Review of the Year, 2022

Andrew Bernardi playing in support of the Chestnut Tree House

What an extraordinary year 2022 has been. As a nation we mourned the loss of HM Queen Elizabeth II and as the second great Elizabethan age drew to a close we ushered in a new Carolean era. It has been particularly hopeful to see the qualities of duty, service and affection for the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, that were so admired in our late Queen, embraced and taken forward by our new King.

The war in Ukraine has brought to an end a long era of peace and economic prosperity in Europe leading to inflation, and many in our nation face hardship and personal challenges. And yet it is my experience that across Sussex the response has been generous.

There is a rich diversity of people in Sussex working for the common good in support of our communities, charities and creating opportunities for our young people. They are bringing positive change for the future.

Throughout the year I returned again and again to Arundel Castle and its gardens to find many of the charities that make West Sussex such a special place gathered, celebrated and supported after the separation which Covid-19 brought to our county and communities.

Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice supports children with life-limiting illnesses and their families. Music at their Arundel Castle dinner was provided by Andrew Bernardi. As well as bringing the finest musicians to Sussex through his Shipley Arts Festival Concerts Andrew is also passionate about supporting music and young people through his String Academy.

Arundel Castle gardener, Rose Philpot, The Collector Earl’s Garden

Sussex Heritage Trust supporters were blessed with a tour of Arundel Castle’s gardens. It’s a charity which promotes and celebrates best practice in our county’s built environment and landscape through its annual awards whilst encouraging and supporting talented young people into careers in conservation, building and horticulture.

Castle Gardener Rose Philpot led one of the tours. Rose’s story is inspiring. She discovered her passion for gardening on work experience in the castle gardens. Rose volunteered and worked in the gardens whilst she trained at Plumpton and was eventually offered a full-time job. Her career is progressing at Arundel and she has been given responsibility for looking after the stumpery, herbaceous, Round House and cut flower gardens which she speaks about with a real sense of ownership and a gardener’s delight.

Those who work for the common good in support of our communities and charities, and provide opportunities for our young people are bringing positive change for the future.

I remains to wish you all a Happy New Year.

Duncan Grant Painting to be Sold in Aid of Sussex Heritage Trust

Charleston House, Sussex

A still life oil painting by the famous Charleston and Bloomsbury artist Duncan Grant is to be sold at Toovey’s in aid of the Sussex Heritage Trust at 10am on Wednesday 30th November. It carries a pre-sale auction estimate of £6000-8000.

Through its work and awards the Sussex Heritage Trust promotes and encourages best practice in our county’s built environment and landscape.

The oil on canvas, titled Still Life with Bloomsbury Chair and Spring Flowers was donated to the Trust by Peter Carreras, a distinguished Sussex artist and printmaker, and his wife, Greta. It is believed that they purchased the painting in 1972 at The Ringmer Festival organised by the philanthropist Ian Askew.

Duncan Grant’s painting provides a very British voice to the influences of Post-Impressionism. It depicts a handmade jug, of the type made by both Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, filled with flowers upon a painted Bloomsbury chair. His handling of the paint and the joyous palette is reminiscent of Bloomsbury and although a later work it is a fine example. A very similar chair can be seen in Duncan Grant’s studio at Charleston House in Sussex and is thought to have been painted by Richard Shone in 1970.

Duncan Grant (1885-1978), Chair with Flowers. Still Life, oil on canvas

It was Vanessa Bell’s love for Duncan Grant and her sister Virginia Woolf which brought her to Sussex during the First World War. Vanessa was living with the artist Duncan Grant, and his lover David Garnett, at Wissett Lodge in Suffolk when her sister, the author, Virginia Woolf, wrote to her in the May of 1916. She extolled the virtues and potential of Charleston house near Firle in East Sussex. Virginia explained that not only did Charleston house need a tenant but that the neighbouring farmer was short of ‘hands’ to work on the land. Duncan Grant and David Garnett needed to be essentially employed on the land to avoid being called up to fight in the Great War or the prospect of gaol as conscientious objectors.

They covered the walls and furniture at Charleston with painted decoration. Duncan and Vanessa painted those who visited, the countryside around them and scenes from their home as can be seen in this still life.

