A Very English Country House

The Amberley Blue sandstone of Parham House caught in the spring sunlight
The Amberley Blue sandstone of Parham House caught in the spring sunlight

Parham House and Gardens are amongst the most beautiful in all England. There is a confidence and ease in the gentle English taste expressed in its interiors, collections and gardens.

I approach Parham from Storrington following the long drive through undulating parkland with grazing deer. The house sits confidently in the Sussex landscape and is bathed in the cool, early spring sunlight.

Parham is a fine example of an Elizabethan H-plan house centred around the Great Hall with its tall mullioned windows. The house is predominately constructed from local sandstone known as Amberley Blue beneath the Horsham stone roof.

As I arrive Lady Emma Barnard greets me. There is an atmosphere of excited preparation as the annual opening on Easter Sunday approaches.

Lady Emma’s great-grandfather the Hon. Clive Pearson, a gifted mechanical engineer, bought the House and Estate in 1922 with his wife Alicia. Lady Emma reflects “They found Parham in sad repair and together they revived and restored the house with great sensitivity for the long-term.”

The Pearsons furnished the house with wonderful collections of fine portraits, furniture and textiles, often searching out pieces formerly from the house or relating to its history. With its limed oak panelling and large windows, there is an airy, light feeling to the Great Hall, Long Gallery and many other rooms.

They also installed electricity, plumbing and heating. Lady Emma remarks “Thanks to them it’s still a really comfortable home – in fact the boilers my great-grandfather put in in the 1920s have only just failed.”

Lady Emma Barnard and the South Front at Parham
Lady Emma Barnard and the South Front at Parham

Lady Emma is uncomplaining as she explains how it has been a chilly winter at Parham whilst the boilers and heating were replaced and restored.

There is a processional quality to the family’s life and stewardship at Parham which embraces and celebrates the past whilst looking confidently to the future.

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, being here and sharing it with others.”

As I say goodbye we walk through the house and into the grounds to find the handsome South Front complimented by beds of red tulips.

Whether you are visiting for the first time or returning there is always something to discover and delight at Parham.

I am looking forward to visiting Parham after taking part in the Easter Sunday celebrations at St Mary’s, Storrington with a service of Holy Communion followed by an Easter egg hunt. The service starts at 10am and all are welcome.

Parham House opens this Easter Sunday 21st April 2018 at 2pm and the Gardens at 12pm, closing at 5pm. For more information go to www.parhaminsussex.co.uk or telephone 01903 742021.

Parham House & Garden is the perfect Easter treat. I hope to see 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.