this is. She is following in the footsteps of her grandparents and her Great Aunt. Emma explains “My grandparents, Clive and Alicia Pearson, fell in love with Parham as soon as they saw it. The house was in a poor state when they bought it. They spent a lot of money during the 1920s and ’30s carefully restoring this fine Elizabethan house. They installed electricity, plumbing and heating and thanks to them it’s still a really comfortable home today.”

Parham with its beautiful rooms and collections is no ordinary historic house but a home which gathers its visitors in a generous and unique way thanks to Lady Emma’s particular qualities. Together with her husband, James, Lady Emma has brought up her two boys here and the family’s fondness for this place gives it real life.

Clive and Alicia Pearson at Parham in 1956

“I love it when the visitor season and first opening approaches” Lady Emma declares. She continues “Clive and Alicia opened Parham to the public for the first time in 1948, not out of need but out of a genuine desire to share their home with others. I’m delighted that 70 years on Parham continues to welcome visitors in the same spirit.”

We set out to see how the preparations are progressing and pause at the top of the house in the light filled Long Gallery with its wonderful ceiling. Lady Emma explains that the ceiling was put in by the Pearsons in the 1960s. There were no historical records of the Elizabethan original so they commissioned the theatrical artist Oliver Messel to design it.

I remark that a house and garden like Parham carry with them a weight of history and tradition which demands a particularly keen sense of duty and service from its custodians. Lady Emma replies “It is a way of life but we love this place and being here.”

In the grounds to the south of the house, beyond the ha-ha, is St Peter’s Church where I will be taking the Easter Sunday service of Holy Communion this year. It starts at 9.15am and all are welcome. The church remains open all day.

Parham House and Gardens open this Easter Sunday 1st April 2018 at 2pm and 12pm respectively, closing at 5pm. For more information go to www.parhaminsussex.co.uk or telephone 01903 742021.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Celebrating 140 Years of St John Ambulance

From left to right: Lady Fiona Barttelot, Caroline Lucas, Lady Emma Barnard, Katie Holmes, Peter Field, Maureen Chowen, Quenelda Avery, Trevor Moss and Liz Harper celebrating St John Ambulance in Sussex in the Great Hall at Parham

From left to right: Lady Fiona Barttelot, Caroline Lucas, Lady Emma Barnard, Katie Holmes, Peter Field, Maureen Chowen, Quenelda Avery, Trevor Moss and Liz Harper celebrating St John Ambulance in Sussex in the Great Hall at Parham140 years of the St John Ambulance tradition was celebrated at their 2017 Sussex Awards. These annual awards celebrate outstanding achievement and service by the volunteers and this year they were hosted by Lady Emma Barnard, The High Sheriff of West Sussex, at her Sussex home, Parham House.

The St John Ambulance Sussex volunteers were treated to time in Parham’s walled gardens before being welcomed by Lady Emma Barnard in Parham’s Elizabethan Great Hall for the awards.

At the heart of the organisation are the Order’s mottos ‘Pro fide’ and ‘Proutilitate hominium’ – ‘For the Faith and in the service of humanity’. As their Sussex Chaplain I offered prayers for the work of the St John Ambulance in Sussex and the Order of St John.

The presentations were led by The Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Peter Field, and Lady Fiona Barttelot, representing Mrs Susan Pyper the Lord-Lieutenant of West Sussex. They were supported in their duties by the High Sheriffs of East and West Sussex, Maureen Chowen and Lady Emma Barnard. The Lord-Lieutenant of East Sussex Cadet, Katie Holmes, was proud to be at the heart of the awards together with Sussex County President Caroline Lucas, Chairman, Quenelda Avery, District Manager, Trevor Moss and Regional Director, Liz Harper.

Lady Emma Barnard presenting a Commendation Award to Jean-Pierre Ball
Lady Emma Barnard presenting a Commendation Award to Jean-Pierre Ball

Jean-Pierre Ball was given a Chief Executive’s Commendation Award for exceptional service to our county and St John Ambulance by Lady Emma Barnard.

Amongst the many long service awards were three volunteers, Linda Hickman, Christine McIntyre and John Wright, from the Bognor Regis Unit, who earlier in the evening had delighted in their time in Lady Emma’s gardens.

Long service award winners Linda Hickman, Christine McIntyre and John Wright from the Bognor Regis Unit of St. John Ambulance, enjoying the gardens at Parham
Long service award winners Linda Hickman, Christine McIntyre and John Wright from the Bognor Regis Unit of St. John Ambulance, enjoying the gardens at Parham

The Awards were followed by a garden party in the marquee.

It is remarkable to reflect that St John Ambulance pre-dates the National Health Service by 70 years. A uniformed organisation, its volunteers can be readily identified by the eight-pointed Maltese Cross which they wear proudly.

140 years on St John Ambulance continues to be dedicated to the teaching and practice of medical first aid and the provision of ambulance services through volunteer units rooted in their local communities. There is much to celebrate in their work and they are deserving of our thanks. If you would like to learn first aid, join or support St John Ambulance in Sussex look up your local unit headquarters and pop along.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

 

Parham’s Garden Weekend

Parham’s Head Gardener, Tom Brown, in the greenhouses at Parham
Parham’s Head Gardener, Tom Brown, in the greenhouses at Parham

Parham’s Garden Weekend is becoming Chelsea by the Sussex Downs thanks to its long gardening tradition and the growing national reputation of Head Gardener, Tom Brown. For me this quintessential celebration of our passion for gardening is one of the highlights of the Sussex summer calendar.

I come across Tom Brown preparing for the weekend in the greenhouse. The light, perspective and abundance of flowers in the greenhouse is reminiscent of Eric Ravilious’ famous watercolours of greenhouses painted in Sussex in the 1930s.

It’s a measure of Tom Brown’s growing stature that many of the country’s leading horticulturalists, gardeners and designers choose to congregate at Parham for the Garden Weekend year after year.

The new White Border against the ancient walls of Parham’s gardens
The new White Border against the ancient walls of Parham’s gardens

Amongst those coming to celebrate gardening at Parham is former Chelsea Physic Head Gardener and BBC Gardener’s World presenter, Nick Bailey, who will be holding a book signing event. Society garden designer, author and Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medallist, Jinny Blom, leading plants woman, Marina Christopher, and doyen of cut flowers and designer of one of BBC Radio 2’s 2017 Chelsea sensory gardens, Sarah Raven, all have Parham’s Garden Weekend on their calendars.

In between the talks and workshops Tom Brown, his garden team and volunteers, will be out in force to offer advice and to interpret the garden for visitors. It is rare for the public to have such unmediated, direct access to horticulturalists like Tom and his team.

This generous and outward facing spirit pervades all that Parham does which allows Tom to put a spot light on the best that Sussex has to offer. Many of our county’s most talented plants men and women, growers, specialist nurseries and local talent will be exhibiting at Parham, giving the discerning gardening public access to top quality plants and advice. It is this authenticity which makes Parham’s Garden Weekend so unique. This and Tom’s vision and integrity is attracting increasing attention from across the country.

The upward trajectory of Tom Brown and the gardens at Parham is set to continue. There is a sense of long-term patronage at Parham. Tom is quick to celebrate Lady Emma Barnard’s role in this. Her love of Parham and her patronage continues to bless this place with such life and creativity.

The restored Blue Border at Parham
The restored Blue Border at Parham

In recent years there has been significant investment in the borders with experimental trials in planting. The palette of plants is very important to the opulent, artistic borders at Parham. The restored Blue Border and the new White Border give expression to the natural informality of the ‘Parham Way’ and delight the senses. There is much in the old and the new to enchant the visitor.

I am looking forward to Parham House and Garden’s ‘Garden Weekend’ this coming Saturday and Sunday, 8th and 9th July 2017, 10.30am to 5.00pm. For more information go to www.parhaminsussex.co.uk or telephone 01903 742021. I look forward to seeing you there!

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

A New High Sheriff at Parham

The High Sheriff of West Sussex, Lady Emma Barnard, in the Great Hall at Parham
The High Sheriff of West Sussex, Lady Emma Barnard, in the Great Hall at Parham

Lady Emma Barnard is embarking on her year as High Sheriff of West Sussex. This ancient role, dating back to Saxon times, brings together important threads in the life of our nation and County.

We meet at Lady Emma’s Sussex home, Parham House. Thanks to Emma and her family’s stewardship Parham is a gathering and generous place. The April spring weather blesses us with a moment of warmth and light as we sit and talk. She is clearly excited about the coming year and says “I’m really looking forward to celebrating and acknowledging the quiet heroes in West Sussex; those people who add to the richness of life in our county by constantly contributing in so many ways without seeking praise or recognition.” I comment that the exceptional is so often to be found in the everyday and she agrees.

The Hon. Clive and Mrs Alicia Pearson, Lady Emma’s great-grandfather and a former High Sheriff of West Sussex
The Hon. Clive and Mrs Alicia Pearson, Lady Emma’s great-grandfather and a former High Sheriff of West Sussex

Lady Emma explains that she is not the first High Sheriff to live at Parham “There have only been three families who have lived at Parham and each family has fulfilled the office of High Sheriff. Thomas Palmer was the first in 1571. He inherited Parham from his father and was much regarded by Elizabeth I. The Bisshopps were next. Thomas Bisshopp was High Sheriff in 1583 before he bought Parham in 1601. His son, Sir Edward, held the office in 1636 under Charles I. The Hon. Robert Curzon followed under William IV in 1834. Then there was my great-grandfather, Clive Pearson, who fell in love with Parham and carefully restored this fine Elizabethan house during the 1920s and ‘30s. I have inherited his delight in sharing the joys of Parham with visitors. It is extraordinary to think that he was the High Sheriff in 1940 as the Battle of Britain was being fought in the skies over Sussex.”

Like Parham the role of High Sheriff is steeped in history. Originally known as Shire Reeves they were Royal officials appointed to enforce the King’s interests in the County. In particular they were responsible for the collection of revenues and the enforcement of law and order. Their extensive powers included the right to summon a ‘posse comitatus’, a military force, to enforce the law. It has often been suggested that it was Queen Elizabeth I who first marked the appointment of her High Sheriffs by pricking their names through on the Sheriff’s Roll. In fact there are earlier vellum examples dating back to the reign of Henry VII. Nevertheless the tradition of the Monarch pricking the names of the High Sheriffs continues to this day.

The role of the High Sheriff today is rooted in its history. Lady Emma will be called upon to support the Royal Family, the Lord-Lieutenant, the Judiciary, the Police, the emergency services, local authorities, and the Church and faith groups. Hospitality to visiting High Court Judges and promoting the voluntary organisations in West Sussex will also be central to Lady Emma’s shrieval year.

Despite the duties of High Sheriff Lady Emma and her team are excitedly preparing for the coming Easter weekend when Parham will once again welcome visitors, as it has done for centuries, as the House and Gardens once again open to the public.

Parham House and Park in the spring sunshine
Parham House and Park in the spring sunshine

In the grounds to the south of the house, beyond the ha-ha, is St Peter’s Church. The family’s pew still has its own fireplace but with beautiful weather forecast they shouldn’t need to light it this Easter. The Easter Sunday Holy Communion starts at 10am. The church remains open all day so you might decide to attend the service or perhaps just take time to be, to rest, to reflect and pray as part of your visit to Parham.

Parham House and Gardens opens this Easter Sunday 16th April 2017 at 2pm and 12pm respectively and last admissions are at 4.30pm. For more information go to www.parhaminsussex.co.uk or telephone 01903 742021.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Celebrating our Quintessential Affair with the Garden

Sweet peas in the cut flower beds at Parham
Sweet peas in the cut flower beds at Parham

This week I am visiting Parham House in West Sussex as preparations for their 22nd annual Garden Weekend are in full swing. For me this quintessential celebration of our passion for gardening is one of the highlights of the Sussex summer calendar. This year’s event will be opened by the celebrity gardener and broadcaster, Rachel de Thame.

Head Gardener, Tom Brown, at Parham House

As I arrive at Parham the scene is one of great activity. An enormous cherry picker fills the courtyard, they have been tending the ancient roses on the walls of the house. Lady Emma Barnard greets me with a wave from the far side of the fountain as Head Gardener, Tom Brown, welcomes me. Tom and I walk through an ancient wooden archway and door, its russet paint complimenting the silver grey of the stone buildings. On the other side the stillness which gathers you at Parham is immediately apparent.

As we walk towards the walled garden Tom begins to talk about the gardens and his role as Parham’s Head Gardener. His face is alive with enthusiasm as he says “The garden is bigger than all of us. It’s humbling to look at how this garden behaves and its needs.” I remark on how I have always loved the naturalistic planting at Parham. Its swathes of colour and textures interact with the movement of light and a gentle breeze in the walled gardens. Tom responds “The palette of the plants is very important to the ‘Parham way’, as are the big opulent artistic borders. But this is underpinned by a rigour in the way we approach our work in the garden.” It quickly becomes apparent that I am in the company of an accomplished and sensitive horticulturist who has the rare gift of observing well. He describes how he is attentive to the way that plants respond to the garden and also people’s reactions to it. There is a quality of the relational, a deep sense of stewardship, in Tom’s approach. It is also clear that he has an awareness of his place in the ongoing story of this ancient house and garden and an understanding of the responsibilities of his position.

The Greenhouse at Parham being tended by Peta and Henry
The Greenhouse at Parham being tended by Peta and Henry

Our conversation turns to Tom’s team and the creativity it embodies. He talks with obvious respect and pride as he describes how Peta, Henry, Max, Jake and Sam bring different gifts and experience. He remarks “There is a sense of ownership for all of us with belonging to a team.” This is a team defined by respectful dialogue. There is respect both for the members of the team and the garden.

As we talk a visitor approaches us. She expresses her pleasure in the garden and Tom is clearly delighted. He stands and listens carefully to her question about planting in the shade of her garden. He responds generously and with expert advice.

Tom is clearly grateful for the time he spent at Wisley but his pleasure in the ‘canvas’ of these gardens, that Lady Emma’s patronage has given him to work on, is unmistakeable. Tom brings his generosity of spirit and depth of expertise to his role as he facilitates and leads the ongoing vision for these gardens. He loves the domestic qualities of his position too. He always ensures that there is a basket of fresh vegetables for Emma and her family when they return home and wonderful cut flowers for the house. That the gardens bless the family is very important to him. His generous care for the gardens, his team, the visitors, Lady Emma and her family is underpinned by the relational in all that he does. Tom is richly deserving of our thanks.

Parham House and Garden’s ‘Garden Weekend’ is on this coming Saturday and Sunday, 11th and 12th July 2015, 10.30am to 5.00pm. For more information go to www.parhaminsussex.co.uk or telephone 01903 742021. Tickets include the wonderful gardens and entry to the house and its superb collections. There will be a number of specialist nurseries and the opportunity to be inspired and take home some wonderful stock for your gardens. Don’t miss out on the marvellous cut summer flower arrangements in the house and the flower festival in St Peter’s church. I hope to see you there!

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 8th July 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.