A visit to Charleston

A 17th century farmhouse made famous and in some circles infamous, for it’s former occupants.

You see Charleston became the London retreat for the Bloomsbury Group. Vanessa Bell the artist rented it in 1916 and gradually over the years it filled (and emptied) with children, husbands, lovers, friends and well, anyone on the guest list. from painters, writers, philosophers, sculptures, thinkers and movers.

I spent a sunny June afternoon deep in the Sussex countryside, far from the madding crowd, ooops sorry wrong author and county!

The house itself, extended over the centuries provides an inspiring and informative place to visit – it is not a grand estate or castle, but a former farmhouse on a working estate. The occupants, principally Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant set about decorating it whilst outside creating a truly pretty English country garden.

There is a wonderful tour of the house, the tour leaders are deeply passionate about the house and the art, fantastically knowledgeable and engaging. The house was literally decorated by the artists with every surface painted (if it didn’t move it was covered) and has been preserved and maintained by the charitable trust that runs the estate.

I’m no art critic so I will re-direct you to more informative pages on the subject and the story behind the art and the Bloomsbury Group. If I just mention that it’s occupants included  Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster and Lytton Strachey you will get an idea of the importance of the house.

There was no photography allowed in the house, understandable considering it’s precious contents of paintings, decorations and fabrics, but I was free to wander and snap away in the walled garden. The garden is simple in it’s design and entices you in, along narrow paths bordered with densely planted English cottage garden favourites. I’ve included a slideshow to give you an idea. Some of the photos are literally snaps to give you and to remind me of the essence of the garden. I hope you enjoy your wander around this quintessential English Walled Garden as much as I did. And yes I stopped for an essential reviving cup of tea and piece of cake in the cafe.

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I’ll just add one more link about the Knapped flints – a common sight in Sussex and Kent.

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