Borde Hill Coronation Plant Fair

The Azalea Ring at Borde Hill Gardens

Borde Hill Gardens will be holding their annual plant fair in celebration of our gardening King on Sunday 7th May 2023 between 10am and 3pm.

The gardens at Borde Hill were first laid out by Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke’s great grandfather, Colonel Stephenson R. Clarke. He purchased the house and land in 1893. Between 1893 and 1937 he sponsored many of the Great Plant Collectors’ expeditions. They returned with rare specimens brought back from their travels in the Himalayas, China, Burma, Tasmania and the Andes. Many of these plant species are still at the heart of the collection which make up the seventeen acres of these Grade II star listed gardens.

This spirit of adventure is still apparent today. Andrewjohn’s wife, Eleni, a geologist and trained horticulturalist, finds the gardens inspiring. She comments “This has always been an experimental garden, a place to try new plants. Borde Hill is constantly changing and looking to the future.”

Whilst our plant collecting might necessarily be on a more modest scale than Andrewjohn’s grandfather the Plant Fair provides a wonderful opportunity to add rare and beautiful new stock with specialist nurseries including: Plantbase, Hardy Cottage Garden Plants, Phoenix Plants, Clare’s Chillies, Mrs Mitchell’s Kitchen Garden, and Chailey Iris Garden attending. The Sussex branch of the Hardy Plant Society will be there too.

The Coronation Sunday Plant Fair to be held at Borde Hill Gardens

HM King Charles III has long understood that Gardens are places of blessing, invitation, hospitality and encounter for us and for nature.

Borde Hill’s displays are wonderful in the late spring, early summer and there will be much to delight alongside the Plant Fair. Eleni says “There are two beautiful new designs to see by multiple RHS gold medal winner Chris Beardshaw for the Italian Garden and Paradise Walk. The Azalea Ring will be a kaleidoscope of colour with the deciduous Kurume and Knapp Hill azaleas – flowering rhododendrons are dotted around the garden. The woodland will be carpeted with bluebells and anemones plus many flowering trees like Davidia involucrata.”

Borde Hill’s gardens bless you. As you walk your conversations cannot fail to be informed by the beauty of the place. And there is plenty to inspire the keen horticulturist whether it’s the rare species, the subtle effects of the planting, or the floral compositions before you.

Borde Hill Garden is the perfect Coronation Sunday destination.

The Coronation Plant Fair will be held at Borde Hill Gardens, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH16 1XP on Sunday 7th May 2023. You can buy tickets on the day, or in advance. For more information visit or telephone 01444 450326.

Goodwood Members’ Meeting Marks the Start of the 75th Anniversary Celebrations

Rupert Toovey in the Daffodil Tent at Goodwood

2023 marks the 75th anniversary of the start of motorsport at Goodwood. At the heart of these celebrations is Goodwood’s motor circuit so it was fitting that this year’s Goodwood 75 celebrations should begin with an exceptional display of motor racing at the Members’ Meeting last weekend.

Motor racing began at Goodwood in 1948 and continued through a golden age of motorsport until 1966. It became what has been described as ‘the spiritual home of British motor racing’. During this period many of the greatest drivers of all time raced at Goodwood including Juan Manuel Fangio, Roy Salvadori, Jim Clark, Stirling Moss, Graham Hill, Phil Hill and Jackie Stewart.

In 1993 the then Lord March (now the 11th Duke of Richmond), with a group of other enthusiasts, held the first Festival of Speed with more than 100 cars and motorcycles blasting up the hill.

In September 1998 the first Goodwood Revival was held on the original circuit exactly 50 years to the day to the day after the Duke’s grandparents had first opened the circuit.

2014 saw the re-introduction of the Members’ Meeting for members of the GRRC and GRRC Fellowship who support motorsport at Goodwood.

This year’s Members’ Meeting, the 80th since motorsport began at Goodwood, started the Goodwood 75 celebrations with a stunning array of cars, motorcycles and racing held in the crisp spring sunshine.

The 1910 Fiat S76 Beast of Turin on the track at the 80th Goodwood Members’ Meeting

The SF Trophy is always popular with the crowds at Goodwood. These Edwardian racing cars and aero-engined specials from the early 20th century provide a sense of drama and occasion. Amongst the favourites at Goodwood is the Fiat S76, later also known as the Fiat 300HP Record and affectionately called ‘The Beast of Turin’. Made in 1910 its 28.4 litre engine developed 290bhp and is capable of some 130mph. It was built to break the land speed record.

Its current owner, Duncan Pittaway famously describes driving the car, which he fastidiously restored, as like “wrestling a gorilla”!

I am already looking forward to this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed and Goodwood Revival which embrace the modern and the halcyon days of motor racing with the accompanying glamour of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.

The GRRC Spring Members’ Meeting is always an exciting celebration of motor racing which is exclusively for GRRC and GRRC Fellowship members here in the heart of Sussex. To find out more about the benefits of membership, how to join, and to book tickets for this year’s Festival of Speed and Goodwood Revival go to

Clarice Cliff: Designer and Industrialist

A Clarice Cliff Bizarre Autumn Crocus pattern tankard shape part coffee service

Amongst the most influential women designers and industrialists of the 20th century was Clarice Cliff. Born in 1899 she grew up in Tunstall. Her father worked in an iron foundry whilst her mother took in washing.

When she was thirteen Clarice Cliff started working in the pottery industry as a gilder and studied art and sculpture at the Burslem School of Art.

In 1916 Clarice moved to AJ Wilkinson at Newport Burslem. Her ambitious nature was apparent even at this young age as she worked hard to acquire the skills of modelling, gilding, banding and painting. All the time she was building up and keeping pattern books.

By the 1920s she had caught the eye of the decorating manager at AJ Wilkinson, Jack Walker. Jack brought her to the attention of one of the factory owners Arthur Colley Austin Shorter. Shorter became her patron and later divorced his first wife to marry Clarice Cliff.

In 1927 Shorter gave Clarice her own studio in his Newport Pottery. It was here that she began to paint her free hand patterns employing on-glaze enamels which were much brighter than underglaze colours. Her wares were immediately popular and she was joined  by a young painter, Gladys Scarlett.

A Clarice Cliff Fantasque Pastel Autumn pattern vase, shape No. 358, circa 1930

Clarice Cliff called her work Bizarre and ‘The Bizarre by Clarice Cliff’ stamp was used between 1928 and 1936.

The abstract and cubist decorations, often arranged in geometric patterns, were influenced by Art Deco and modernist motifs.

In 1928 Clarice Cliff produced the simple Crocus pattern painted with flowers in orange, blue and purple with confident upstrokes as can be seen on the coffee service. The pattern was hugely popular throughout the 1930s and still delights collectors today.

The Fantasque range evolved between 1926 and 1934. The first in the range was decorated with an abstract depiction of a cottage in a woodland landscape like the Autumn pattern baluster vase with its pastel glazes. The designs were again influenced by the Art Deco.

The Crocus coffee service and the Fantasque vase were both entered for auction at Toovey’s from private collections and realised £800 and £900 respectively.

By 1929 Clarice Cliff had a team of seventy women working for her. They became known as the Bizarre girls.

In the light of her extraordinary success Clarice Cliff was appointed Art Director at Newport Pottery and AJ Wilkinson in 1930, and we will explore this next period in her remarkable career in a future article.

Medieval Frescoes Tell Easter Story

The St Mary’s, West Chiltington, 13th century medieval cycle of Easter frescoes

Amongst the frescoes at St Mary’s parish church in West Chiltington, Sussex is the Easter story. They were uncovered in 1882. Contemporary 19th century records note their excellent colour. Conservation work was not undertaken until the 1930s.

Frescoes are wall paintings painted directly on to the plaster while it is still wet. The artist has to work quickly and as the plaster dries the pigments and image are fixed. This technique was used throughout the Renaissance in Italy and elsewhere.

Amongst the earliest paintings at St Mary’s is the cross motif formed from an endless rope knot. This beautiful cross is easily missed and forms part of a circular medallion in the recess over the east end of the South Aisle. Such crosses are known in Roman mosaics and wall paintings. In Sussex the pavement at Fishbourne Roman Villa contains a similar emblem. However, its significance at West Chiltington, for the moment, remains unknown. There are trumpeting angels depicted on the arch below which overlay censing angels offering thanks and praise to God.

The St Mary’s, West Chiltington, 12th century cross

On the north side of the arcade in the nave is a cycle of frescoes which tell the Easter story from Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey as the crowds lay palm leaves before him, to his resurrection on the first Easter Day. Illustrated here are depictions of the Last Supper, Christ washing the feet of his disciples, the betrayal of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane by Judas Iscariot’s kiss, the flagellation of Christ, the carrying of the Cross and the Crucifixion. The scenes are portrayed within a series of three painted lobed arches resting on slender columns and capitals. The influence of the Gothic can be seen in the figures whose fluidity convey genuine humanity. Compassion and suffering are clearly discernable in the depictions of Christ and contrasts with the expressions on the faces of his tormentors. The directness of these paintings still powerfully communicate these familiar Gospel narratives even in their now faded hues.

They reside in a working building at the heart of its community for some 800 years and speak of a narrative common to us all. St Mary’s, West Chiltington is open every day – a generous place to find a punctuation mark and pray in a busy day. Easter services will be held at 2.00pm on Good Friday with Holy Communion on Easter Sunday at 8.00am and 10.00am all are welcome. For more information go to