Buxted Park and the Medley Evelyn Connection
Buxted Park Estate dates from 1199 and the current Georgian house is a Grade II listed mansion originally built in 1725, restored and remodelled in 1940 after it was damaged by fire. The mansion house stands in 312 acres of Sussex countryside surrounded by formal gardens, lakes and parkland where herds of deer roam free. Buxted Park was famous for its trees; the park had some of the most historic timber in the country. There was an avenue of pine that was planted in 1777 that ran from the gate of the park for about a third of a mile. These were planted three or four trees deep on either side, rising to 100 feet in height. A lime avenue, planted during the reign of Charles Stuart was 60 feet wide and many of these trees were over 100 feet in height, their branches spreading to 50 feet. The avenue led to the original old house that was the Manor Farm, a part of the Manor of Buxted. Unfortunately, this house was destroyed by fire in the early 1700s, and many of the trees that once stood in the parkland were destroyed during the 1987 hurricane. Standing near the current mansion house is a 13th century church and within its grounds is a yew tree reputedly planted when the Manor of Buxted was created in the late 12th century. The church is the only remaining part of the village of old Buxted that was not relocated, the rest of the village was moved so as not to interrupt the views of the surrounding countryside from the mansion house. It was from this church that William Wordsworths brother, Christopher, preached over a thousand sermons.
The manor of Buxted was part of the manor of Framfield and dates back to 1199 with the original house where the lake is today, an avenue of lime trees from Buxted points to its original location. In 1298, Roger Marynes was the Lord of the Manor of Buxted. In 1352 it was held by Sir Garfredus de Say, Knt. in whose family it remained until 1383 when John de Say died and left the manor to his sister Elizabeth. The manor then passed to the Lewknors, but in 1523, it was sold to the Walleys. They held it until 1621 when it was sold to Richard and Edward Amherst, Esqs. for the sum of £2500. The manor then contained a house known as Buxted Place and land totalling 327 acres. In the following year, the manor was conveyed to Edward Lyndsey and his wife Mary. In 1651, the manor was conveyed by Mary Lyndsey, widow of Edward, and Richard Lyndsey to Stephen Penkhurst. When the estate of Stephen Penkhurst was split, the manor became the property of Humphrey Fowle Esq. who then sold it to Thomas Medley Esq.
The Medley family first came to Sussex when Thomas Medley married Susanna, the sister and sole heir of John Reynes of Coneyborough, in the parish of Barcombe. One of Thomas and Susanna Medleys sons, Thomas, married Annabella Dashwood, the daughter of Sir Samuel Dashwood, Lord Mayor of London. Thomas and Annabella had seven children, including a daughter, Annabella and a son, Edward. The Medley family home was Hogg House, within the grounds of Buxted Park. This was built in 1591 by Ralphe Hogge, who in conjunction with Peter Baude, had an iron foundry at Buxted. Annabella married James Evelyn, son of Edward and Julia Evelyn, and moved to Felbridge Place. Meanwhile, Edward, a Barrister at Law, started to build a new mansion at Buxted in the mid 1700s which was completed by George Medley, his nephew.
George Medley had been a wine merchant in Portugal, where he amassed a considerable fortune, much of which was lost in the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755. After settling at Buxted, he married Jemima in 1757, daughter of Sir Thomas Palmer, Bart. of Carlton, Northampton, Jemima died shortly after the marriage. George then married Jane, daughter of Sir Timothy Waldo Knt. George became a Member of Parliament for Seaford between 1768 and 1780, and then East Grinstead between 1783 and 1790. He died without issue in 1796 and his estates passed to his widow, Jane. On her death, Julia Annabella Evelyn, George Medleys niece, who was sole heir of Felbridge Place, inherited the Medley estates, which included Buxted Park. Julia Annabella Evelyn married Sir George Augustus Shuckburgh Medley, who took the name Evelyn. Julia and Sir George Augustus Shuckburgh Medley Evelyn had only one child, Julia Evelyn Medley, who in turn became their sole heir. Julia Evelyn married, in 1810, the Hon. Charles Cecil Cope Jenkinson, Earl of Liverpool. On the death of Julia Evelyn Jenkinson in 1814, her husband, Charles became a recluse and wanted the village of Buxted moved from the vicinity of Buxted Place. The villagers refused to move so Hon. C C C Jenkinson, as landlord, stopped maintaining the properties. Within a few years, several of the houses had become uninhabitable and at this point, the villagers agreed to be relocated, leaving just the church to mark the site of the original village.
