Wonderful Wiston at Christmas

Treat yourselves to a glass of finest Sussex this Christmas from the Wiston Estate Winery

With Christmas approaching I’m heading for the Wiston Estate Winery and Chalk Restaurant to catch up with Kirsty Goring and do a bit of shopping.

The Goring family have long sought to share their blessings with the community and have stewarded the Wiston Estate since 1743. At the heart of Richard and Kirsty Goring’s vision is their desire to create a rural community where people and nature can work in concert with each other.

Kirsty greets me in the courtyard of the re-purposed barns, which recently won a Sussex Heritage award. I remark on the beauty of the setting. The lines of vines in the vineyard accentuate the hills and folds of the Sussex Downs in a landscape which would have delighted the artist Eric Ravilious. It is the chalk which blesses the vines and gives the Chalk Restaurant its name.

As we sit down in the fabulous Chalk Restaurant Kirsty says “For Richard and I the point of Chalk was for this place to be the welcoming heart of the estate…to create a rural meeting place where people, nature and enterprise can co-exist and flourish.” She explains how people come to enjoy Chalk’s beautiful food and Wiston’s exquisite award winning wines and end up celebrating the nature and countryside around them. Kirsty continues “We know that Sussex has such delicious produce and if you taste it when it’s fresh your tasting it at it’s best. And here at Chalk some of it is produced only metres away.” She describes how their chef, Bradley, is passionate about the best local produce and that even the fish comes from the day boats at Worthing.

Kirsty Goring at the Chalk Restaurant on the Wiston Estate

Kirsty speaks passionately about the importance of relationship, she remarks “It’s about long-term stewardship. We care for this land and we care about the communities that are here.” I comment on how hope-filled it is to see the return of employment to agriculture in new and exciting ways. She replies “Not only the return of employment but the return of community, a rural community. We are often employing forty people in the original vineyards and now across the estate we have eighty-two people on the books – and lots of them are young!”

Don’t let your Christmas be dull – lay in some fine Wiston wines!

And we are so blessed to be able to be together this Christmas so treat yourselves to an outing to Chalk whether that’s breakfast, lunch or dinner. After all shared, joyful memories bind families and friends together. To find out more visit wistonestate.com/visit/christmasatwiston.

History brought to Life through the Goring Family at Wiston

The authors: Jane Goring, Joyce Sleight, Janet Pennington, Jill Turner and Janine Harvey

A window into the life of a Sussex family and an English Country House is eloquently told through the lives of members of the Goring family in ‘Lives, Loves and Letters – The Goring Family of Wiston, Sussex 1743-1905’.

As I approach Wiston House my eye is met by a pastoral scene which seems timeless. The house sits confidently in its parkland landscape against the backdrop of the Sussex Downs beneath Chanctonbury Ring.

I am meeting the talented team responsible for this beautifully written and illustrated book. It follows in the spirited tradition in Sussex of the Private Press – books published by independent and lively minds.

As we gather in the panelled library at Wiston House Jane Goring describes how her brother, Harry arrived at her home in 2004 and placed an old, wooden Wiston Estate box on her kitchen table. It was filled with letters, diaries and loose paper which had lain forgotten. Jane gathered about her a talented team, Jill Turner, Secretary to the Wiston Estate for many years, and the qualified historians, Joyce Sleight and Janet Pennington, both of whom have skills in palaeography. The painstaking work of transcribing, archiving and cross-checking began.

It became apparent to them that these primary source documents provided very personal insights into important sweeps of British history. The group met regularly to discuss, precis and check one another’s work. There is a quality of real academic rigour in the writing. A fifth member, Janine Harvey, joined the group later in 2012. With her expert IT skills a draft of what would be the finished book began to take shape. This labour of love would take thirteen years.

Joyce Sleight is a bit of a home-grown hero for me. She was an inspirational teacher at Steyning Grammar School and inspired a passion for history which continues to inform my life. In this book she and the team express an excitement and rigour in their subject which captures the reader’s imagination.

The strength of the book’s narrative immerses you in the rich procession of history across three centuries told through the very personal accounts of members of the Goring family. Its scholarly but accessible style provides a textural and rich interpretation of the primary source material.

J.S.C. Schaak’s depiction of Charles Goring of Wiston, circa 1765

One of my favourite characters brought to life in the book is Charles Goring (1744-1829), a scholar and agriculturalist he wrote poetry and was responsible for planting one of our county’s most famous landmarks, Chanctonbury Ring.

The group are keen to express their gratitude to Harry Goring, the owner of the Wiston Estate, for allowing them to research this material and for generously consenting to them using rarely seen illustrations and images from the family collection.

‘Lives, Loves and Letters – The Goring Family of Wiston, Sussex 1743-1905’

This extraordinary book ‘Lives, Loves and Letters – The Goring Family of Wiston, Sussex 1743-1905’ is available from the Steyning Museum, the Steyning Bookshop and from the book’s dedicated website. To find out more go to www.liveslovesandletters.co.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.