Near the village of Storrington in West Sussex, this beautiful English country house is one of the finest Elizabethan houses in the country dating back to 1577 and set in an expansive deer park. Walking through the Parham House takes you on a journey through time as a series of rooms move through history, each filled impressive artworks, stern portraits of noble lords and ladies, tapestries and collectables from around the globe.
The highlight of my recent visit was stepping into the Long Gallery on the third floor and admiring the striking painted ceiling depicting English foliage (with one section dedicated to a more exotic plant). Once ladies in their silk shoes and crinoline dresses (quite unsuitable for walking outside) exercised here by walking up and down this beautiful room. It was a picture of the Long Gallery that first drew Parham House to my attention and I was astonished to find that the painted ceiling dated from as recently as the 1960s. Who would be bold enough to add such a feature to a historic house? And yet, it felt so in keeping. A perfect fit.
Despite being such a grand home where Queen Elizabeth 1st is believed to have visited, by the early 20th century Parham House was in a very sorry state. Luckily, in 1922 the house found new owners, and just the right owners at that, Hon. Clive and Alicia Pearson. While they knew little about restoration or interior design, they had good taste and judgement AND something else that was sorely needed, plenty of money. They set about restoring the house, with meticulous attention to detail. When I saw a photograph of how the Long Gallery looked when the Pearsons first came here, I was horrified. What a tragedy it would have been if this lovely room had never been restored!
Below: The Long Gallery in 1924
The Pearsons took great delight in filling the house with beautiful things. Yet it was not a straightforward process. I’m told that when something new was purchased, the house often rejected it. Just how, I’ve yet to find out but if the house didn’t like a painting or object d’art, out it went.
Today, as I walk around the house, there’s a wonderful feeling of serenity. I feel like I’ve been let into a secret. Parham House is so much more than just another stately home.
Parham House Gardens
The gardens and grounds are equally delightful to explore. I enjoyed the maze, being careful to obey the rules and I’m sure I’m not the only adult who walked it today. What I loved most about exploring the grounds was how every now and again, you’d come across something unexpected, a garden within a garden, a hidden path or secluded seating and an overwhelming feeling of everything being how it should be and frightfully English at that. If you enjoy exploring lovely gardens in Sussex it’s worth visiting for the garden and park alone.
When the present occupier of Parham, Lady Emma Barnard, the great-granddaughter of Clive and Alicia Pearson, inherited Parham, she would not accept the bequest until she had spent a night alone in the house. She had to know if the house accepted her. It did, and she lives there to this day with her husband James and their two children. What a fabulous place to grow up!
Apples in the Orchard
My visit coincided with the first apple celebration held at Parham House. I had no idea there were so many different types of apples, literally thousands. There was a lovely atmosphere, with cooking demonstrations, talks and stalls, including some excellent local cider, live acoustic music and an apple-themed pop-up café, it added an interesting extra dimension to the visit. I do hope it becomes an annual event.
Auntie Val’s Ability Centre
One stall that I’m particularly keen to share is Auntie Val’s artisan marmalade’s jams and chutney’s made at Auntie Vals Ability Centre a multi-award winning charity based in Storrington. By offering people with disabilities training, work experience, workplace social integration and improving literacy and numeracy, they are enabling many people of varying ages to find employment making a huge difference in their lives. And they make jolly good jams too! Check out their website to find out more, AuntieVals.com.
Need to know
Parham House closes each year for the winter in mid-October.
In 2019 it will reopen on Easter Sunday 21st April. You’ll find the latest information on opening times and prices on their website, Parham in Sussex.
Visit Parham House’s blog for news, monthly gardening tips and excellent seasonal recipes.
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Travel Blogger ‘Travel With Kat’ and Co-founder of Sussex Bloggers