St. Mary's House & Gardens

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Hollyhocks st St. Mary's House & Gardens, Bramber


Read/download St Mary's Christmas Newsletter 2017 here


October 2017

For over some 50 years, Peter Thorogood has brought together one of the largest collections of first editions, autograph letters, pen-and-ink sketches, and ancillary material, besides a large amount of research material relating to the Victorian poet, Thomas Hood (1799-1845) and, this year, has founded The Thomas Hood Society.  Enquiries to The Thomas Hood Society, St. Mary’s House, Bramber, West Sussex BN44 3WE.


July 2017

St. Mary’s lies on the pilgrim route along the South Downs from Southampton to Canterbury, known as ‘The Old Way’ ((1350 AD), in existence before Chaucer’s route along the North Downs.  The map is named after its 18thC owner, Richard Gough, who had presented it to the Bodleian Library in Oxford.  Bramber is mentioned as a place of sojourn along the way.

In May we were visited by Dr. Guy Hayward and Will Parsons of the British Pilgrimage Trust, with a view to organising events for their members.  A surprising number of pilgrimages are now being organised all over Europe.  Participants can come from any or no religion.  The principal aim is spiritual fulfilment - through walking and talking, communing with nature, singing songs together, and enjoying a new kind of companionship.

At the end of July, a group of 37 weary young ‘pilgrims’ walked along the Downs from Chichester Cathedral to Arundel Castle, thence to Storrington Priory and on to the medieval pilgrim inn of St. Mary’s, with the purpose of sampling the crystal-clear water from the now viewable holy well. The walkers were accompanied along the route by a Radio4 reporter (From Our Home Correspondent).  Further scientific tests are being conducted for the water’s purity and content by a specialist firm.  Subsequently, a short film on the subject was made by the well-known TV presenter, Dan Snow.


watch the video here!

Historic St Mary’s House and Garden had the honour of welcoming HRH Princess Alexandra of Kent on Tuesday 30th May to meet some 45 loyal volunteers who have contributed their time and energies in helping to keep this nationally important Grade I house open for the public benefit. Her Royal Highness was greeted by the Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex, Mrs. Susan Pyper, accompanied by Marine cadet, Sgt. Kurt Smith.  Mr Tom Crowley, Chief Executive, Horsham District Council, was then presented. Owner-custodians, Peter Thorogood and Roger Linton had the great pleasure of taking the Princess on a personal tour of the fine historic rooms. The Princess expressed considerable interest the various family collections and many exhibits. She was fascinated by the variety of fine panelling, especially the unique ‘Painted Room’ with its unique trompe l’oeil murals painted for the visit of Queen Elizabeth I.

In the beautiful Victorian music room, Her Royal Highness then presented Long Service Awards to eight volunteers in recognition of their support for St Mary's during the last thirty years. She was both gracious and charming, and her natural manner put everyone at ease, speaking to each recipient in turn.

The Princess then moved outside to the Jubilee Rose Garden, where she paused to see the appropriately chosen Princess Alexandra of Kent roses and a special commemorative tree, Acer Palmatum shadeshojo, planted in her honour.

By this time all the remaining volunteers had assembled in the newly-planted ‘King’s Garden’, designed by Roger Linton, Curator of St. Mary’s, to commemorate the escape through Bramber of Charles II on his way to France in 1651. At the centre of the garden is a sapling ‘grandson’ of the original ‘Boscobel’ oak-tree in which the king hid after the Battle of Worcester. The Princess then cut the red ribbon and declared the King’s Garden open, after which she chatted to each of the 45 volunteers in turn.

Following a break for family tea in the Drawing Room, HRH Princess Alexandra came out to the South Lawn, where she was applauded by all the volunteers and guests who had gathered there for a group photograph.   Her Royal Highness was then presented with a posy by 10-year-old Chloe Whitaker, daughter of one of the Trustees, and a gift of St Mary's honey by Vanessa Timms. Peter and Roger thanked the Princess on everyone’s behalf for all her encouragement and support. Peter Thorogood said “we have had many memorable moments during our thirty-two years at St Mary’s, but this Royal visit has been without question the highlight”.


July 2016

St Mary's has won a prestigious 'Highly Commended' award in the Sussex Heritage Trust Awards 2016 for the Landscape Water Garden. The award was given in recognition of the rescue of a previously abandoned wild scrubland area of the Victorian garden, where it was noted there was fine grove of white poplars, and the continuation of the natural character by introducing a large pond with an island refuge for birds. The award was presented to the garden designer, Roger Linton, and Peter Thorogood by Lord Egremont in a ceremony at Pangdean Barn, Pyecombe, on 7th July.


The Music Room restoration was completed ready for the start of the 2016 season.

This splendidly restored room is our wonderfully elegant venue for concerts, weddings and other functions, which play a vital role in helping to keep this remarkable Grade I building open for public benefit.

The St Mary's Historic House & Gardens Charitable Trust still continues its work in raising much-needed funds for the ongoing preservation and maintenance of the house and gardens.


