TimeTravel-Britain.com

HOME Master Article Index/Index by County Links Contact Us
Ancient Britain Castles Churches/Cathedrals Houses/Manors Museums Towns Countryside London History & Folklore Travel Tips


Test daily news

Visit the Stone Pages

 

Great Dixter: A Classic Weald House and Garden in Sussex

by Moira Allen

If gardens are your cup of tea, you'll find a feast of flowers at Great Dixter in Northiam, East Sussex. Just a short distance from Bodiam Castle (see Majestic Bodiam Castle), the gardens of Great Dixter are the handiwork of famous garden writer Christopher Lloyd and his family.

A manor is recorded at this location as early as 1220, but the oldest section of the surviving house (or rather, houses) dates from 1454. This is the Great Hall, which will be your starting point if you choose to take the tour of the house. It is a classic "Weald Hall," with high ceilings and half-timbered walls filled with a golden wattle-and-daub. (Some of that lovely colour comes from dung, by the way!) Today, you'll see a lovely fireplace at one end of the hall, but originally the hearth would have been in the center of the hall, the smoke escaping through unglazed windows or through a louvered opening in the ceiling.

The first recorded owner of the manor was Hamo at Gate, whose property at "Dicksterve" was valued in the mid-1300's at 40 shillings. Hamo's daughter Joan married Robert de Etchingham, and the house passed into the Etchingham family after their deaths. Elizabeth Etchingham married Robert Wakehurst, who built the Great Hall in 1454. In the 16th century the house passed to the Windsor family (no relation to the royal Windsors), and then was sold to a succession of buyers. This family was also related to the Dalyngrigges, owners of Bodiam Castle.

In 1910, the house was purchased by retired printer Nathaniel Lloyd for 6000. Lloyd hired architect Edwin Lutyens to begin restoration and expansion of the manor. Over the years, the "Great Hall" had been "modernized" with the addition of a second floor and other changes; these were removed to restore the hall to its 15th-century state. The house itself proved a bit small for Lloyd's needs, however, so Lloyd first added on to the original building, then purchased and dismantled yet another 16th-century timber house, the "Old House at Home" in Benenden (about nine miles from Northiam) and had this house reconstructed as an adjunct to the original Dixter house. This house became the principal residence of the Lloyd family. (Tours of the house sometimes include rooms in this section, depending on the family schedule.) During World War I, the Great Hall was used as a hospital, and during WWII the house was used as a residence for evacuee children.

The gardens completely surround the house, and include topiaries, a water garden, a tropical garden, a country meadow, and more. Much of the existing garden was also designed by Lutyens, but the entire family had a hand in determining the elements of different sections. Today, the gardens are maintained by the Great Dixter Charitable Trust.

No great battles or noteworthy trysts occurred at Great Dixter (at least, that anyone knows of), but if it's "local colour" you want, you'll find plenty of it in this peaceful landscape!

Great Dixter Manor Great Dixter Manor
Great Dixter Manor Great Dixter Manor
Great Dixter Manor Great Dixter Manor
Allium at Great Dixter
Allium
Columbine at Great Dixter
Columbine
Foxgloves
Foxgloves
foxgloves
Foxgloves
Roses Roses
Freesias
Freesias

Poppy
Foxgloves
Foxgloves
Oasts at Great Dixter
The Oast Barn
Oasts at Great Dixter
The Oast Barn
Coffeepot Topiary
The Coffeepot Topiaries
barn window
The Barn
Great Dixter Pond


Moira Allen has been writing and editing professionally for more than 30 years. She is the author of seven books and several hundred articles. She has been a lifelong Anglophile, and recently achieved her dream of living in England, spending nearly a year and a half in the history town of Hastings. Allen also hosts the Victorian history site VictorianVoices.net, a topical archive of thousands of articles from British and American Victorian periodicals. Allen currently resides in Maryland.
Article © 2008 Moira Allen
Photos © 2007 by Patrick and Moira Allen

 

 Site Copyright © 2017 Moira Allen. All rights reserved.
For information on reprinting articles or photos on this site, please contact Moira Allen, Editor