St. Mary's House & Gardens

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



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.


Substantial repairs are required following an important report by a structural engineer. These will include strengthening the roof timbers and retiling (now complete), and buttressing the south wall. The work, estimated to cost £45,000 in total, is essential so that the Music Room can continue to be available for concerts and other functions, which play a vital role in helping to keep this remarkable Grade I building open for public benefit.

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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.’

DIVA OPERA's 'The Night Before Christmas', Sunday 13 December     Dec 2015

Reviewed by Louise Schweitzer, Evening Argus, Monday 14 December:

Brighton's Diva Opera’s Night Before Christmas must have been the very entertainment that the Music Room at St Marys, Bramber, was designed for.

Five wonderfully costumed singers under the direction of music and artistic director Bryan Evans performed a medley of songs serious and comical, seasonal and sentimental, solo, duet or ensemble with brilliant piano accompaniment. A nice narrative thread linked the numbers as the Company carolled for Scrooge, aka Major General Stanley, who then melted at the heavenly tones of soprano Linda Richardson’s 'Holy Night' and Joanna Foote’s attractive Lehar.

Baritones Ashley Catling and David Stephenson demonstrated beautiful rich voices as well as dashing evening dress: their top hats and cloaks swished operetta to perfection.

Richard Suart had the fun of Flanders and Swan’s Armadillo and Ill Wind, set to Mozart’s Horn (Gorn) Concerto, and Gilbert and Sullivan’s Grosvenor Gallery Man.

There was lots of champagne and favourite arias for everyone – even a 'Happy Birthday' for Roger Linton from St Mary’s, whose birthday was that day. The Concert marked 30 years of Peter Thorogood and Roger Linton’s work with their famous and historic old house, now recorded as a hidden gem in guide books worldwide.

If all musical evenings were like this, records would never make it.

Four stars.

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.

Theft of Stone Paving Slabs    Oct 2015

A gang of thieves smashed open the electric gates of historic St. Mary’s House in Bramber during the night of 29 October and systematically lifted and stole some 70 York-stone paving slabs.  The paving, laid out in the 1890s, formed part of the important landscaped frontage of the house, now desecrated by a trail of wanton destruction.

Owner, Peter Thorogood said: ‘The stealing of so many stones throughout the hours of darkness has the stamp of a highly organised plan carried out under great stealth.’  Curator Roger Linton, who has overseen the 30-year restoration of the 15thC Grade I building of national importance, said:  ‘This repulsive act of selfishness and greed is particularly sad as the house with its lovely gardens is largely supported by some 45 local volunteers, who give so generously of their time and effort.’

A temporary surface has been put down ahead of the events which are taking place this side of Christmas and we will look to start rebuilding soon.

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 26/11/2015