May 2016

The long-awaited opening of the restored Victorian Glasshouse at St Mary’s Historic House and Gardens Bramber took place in May on a bright spring day. Caroline, Lady Egremont, of Petworth House, declared the glasshouse officially open on Thursday 19th May in front of an enthusiastic team of volunteer gardeners and visitors. Before the opening Lady Egremont was taken on a tour of the splendid five acre gardens by curator and garden designer Roger Linton.

Caroline Egremont is a distinguished garden designer in her own right, widely known for her outstanding restoration of the magnificent and enchanting walled gardens at her home, Petworth House.  In 1998, she graciously accepted the invitation to become Patron of the St. Mary’s Bramber ‘Lost Gardens Appeal’, which succeeded in raising some £30,000 towards the acquisition and restoration of the former Victorian kitchen garden. Lady Egremont said after the opening of the Glasshouse: ‘It was a lovely day and I was very impressed with all that you have done at St Mary’s over the past years.’

Play video here.

St. Mary’s House & Gardens shortlisted for 'Best Hidden Gem' in Hudson's Heritage Awards 2016     Nov 2015

The shortlist for the renowned 2016 Hudson's Heritage Awards has been announced. Established in 2011 the Hudsons' Heritage Awards are an independent scheme judged by an expert panel chaired by Norman Hudson OBE. The winners and highly commended will be presented at Goldsmith's Hall in London on 1 March 2016.

In the Best Hidden Gem category, the finalists are: Winterbourne House & Gardens, in Birmingham; Keats House, London; Painshill Rococo Gardens, Surrey; and St Mary's House & Gardens. Other categories are: Best Family Day Out, Best Eating Out, Best Shopping, Best Accommodation, Best Loos, Best New Discovery, Best Wedding Venue, Best Event/Exhibition, and Best Picnic Spot.

The awards celebrate the best visitor experiences at heritage attractions in the UK each year, including historic houses, heritage gardens, museums, galleries in historic buildings, archaeological or industrial sites and other places associated with the past.

Of the finalists Sarah Greenwood, publisher of leading heritage guide Hudson's Historic Houses & Gardens, said "We are thrilled to announce our shortlist and look forward to revealing our winners next March. The Hudson's Heritage Awards recognise all aspects of historic properties and gardens which make a visit memorable and enjoyable. Our finalists this year have all excelled in their field, providing a high quality experience for visitors."

St. Mary’s House & Gardens wins 'Highly Commended' in Beautiful South Awards for Excellence 2015/16     Oct 2015

St Mary’s House & Gardens has been awarded ‘Highly Commended’ in the prestigious Tourism South East 2015/16 Beautiful South Awards.  St Mary’s was up against fierce competition, with more than 120 entries in 16 categories, out of which 62 finalists have been chosen from the cream of the South East’s tourism businesses.

Nigel Smith, Chief Executive of Tourism South East, said, “It’s been an exceptional year for Beautiful South Award entries and great to see so many from businesses that haven’t previously entered. It is a reminder of the fantastic range and quality of tourism businesses in the South East which are more than a match for any in the UK. Some are truly world class. The judges have again had the unenviable and difficult task of deciding which of these businesses deserve to be recognised as the best of the best. I understand that some very fine businesses narrowly missed the cut.”

The Highly Commended Award is a significant achievement, and is particularly appropriate as owners Peter Thorogood and Roger Linton have this year completed 30 years of restoration.

St. Mary’s House & Gardens wins 'Best Restoration' in Hudson's Heritage Awards 2011     Dec 2011

The twelve categories included ‘Best Education/Community programme’ - winner Burghley House, ‘Best Garden’ – winner Exbury Gardens, ‘Best Art Collection’ – winner Compton Verney, and ‘Best Corporate Venue’ – winner Farnham Castle.  St. Mary’s House & Gardens was voted winner for ‘Best Renovation’.

For thirty years owners Peter Thorogood and Roger Linton have laboured to bring about a spectacular restoration of the beautiful medieval house and its gardens. Thousands of visitors over the years have enjoyed the ancient atmosphere of tranquillity and peace, and have received a warm welcome from its knowledgeable guides and volunteers. 

Having acquired the house in 1984, when it was in a serious state of dereliction and the gardens a veritable wasteland, it was the vision and zeal of Peter and Roger to save the building from closure and bring it back into its present pristine state for the benefit of the public, helped by a loyal group of Friends and a valiant band of volunteers. Peter and Roger, who have family links with the house from the early 1800s, have succeeded in bringing back the lost Victorian gardens, with the rose garden, terracotta garden and poetry garden. Their achievement was officially recognised in 2006 when they each received the MBE from Prince Charles in the Queen’s 80th Birthday Honours.

The Hudson Heritage Award for Restoration is a fitting tribute to their courage and endurance in bringing back to life one of the finest buildings of our national heritage, described by Sir Simon Jenkins in his book England’s Thousand Best Houses as ‘a shrine to medieval Sussex’.  But St. Mary’s is much more than that.  It is a living monument to a long historical tradition which the Hudson Heritage Award confirms.




© St. Mary's House, Bramber, West Sussex  UK  BN44 3WE   tel. 01903 816205     last updated 20/12/2016