Just outside East Grinstead, is Standen House, a famous Arts and Crafts house and one of the best examples in the country.
The Arts and Crafts movement was a decorative and fine arts movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the precursor to the Art Nouveau movement. The house also has fabulous views of Medway Valley and Ashdown Forest and was made from local sandstone and bricks, using traditional construction methods. It was very much designed so that the house and gardens complement each other.
Standen House and its grounds are now owned by the National Trust and the house is Grade I Listed. And it’s a great place to visit, with or without children.
The house was designed and built between 1891 and 1894 as a home for the Beale family. Inside it is decorated with William Morris carpets, fabrics and wallpapers and it has original electric light fittings. It’s laid out as it would have been in the 1920s, and as you enter you really get that sense of a family home. So much so that you can almost hear the chatter of the Beales’ seven children.
There are a number of different rooms to explore and these include the hall, drawing room, billiard room, business room, kitchens and bedrooms. As you wander through, for those of us of a certain age, many of the fabrics are familiar. I distinctly remember childhood sofas in the fabrics of the morning room and this adds to the homely feeling.
When I visited last summer, there was a 1970s exhibition in full swing which added to the feeling of nostalgia and in the billiard room there was a Victorian rocking horse with a shocking mane of pink hair. The billiard room is rather gorgeous and was a room for the gentleman. With a large bookcase and Pomegranate wallpaper, I love the fact that the Beales’ youngest daughter, Helen, became an expert billiard player and entered ladies’ competitions. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, gents!
The dining room and drawing room seem to be the most revered of the downstairs rooms, but there’s a long orangery style room where I could happily pass summer days, cocktail in hand. Then a visit to the kitchens transports you to a very different place and back to the practicalities and realities of Victorian living.
Upstairs, one of the bedrooms and its dressing room were completely re-papered in 1937 with William Morris Larkspur wallpaper. You’ll find more familiar and distinctive fabrics in the north bedroom and the main room which has stunning views across the lawns. Yes. I could wake up to this.
There are 12 acres of grounds at Standen, much of which are divided into different gardens or rooms, each with its own theme. One leads effortlessly to another.
When I explored, the Surrey Sculpture Society was exhibiting in the grounds, which was a great starting point. I grabbed a map and followed the trail, winding my way down narrow shady paths, into little pockets of interest. They hold this exhibition every year, and it’s worth looking out for.
The kitchen gardens sit to the side of the house (and you pass them as you arrive from the car park). From here you can head to the croquet lawn, an orchard, a rhododendron dell, and a rosery with a water feature. This is where the Beale children used to swim and it’s hopelessly romantic.
Meander up the paths back towards the house (past abundant lavender beds in the summer) and onto the main lawn from where you can look back at the house and its vast terrace.
Then head off and explore. There’s a long path that leads to a little pavilion with stunning views and a top terrace that has unspoilt views.
There’s also a little bothy with views of East Grinstead church, and some arboreal steps that lead to a little secret courtyard. When you finish exploring head back to the café and enjoy cake on Goose Green and a visit to the potting shed.
What’s on at Standen
There is an ongoing programme of events at Standen. Things to look out for are the Easter Egg Hunt from late March, monthly spinning (as in weaving, not cycling) and meet the makers events as well as a craft market in May.
Walking and dogs
There are a number of different walking trails from Standen and dogs on leads are welcome in the garden and wider estate. (Assistance dogs only in the house, shop and Barn Café.)
If you’ve enjoyed this post about Standen House, and you are in the area, you may also enjoy: