Interiors & Shopping

Standen House is a very fine example of Arts and Crafts workmanship. Completed in 1894, it was built for wealthy solicitor James Beale, his wife Margaret and their seven children. The house was designed so that it nestles against a hillside, and with its surrounding historic farm buildings, looks like it has always been there. But it is the interior that really sets it apart. Designed by Philip Speakman Webb, who is often referred to as the father of the Arts and Crafts movement, Standen House contains beautiful examples of his designs, from architecture to candlesticks and table glass. He valued good craftsmanship, local materials and traditional skills. Webb's creativity extended to the smallest detail – no doorknob, fireplace or mantelpiece was left to chance, and he advised on decoration and furnishings, too.

Webb was a founding partner of what was to become Morris & Co, having met William Morris at the age of 25. The two men went on to become lifelong friends. As Morris once said: ‘We understood each other at once’. So it's not surprising that Morris & Co wallpapers, carpets and fabrics feature so strongly in the house. Webb involved Margaret Beale in the choice of interior decoration so that the house suited the family's way of life at Standen perfectly. They loved spending weekends enjoying food and playing outdoor games and billiards, and wanted the house to reflect that. Even the children got involved in the design process. You can see embroideries designed by Morris & Co that were worked on by Margaret and her daughters. Webb was also very interested in technology and electricity, as were the Beales, so it was a thoroughly modern house for its time.

Other prominent names in the Arts and Crafts movement are also present in the house. There are ceramics by William De Morgan and textiles & drawings by Edward Burne-Jones. Philip Webb had a wholistic approach to architecture and interior design ensuring that they worked in harmony, and it is this that really sings out at Standen House, making it an extraordinary property for fans of the Arts and Crafts movement.

Scotney Castle - the 'new' house was completed in 1843 for Edward Hussey III by English architect Anthony Salvin, using sandstone quarried from the grounds of the Old Castle it overlooks. W.S. Gilpin, the noted landscape designer, was also consulted on the design, and the decision was taken to partly demolish the old castle to create a folly, as was fashionable at the time. The old castle was considered too cold and damp for habitation, so a new house was needed. You can still see some of the layout of the original castle, including priest holes, where Catholic priests were hidden during the Reformation when Catholicism was illegal, and priests practiced on pain of death.

The wood panelling and some of the furniture in the new building was also designed specifically for the house by Salvin, giving a flowing continuity to the house. The Hussey family were great collectors, and with over 10 000 objects, the collection at Scotney Castle is the largest National Trust collection in the South East.

The family's library, a collection dating back to the seventeenth century, includes books on art, architecture and art history, and a small collection of early guidebooks. The collection of furniture, ceramics and decorative objects is displayed as it was left by Betty Hussey in 2006.

The kitchen, a beautiful example of 1940s design, and the castle exterior were used as locations in the 1979 film 'Yanks' starring Richard Gere and Vanessa Redgrave.

Charleston was the residence of famous Bloomsbury-ites, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, the interior of the house was used as a canvas for the artists' creative talent. They decorated every available surface - walls, fireplace surrounds, tables, chairs, bedheads and bookcases. Lampshades made by Bell (showing varying degrees of skill) hang throughout the house, and on the walls hang original artworks by the resident artists. The collection also includes works by Renoir, Picasso, Derain, Matthew Smith, Walter Sickert, Tomlin and Delacroix.

The house became a magnet for creative thinkers, writers and artists over the next 60 years, with rooms being converted into studios as visitors moved in and out. These included Roger Fry, David Garnett, economist John Maynard Keynes, Virginia and Leonard Woolf, writer E.M. Forster, and biographer and essayist Lytton Strachey. As Vanessa Bell wrote in 1936: 'The house seems full of young people in very high spirits, laughing a great deal at their own jokes...lying about in the garden which is simply a dithering blaze of flowers and butterflies and apples."

Shopping

The Pantiles in Royal Tunbridge Wells is a beautiful Georgian colonnade of quirky independent shops, restaurants, art galleries and pubs. It is pedestrianised so you can wander around in peace and security. At one end is the Chalybeate spring, rising from the well that gave the town its name and fame. The waters are rich in iron, giving them a unique taste. Visitors can sample the spring water which is served by costumed 'Dippers' every summer.

There is an open air farmers' market every second Saturday of the month The Pantiles also hosts various festivals during the year including a food festival, a music festival, a fashion market and an open air art exhibition.

In the summertime there is a jazz season, with free outdoor concerts on Thursday evenings, featuring jazz musicians playing on the historic bandstand.

Why not take a tour?

Our full or half day tours give you the perfect opportunity to visit these gardens in the Potted History Tours taxi.

Hunting Henry

Churchill's Sanctuary

Winnie the Pooh

The Bloomsbury Group

Contact us for more details or to book a bespoke tour.

Tour Prices

Full Day Tour (up to 5 people) - £350.00

Half Day Tour (up to 5 people) - £200.00

Picnic Prices

Hunting Henry - £15.00 per person

Teddy Bears' Picnic - £15.00 per person

Garden of England Picnic - £15.00 per person

Did you know...

The Arts and Crafts Movement was inspired by the ideas of John Ruskin and William Morris, it advocated a revival of traditional handicrafts, a return to a simpler way of life and an improvement in the design of ordinary domestic objects.

Related Links

Main image of Charleston supplied by Penelope Fewster