A Postcard from Parham

The Georgian Saloon at Parham
The Georgian Saloon at Parham

What could be nicer than a holiday in Sussex with the backdrop of the South Downs!

We reached this conclusion whilst sipping Wiston bubbly in our garden and so this week we are revisiting Parham House & Gardens on our holidays in the company of its current custodian Lady Emma Barnard.

Lady Emma’s great-grandmother the Hon. Mrs Clive Pearson wrote “There are many old and historic houses now opening their doors…but none, I believe, holds safe within its walls a more enchanted atmosphere, a greater peace and kindliness, distilled perhaps from all the centuries it has outlived.”

In my view the English Country House is one of our nation’s greatest contributions to human civilization. Their assemblance of paintings and objects have a particular beauty born of the passions of successive generations of their families and, importantly, English Country House taste is also comfortable. Parham’s beauty is so essentially English.

As we enter the Great Parlour we stand beside a 17th century chair covered with exquisite gros and needlepoint and a Charles II walnut table with a vase of flowers arranged in the ‘Parham way’. Behind Lady Emma hangs a 17th century portrait which is thought to depict the French King Henry IV’s daughter, Christine of Savoy, Princess of Piedmont (1606-1663).

Lady Emma Barnard in the Great Parlour at Parham
Lady Emma Barnard in the Great Parlour at Parham

Lady Emma says “There is a sense of layering if you live in a place like this, with the imprint of people who’ve gone before you. I find it very moving and enormously humbling when I think about all the people who’ve closed a door or walked through the house before me – houses are made from people.”
We enter the Saloon, which was remodelled as an elegant Georgian drawing room by Cecil Bisshopp, 8th Baronet, 12th Lord Zouche in about 1790.

The sense of the processional, generational quality in our lives in part defines the English. Lady Emma has a deep understanding that our blessings are given to us to be shared. She comments “At the heart of Parham is a desire to educate and delight, to use the words of my great-grandmother.” The qualities of inhabiting and rootedness which Lady Emma and her family give expression to has people at its centre. Their generous patronage provides a canvas upon which others paint their lives.

I ask Lady Emma what it is like to live at Parham. She replies unhesitatingly “It’s emotional. We’ve brought up our family here, but above all it’s a vocation, a calling.”

Parham gives expression to a beauty beyond its gardens and ancient facades. It blesses the visitor as it has always done over the centuries.
Whether you are visiting for the first time or returning to an old friend, as I often do, Parham never fails to delight with its architecture, collections, gardens and sense of history, and is the perfect August Bank holiday destination! For more information go to www.parhaminsussex.co.uk or telephone 01903 742021.

As I pen this postcard to you from Parham it remains for me to say wish you were here!

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 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.

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.