Sedgwick Park House is remarkable, much like its current owner, and this summer is probably your last chance to visit the stunning grounds and ground floor of this historic private house.
As you approach Sedgwick down its long, wooded drive, you can’t help but cast your mind back 130 years to how it must have felt to arrive in a horse and carriage after a long, bumpy ride. Sedgwick Park is a grade II-listed mansion and a haven of splendour. It sits in 900 acres of parkland, woodland and meadows, with views across to the South Downs, Chanctonbury Ring and Lancing College Chapel. From the south side of the house, yawning terraces of Horsham stone give way to views that are framed with perfect symmetry by trees surrounding the 19th century Italian-inspired water garden. As you approach the north of the house, it exudes a sense of wellbeing and immense satisfaction. Sedgwick is beautiful inside and out and you sense this from the moment you arrive.
Sedgwick has a long past. A hunting lodge in the grounds dates back to 1200 and by the 13th century, the manor had been fortified and belonged to the infamous Lord de Braose. By the late 15th century, Sedgwick had changed hands and was owned by the family of the Duke of Norfolk.
The house has also been subject to a number of rebuilds and renovations. The castle was demolished in the 17th century and a new house built in 1715. By 1862 it was owned by the Henderson family who carried out yet another substantial rebuild and redesigned the gardens in the style they are now, with the work completed in 1886.
The ground floor of the house is flooded in warmth and light. It’s home to the ballroom, library, drawing room, upper and lower hall, dining room and kitchen. There’s nothing small about anything here and this part of the house doesn’t include the five-bedroom west wing which is currently shut off from the main house.
There’s an opulent mix of wooden wall panels, vast windows and cavernous fireplaces mixed with exotic houseplants, art deco furnishings and an aura of opulence. You can almost hear the laughter of parties gone by spilling out from the ballroom and onto the terrace. From the huge lower hall, a wide staircase leads to a gallery-style corridor and six en suite bedrooms which include the bridal suite. Detailed finishing touches, like a mirror and stand that started life in the Savoy and beautiful period furniture create a warm feel that is both elegant and eclectic at the same time.
On the top floor, formerly the servants’ quarters, are another nine bedrooms, four of which are en suite, as well as a living room, kitchenette and yet more stunning views. Clare Davison, the current owner, has lived here for 18 years and brought Sedgwick Park back from near dereliction and it’s clear she has a profound connection with Sedgwick. An interior designer, experienced therapist, and lover of vintage, she has carefully and lovingly curated each and every item from local auction houses. Small but meaningful finishing touches are everywhere and her sense of style, as well as her respect for the house’s grand heritage, are omnipresent: a well-chosen clock, a 1940s mirror, a 19th century jug and basin to list just a few.
The grounds are nothing short of magical and there’s a serenity and calmness about them that feels very restorative. Benches are peppered in amongst trees and waterways and there’s a turf labyrinth with an impressive stone centrepiece. You stumble across Clare’s sense of fun with a sunken hippopotamus near the lawns, and a large, wooded totem carved with Alice in Wonderland characters, as an homage to Alice Liddell (who inspired Lewis Carroll and who stayed here on her honeymoon).
Over the years, Clare’s gone to great lengths to ensure as many people as possible have had a chance to enjoy Sedgwick Park. She’s hosted weddings, welcomed the Shipley Arts Festival, hosted numerous charitable events and opened the gardens as part of the National and Sussex Garden Schemes.
This year, she has opened the house for the last time, as it’s time for Clare to move on. A 19-bedroom mansion is a big ask of any woman, but you can tell she’s reluctant to say her goodbyes. The house and grounds are currently open as part of the National Garden Scheme. This includes tours of the garden and lower ground floor that include coffee and cake.
Now up for sale, Sedgwick Park House now faces an uncertain future, and the reality is, it’s unlikely any new owners will love and cherish its past and present in the way Clare has done. It is the end of an era for Sedgwick Park, one of our county’s great and grand Sussex homes.
There is something special about Sedgwick and this summer’s tours are likely to be your last chance to pay your respects and to honour what is a magnificent, if sometimes forgotten, icon of our Sussex landscape.
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