Buxted Place, before the fire in 1940, was an early Georgian house of nine bays and three storeys, with a three-bay pediment to the North and South, and in the middle on both sides was added a one-storey portico of Tuscan columns. Now the house has only two storeys and no pediment; but the porticoes were preserved. The portico on the South side dates from1810 and stands on elegant segmental arches. The architect, Basil Ionides, who acquired the house in 1931, restored and remodelled it with many original 18th century features brought in and skilfully distributed around the house. One such feature on the exterior was the new entrance doorway on the West side, this has a pediment on columns intermittently plain and with stalactite rustication. This came from West Harling Hall in Norfolk and is early Georgian. The balustrading of the new West forecourt was salvaged from Chesterfield House, off Park Lane, a house by the architect Ware, and other parts of the forecourt came from various other houses.
The new West entrance hall contains many brought-in pieces. The fireplace came from 19 Arlington Street and dates from about 1740, and the Robert Adams doors were from Nos. 23-25 Portland Place. The former great hall on the North side was lowered and here the fireplace came from Queensberry House, Richmond, but the Rococo stucco-work above the fireplace belonged to the house though somewhat later than the architecture. The doors were from Kensington House, Kensington Gore. The staircase was originally in 30 Old Burlington Street, London and dates to 1725-30. The decorated chimneypiece in what was the dining room was from Clumber, Nottingham and was built about 1715. The chimneypiece in what was the saloon came from Kensington House, the plaques from Robert Adams Adelphi, and the doors from Robert Adams 38 Berkeley Square. In the library, the panelling and chimneypiece were from Felix Hall in Essex, and the over-mantel, dating from 1735, was from Stowe, Buckinghamshire. The chimneypiece in what was the drawing room was also from Felix Hall and was probably by Robert Adam. The lodge houses also date from this period of restoration and remodelling by Basil Ionides.
Similarities between Buxted Park and Felbridge Place are striking and can be seen in the original mansion houses, both fine examples of early Georgian architecture, and in the use of trees in their parkland. The mansion house at Felbridge Place, sadly demolished in 1972, had a loggia of enriched brickwork on stone columns running the full length of the Southwest side. It also extended around the bay of the main façade, supporting a balustraded parapet and was of three storeys, similar to the original Georgian mansion at Buxted Park. The mansion at Felbridge Place was known for its decorated ceiling, enriched cornices and panelled walls with painted styling and guilded mouldings found in the drawing room, similar to the interiors found in Buxted Place today. Felbridge Place also had avenues of lime trees leading from the lodge houses to the mansion, sadly felled in the 1920s. On the Bourd map of 1748, there is also an avenue of trees leading from the Star junction to the mansion which may well have been pines as there are a few surviving along that line to this day. Again, reminiscent of the description of the parkland at Buxted Park before the Storm of 1987.
Over the years, members of the British Royal family including Queen Victoria who was particularly fond of the herd of fallow deer and Queen Mary who was a great friend of Mrs Ionides have frequented Buxted Place. After the death of Mrs Ionides in 1963, the house sold to Kenneth and Heather Shipman who added the garden wing and created the swimming pool. In 1966, they opened the house as a Health Hydro. Kenneth Shipman owned Twickenham Film Studios and many celebrities were friends and they visited the Hydro including Gregory Peck, Marlon Brando and Dudley Moore. Lady Churchill as well as members of the Danish Royal family were also guests.
In 1971, the property sold to the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheik Ziad Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who at the time was president of the United Arab Emirates. He spent very little time at the estate during his fifteen years ownership but was responsible for creating the two lakes covering 3.1 acres. The Great Storm of 1987 coincided with the purchase of the estate by the EETPU (Electrical, Electronics, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union). They upgraded the old Health Hydro and opened the house as a hotel.
In 1994, Juldis Development Ltd., a Thailand based development company, purchased the estate and invested in a substantial refurbishment programme. This included opening the Orangery restaurant, updating the Health Club, and refurbishing the bedrooms and the Drawing Rooms. On 1st December 1997, Buxted Park was acquired by Virgin Hotels Ltd. The group owned ten four star country house style hotels around Britain and overseas, with a further twenty five affiliated in the Virgin Hotel Collection. The property was then purchased by Hand Picked Hotels on 30th July 1999 and is now managed by Arcadian.
Although restored and re-modelled, Buxted Place, now Buxted Park Country House Hotel, contains some of the finest examples of Georgian architecture and interiors to be found, having salvaged much from houses that suffered a similar fate to that of Felbridge Place.
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Buildings of England Sussex by I Nairn and N Pevsner
History of East Grinstead by Hills
Godstone, a parish history by U Lambert
Arms of Sussex Families by J F Huxford
Family Search Internet CLS
Felbridge Place Sale Catalogue, 1911