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About St. Mary's House
The History of St. Mary's
The origins of St. Mary's go back to the days of the Knights Templar when
five acres of land in the downland village of Bramber were given to them by the
widow of Philip de Braose, following his death in 1125. The present building was
constructed in about 1470 by William of Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester and
founder of Magdalen College, Oxford, as an inn for pilgrims on their way to the
tomb of St. Thomas of Canterbury.
Through the centuries, the house has had a number of distinguished owners.
Of note is Hon. Algernon Bourke, owner of White's, the celebrated gentleman's
club in St. James's, London, who, with his beautiful wife Gwendolen, were the
originals for the characters in Oscar Wilde's famous play, The Importance of
In 1907, St. Mary's was sold to the wealthy socialite, Alfred Musgrave, the
inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story, The Musgrave
In 1946, the house was saved from demolition by Dorothy Ellis, who lived
there for some thirty-five years, after which it was bought by Paul Smart, a
lepidopterist and author of an encyclopaedia of butterflies.
In 1984, St. Mary's was purchased by author and composer,
Peter Thorogood, in
collaboration with designer and landscape gardener,
Roger Linton, both of whom
embarked upon a long programme of restoration of this lovely old house.
In recognition of their services to the arts and heritage they were both awarded
the MBE in the Queen's 80th Birthday Honours, 2006
Today the house is helped by a team of volunteers who give a warm welcome to
thousands of visitors.
Click here to find out more about the
Restoration of St. Mary's.
Meet the owners
Curator, has many family links with Sussex and
with St. Mary's in particular, going back very many years. He studied at
Leicester College of Art, then at the Royal College of Art in London, where he
trained as a designer, specialising in ceramics. Roger went on to teach art and
design at Thanet Technical College and later at Brighton College of Technology,
at the same time developing his talents as painter and sculptor following his
keen interest in antique china restoration.
In 1981, Roger Linton designed and made a complete panelled library for Peter
Thorogood's home in Kensington to house the unique Thomas Hood collection, now
at St. Mary's. His abiding interest in architecture and art history was put to
good use in his restoration of the Linton family home - a 15th century
timber-framed hall-house in Suffolk - providing him with invaluable expertise in
the considered conservation of an English vernacular building such as St.
Peter Thorogood, is an author and composer whose early
writings grew out of his love for the East Anglian countryside of his childhood.
He studied piano and composition at the Guildhall School of Music, then
read Modern Languages at Trinity College, Dublin, at the same time continuing
his musical studies at the Royal Irish Academy of Music.
Following his graduation from Dublin, Peter Thorogood was appointed to the
British School of Milan, eventually becoming its Vice-Principal. He also managed
to make time for continuing his studies in piano and composition. He travelled
extensively through Europe and the Middle East, and taught in Germany, Israel,
Poland and Greece as visiting lecturer with the British Council.
Peter Thorogood has been Radio Talks Critic for the BBC magazine, The
Listener, published three collections of his own poetry, and delivered a
number of papers on his researches into the life and work of Thomas Hood. He has
given many recitals of music and poetry, including his own compositions, in and
around London, but since 1984 he has devoted his energy to the restoration of
St. Mary's, where the Music Room has proved to be the perfect setting for his
successful series of concerts and recitals.