The Sussex Heritage Trust’s work is important in promoting best practice in our county’s built environment and landscape whilst encouraging and supporting talented young people into careers in conservation, building and horticulture. I feel sure that the sale of this beautiful Duncan Grant Still Life will bless the Trust and its work.

A Gardener’s Delight at Arundel

Arundel Castle

It is a perfect English spring morning, bright and crisp, as supporters of the Sussex Heritage Trust gather in the Collector Earl’s garden at Arundel Castle.
We are greeted by Castle Manager, Andrew Lewis, and Arundel Castle gardeners Rose Philpot and Izzy McKinley.

Arundel Castle gardener, Rose Philpot, The Collector Earl’s Garden

We set out in the company of Rose Philpot and are met by lines of apple trees covered in soft pink blossom amongst a carpet of blue camassia and tulips. The naturalistic planting frames the views of the castle. Rose explains “We lift the tulips in the borders and the pots but leave them in the grass areas. We’ve planted tens of thousands of bulbs and tulips!” The spectacle is breathtaking. It is apparent that this talented young gardener is also a gifted plants woman as she effortlessly guides us through the planting. She constantly refers to Head Gardner, Martin Duncan, and her respect for him quickly becomes apparent.

We pass a stumpery and box cloud hedge which leads us gently downhill to the award winning Stew Ponds. About four years ago Martin Duncan redesigned the historic stew ponds at Arundel Castle. Using the original framework of ponds, in which the Castle and Friars would have kept fish for eating in stews, it has been given new life with a naturalistic quality. The emphasis is on wildlife attracting insects, butterflies, bees and wildfowl. The Duke of Norfolk and Arundel Castle were delighted to receive the Sussex Heritage Trust Award for Gardens and Landscape in 2020. As we arrive at the stew ponds Rose points out the award which is proudly on display.

The award winning Stew Ponds at Arundel Castle

Rose explains how the boathouse you see in the distance was designed by Martin. The timbers were sourced sustainability, mostly from the Estate’s woodland. In the gentle breeze the dance of light on the ripples of the pond is reflected in the naturalistic planting as a Swan glides across the water.

Returning to the Collector Earl’s gardens we come across the water feature which is exotic and unexpected. Rose points out a series of pots overflowing with tulips as she recites the varieties – “Tulipa Angelique, Mount Tacoma and Blue Diamond”.

Rose’s story is hope-filled. She discovered her passion for gardening on work experience in the castle gardens. She volunteered and worked in the gardens whilst she trained at Plumpton and was eventually offered a full-time job. Her career is progressing at Arundel and she has been given responsibility for looking after the stumpery, herbaceous, Round House and cut flower gardens which she speaks about with a real sense of ownership and a gardener’s delight.
The Sussex Heritage Trust’s work is important in promoting best practice in our county’s built environment and landscape whilst encouraging and supporting talented young people into careers in conservation, building and horticulture. To find out more about the work of the Sussex Heritage Trust and Arundel Castle’s extraordinary gardens visit sussexheritagetrust.org.uk and arundelcastle.org.

Clinton Lodge Gardens

The Rose Garden at Clinton Lodge Gardens

This week I am joining the Sussex Heritage Trust at Fletching to celebrate Clinton Lodge Gardens where we are the guests of the garden’s creator and owner, Lady Noel Collum.

As we gather on the terrace between the showers Lady Collum greets us framed by the lawns, architectural hornbeams and the parkland beyond. Lady Collum is delighted as the Chairman of the Sussex Heritage Trust, Dr John Godfrey, thanks her and quotes some lines from Rudyard Kipling’s poem The Glory of the Garden:

“Our England is a garden that is full of stately views
Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues,
With statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by;
But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye…
Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing: “Oh, how beautiful!” and sitting in the shade…”

Simon Knight and John Godfrey of the Sussex Heritage Trust with Lady Collum
Simon Knight and John Godfrey of the Sussex Heritage Trust with Lady Collum

Lady Collum explains how the garden happened slowly drawing inspiration from the house with its Caroline stonework and George III brick extension. She says “I set out to connect the garden to the house. I really wanted it to be peaceful – being peaceful was absolutely essential. I read a lot about garden designers like Russell Page and my sense of proportion and composition was influenced by looking at paintings, especially of the period of the house, whilst I was with Christies.”

