Tag Archives: west dean house

Picture Postcard Parade: West Dean House, West Dean, Sussex

12 Mar

It has been a while since I showed you a postcard from West Dean (near Chichester), Sussex. The postcard below is of West Dean House, the centre of the West Dean Estate (maybe not physically, but metaphorically).

The postcard shows the front (the southern side) of West Dean House bathed in sunshine, you can tell because most of the windows are shaded by striped blinds. Unfortunately the sunshine also obscures much of the detail, so that you can’t see that the front of the building is faced with thousands of flints.

To the left of the entrance and above the top of the building you can see the top of the tower of St. Andrew’s Church peeking out above the roof, with its four distinctive mini-spires (I’m sure they have a proper name).

The card itself is unused, but the name in the bottom right-hand corner seems to give away the name of the photographer. However “Russell Chichester” suggests that George Henry Allen of Chichester, Sussex was the publisher and rather confusingly the photographer may have been either Thomas Russell or George Henry Allen. Without any further dating evidence it is going to hard for me to say which.

I can’t wait for some bright and warm days when I can head back to West Dean myself and walk some of the footpaths and explore the parish further.

Picture Postcard Parade: West Dean Church, Sussex

27 Jan

This is one of the postcards I bought last weekend at Shoreham and is one of the best views of West Dean Church that I have seen.

In fact I don’t think I have seen a postcard from this angle before, roughly speaking the photo was taken from the garden of the vicarage looking south towards St. Andrew’s Church, above the roof of the church can be seen the roof and chimneys of West Dean House. Beyond that I think the hill on the left is probably Singletonhill Plantation, but I am not sure.

I love the fact that the photographer has captured the detail in the garden as well, with lots of fruit trees and what looks like a rose arch pointing towards the church tower. The gateway to the church is hidden behind the tall plant(s) in the centre, but the path can clearly be seen leading down the side of the garden and along the back wall.

I still don’t know who the publisher/photographer was, despite now having several from the same publisher/photographer. This particular card was not sent through the post, but it does have a message written on the back in pencil “The Church at West Dean we attended on Sunday [Cheerie] Chums August Camp 10th – 17th 1929″. The word Cheerie is not very clear but it is the only thing can I think it says, I wonder who they were and where they came from?

Picture Postcard Parade: West Dean House from South

2 Nov

It is about time I added a bit of colour to my postcard tour of the parish of West Dean (near Chichester), Sussex. So far I think the postcards have all been black and white or sepia, but this one is in colour. Admittedly not many colours, mainly greys and greens, but colour nevertheless.

This postcard of West Dean House was posted on the 23rd November 1906, which seems quite fitting as it looks very much like a winter scene, there is not much colour in the flower beds and most of the trees have lost their leaves. The Sussex Postcards website has information about the publisher Russell’s of nearby Chichester, Sussex and the probable photographer George Henry Allen. It also features a copy of the same card which is postmarked 1904, two years earlier than mine.

The core of West Dean House was built in 1804 and it has been added to during the following two centuries. It is now home to West Dean College and is not open to the public, but it is set within West Dean Gardens which are open to the public throughout most of the year.

An Apple Affair at West Dean Gardens

2 Oct

I was fortunate to have the chance to visit West Dean, West Sussex today. My wife, my mother and I went down to West Dean to visit the Apple Affair at West Dean Gardens. West Dean has strong ancestral connections and I am sure that the West Dean Estate has played a huge part in many of my ancestor’s lives.

West Dean House

The gardens are normally open to the public, but the house is not usually accessible (it is now a college), so this weekend was a rare opportunity to have a look around inside just a small part of the house.

Sadly photography is not permitted inside the house, which is a real shame because it contains pretty bizarre mix of furnishings and decorations. The walls are lined with paintings and tapestries, and adorned with stuffed animals and mounted heads (including that of a giraffe!), there were pieces of armour and weapons (more at home in a medieval castle) and many artworks and sculptures.

There were of course the normal features you would associate with a country house, like the old library (with floor to ceiling bookshelves) and the dining room with an incredible table decoration made of apples (presumably made specially for the occasion). Even amongst the more traditional elements there were still surreal touches, but it was still surprising to learn that Salvador Dali had once stayed there.

It is hard to reconcile the bizarre world inside the house with the beautiful surroundings outside. West Dean sits within the rolling slopes of the South Downs, and the views from the front of the house are quite superb, even under grey skies.

View from West Dean House

To be honest the gardens were probably past their best at this time of the year, but there was still plenty to see, especially in the glasshouses in the walled gardens. I was particularly taken by the glasshouses, with their elegant white paint wood and iron frameworks. I couldn’t help wondering if any of my relatives tended plants in those glasshouses and gardens.

Inside the greenhouse

The Apple Affair itself was pretty busy, lots of people trying different food and drink, not just apple based, although obviously there were apples almost everywhere. In the end however the weather beat us, the rain began as light drizzle but became progressively heavier and we ran out of places to shelter.

Of course every time I visit somewhere like this that has ancestral connections it makes me want to find out more, and try and prove some connections. I am not sure what records of the estate survive and where, but it ought to be worth having a look for them, to see if any lists of employees survive or rent books.

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