I spent a very interesting morning exploring Standen and its grounds this week. The house, just outside East Grinstead, was built for the Beale family between 1891 and 1894 by the renowned Arts and Crafts architect Philip Webb. James Beale was a prosperous London solicitor and he and his wife Margaret wanted a family home built according to the principles of the Arts and Craft movement.
The house was fitted with William Morris wallpapers, floorings and fabrics and today still has these as well as the original light fittings. The very blurred photo below of the drawing room (sorry!) makes the room look luridly bright – thanks to my failure to get to grips with my new phone which kept setting the flash off to the consternation of the National Trust volunteer – but in reality the room is very dim and gloomy. Visitors entering the room were all struck by how hard it must have been to read with these low wattage lights.
The house had been decked out so that each room reflected Christmas as it would have been in a different decade in which the family were in residence – up to the 1960s. The house was left by the last unmarried daughter, Helen Beale to the National Trust when she died in 1972.
The Christmas theme was also expressed outside the house by a giant Christmas tree with knitted decorations by the textile artist Kaffe Fassett – whose wonderful colourful quilts and fabrics were present throughout the house.
Here’s an example of the riotous colours of the Kaffe Fassett works:
There is also plenty to see in the gardens and grounds, including the quarry garden – created from the area where sandstone was quarried for the building of the house.
The gardens had been yarn-bombed by local knitting and crocheting volunteers under the direction of Kaffe Fassett – including a yarn-bombed bicycle and the area around these hens – note the crocheted fried eggs on the trees – a little tactless perhaps!!
There are interesting exhibits showing the way the fabrics and wallpapers are conserved and demonstrating the effects of light and moisture etc on the textiles and materials inside the house – a constant challenge to conservation.
The thing that struck me most about Standen, compared with most other National Trust properties, is how it is overwhelmingly a family home. The Beale family still seem to be present in the rooms and corridors of the house and were clearly very happy living there. The place – while big – has a very idiosyncratic feeling and feels very “lived in”.
After my most enjoyable taster, I intend to visit Standen again – at a quieter time of year without the Christmas crowds. I do have a soft spot for Arts and Crafts.