The house and the gardens are very at ease with themselves reflecting a gentle elegance and understated grandeur. The formal garden is made up of a series of garden rooms each complete in its own right. The paths gather and lead us revealing each garden in turn.

Lady Collum observes “You should always go through a supported garden with borders on both sides – double borders support you in that way.”

I comment on the playful sense of theatre in the garden and her remarkable planting with swathes of colour. She responds “Formality with exuberance – rather like at Sissinghurst! I control the colours more as I’ve got older as it’s more relaxing – I think it’s important not to find ‘clever’ shocking [contrasts in] palette. It’s also frightfully important that the plants are happy.”

We arrive in a walled garden filled with abundant, old varieties of scented roses, including Chapeau de Napolean, Empress Josephine, and Compte de Chambord. The roses grow tall and are reflected in William Pye’s remarkable water feature. Lady Collum says “If you’re walking with a nice companion it’s lovely not to have to bend to enjoy the scent.”

I remark on the softness, gentleness and movement which pervades the garden. It has a sensory quality. Lady Collum responds “I did want it to have movement, the fluttering of the lime leaves and a sympathetic texture – I like to be able to stroke the plants. It has taken time.”

Lady Collum’s disarming modesty, her genuine hospitality and delight in the reaction of her visitors make this a very special, peaceful place to be.

Clinton Lodge Gardens welcomes groups by appointment but is rarely open to the public. However, the garden is open this coming Monday, 24th June 2019, as part of the National Garden Scheme between 2pm and 5.30pm. To find out more about Clinton Lodge Gardens visit www.clintonlodgegardens.co.uk. And to learn more about the exceptional work of the Sussex Heritage Trust and how to get involved visit www.sussexheritagetrust.org.uk.

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.

 

Designing for the Future

The Medieval Shop from Horsham, conserved by the Weald & Downland Museum in 1967 when Middle Street was redeveloped, and The Market Hall from Titchfield

The 2019 Sussex Heritage Trust Awards launch at the Weald & Downland Living Museum marked the official call for entries for the 2019 awards.

For more than 20 years the Sussex Heritage Trust has been recognising and celebrating the best conservation, restoration and new build projects across Sussex through its annual awards. Its reputation continues to grow under the leadership of its trustees, its Chair, Dr John Godfrey., DL and Vice-Chair, Simon Knight., DL. John Godfrey has spent more than 40 years in public service in many charitable and professional roles including local government, and as the former Chief Executive of the Sussex Police Authority. Simon Knight, a Director of Savills based at Petworth, brings a lifetime’s experience as a Chartered Surveyor specialising in rural estate management and working with the built environment. He enthusiastically describes his professional life as vocational.

From left to right Simon Knight, Rupert Toovey and John Godfrey at the launch of the 2019 Sussex Heritage Trust Awards

I catch up with John and Simon as the 2019 Sussex Heritage Trust Awards are launched in the Weald and Downland’s beautiful, award winning Gateway Project buildings.

John Godfrey explains how the main focus of the Trust’s work remains the annual Sussex Heritage Trust Awards, encouraging the public’s appreciation of the architectural and natural heritage of our beautiful county.

The Trust’s work in providing a strategic voice to preserve and develop the built environment and landscape of Sussex has become increasingly important. It works with government agencies, local authorities, community and heritage groups.

Sussex Heritage Trust, in conjunction with the Weald & Downland Museum, also provides educational opportunities for young people based in West Sussex through bursaries funded by the Historic Houses Association.

John Godfrey welcomed sponsors, judges, past award winners and friends of the Sussex Heritage Trust including the Vice-Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex, Harry Goring and the High Sheriff of West Sussex, Caroline Nicholls.

The Trust has brought together a remarkable community of businesses and individuals in support of its work. John Godfrey particularly thanked headline sponsors of the awards, Gatwick Airport, as well as Thesis Asset Management and Toovey’s who sponsored this year’s launch.

I am always excited by the way that the Trust seeks to promote the conservation and re-imagining of our existing vernacular architecture and its uses, as well as aspirational design and sensitivity for new buildings and materials. They celebrate the past whilst embracing the future.

2018 saw a record number of entrants. The deadline for entries for the 2019 Sussex Heritage Trust Awards is the 28th March 2019.

To find out more about the Trust’s work, how to support it and how to enter for the awards go to www.sussexheritagetrust.org.

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.