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West Dean Gardens claim to be one of the greatest restored gardens open to the public, and who am I to disagree? They are owned by the Edward James Foundation a charitable, educational trust which supports and teaches artists and craftsmen.

Edward James was born on 16th August 1907 and took control his father, William Dodge James's fortune on his 25th birthday, his father having died when he was only four. He became famous as a patron to the arts, and particularly of the Surrealist movement.

During the Second World War he became concerned that certain arts and the techniques of some craftsmen would be lost, and in 1964 decided to set up an educational community on his estate where the techniques of craftsmanship could be preserved and taught, old work restored and new art works created.

He established the foundation, which in 1971 set up West Dean College, a centre of study of conservation, arts, crafts, writing, gardening and music.

For opening times, admission prices, etc. please see the official site detailed below.

Victorian Greenhouses

West Dean Gardens boasts a collection of thirteen working Victorian greenhouses built between 1890 and 1900 by Foster and Pearson. These had become completely derelict but were restored in the early 1990s.

Contents range from exotic orchids and other hothouse plants, through familiar houseplants and a range of fruits, to the workaday trays of seedlings being grown on for planting out in the surrounding gardens.

Whilst the West Dean Estate is mentioned in the Domesday Book, the current building dates back to 1738 when Sir James Peachey, the 1st Lord Selsey, commissioned James Wyatt, the leading architect of time, to rebuild the manor house.

In 1891 West Dean was sold to William Dodge James the very wealthy son an American born Liverpool based merchant Daniel James. He commissioned architects Ernest George and Harold Peto to alter and greatly extend the house.

St Andrew's Church, West Dean


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There is a plaque set into an ancient saxon doorway in the tower of St Andrew's Church, West Dean that tells you almost everything you need to know about the church. It reads:

To the greater glory of God this ancient parish church of St Andrew which was almost entirely destroyed by fire on the 26th November 1934 has been repaired and made strong for future generations
The west gallery has been erected and many additions & improvements have been made for the adornment and enrichment of the fabric
August 1935 - April 1936

I particularly liked the oak pews and other church furniture, which presumably date from this restoration.