Many features of the site were extant in the late-19th century. In 1981, John Brookes of The Clockhouse, Fontwell, was asked to design a new garden. This included the many old flint buildings and walls and the two old walled-gardens. Features include ponds, a summer house, vegetable garden, well garden, orchard, broad borders and a gazebo.
Head gardener, Norman Faires, worked for the Hendersons from 1931 until his death in 1960, one of five full-time gardeners. His daughter, Monica Timlick, still lives in the village. The family lived in one of the two cottages at the entrance to the property. Pigs and chickens were raised in the very large orchard. A gun dog had a very grand kennel with three compartments and a tiled floor, which has only recently been rediscovered.
To the east of the house was a square garden with a shallow pond in the middle lined with green stones. A walnut tree, surrounded by flint walls and many daffodils, was in front of the main entrance. Two Japanese Cranes called Jack and Jill roamed the garden freely. The small stream running through the property from Nyton Road was made into a water feature, and divided to form an island. Two Japanese-style bridges were constructed to make it possible to cross over to the island. This feature was between the walnut tree and the house. This was made possible by diverting the drive to the north-¬east of the house.
The Summer House, adjacent to the pond, was known as ‘The Old Tea House', as tea was taken there after tennis parties. Beyond the house there were big borders in a sweep towards the well garden. There was a large vegetable garden between the cottages and the farm buildings.
In 1981, John Brookes of The Clockhouse, Fontwell, was asked to design a new garden. This included the many old flint buildings and walls and the two old walled-gardens. The area around the old pond was landscaped so that it could be seen from the house, and several silver birches were planted on the south side. These were under-planted with small daffodils and shrub roses.
By planting shrubs, the line of the wide terrace on three sides of the house was broken up. Large concrete steps were placed in the lawn, leading past broad borders, into the aptly-named well garden. This walled garden, depicted in the map of 1874, still had the well and some of its original features. An opening in the flint wall led to a stone path with a gazebo at the southern end, from which the original Summer House could be viewed across the pond.
The severe storm of 1987 felled many trees, and damaged some flint walls. These included a mature oak tree in the hedge of the field to the east and a fine walnut-tree in the field next to the drive. A small wood, which was destroyed, was replanted with a cedar, Italian alders, and whips of oak trees that had been grown from the acorns collected from the fallen oak.
Edmund Sadler was the owner of Church Farm in 1847 according to the oldest map available. The Tithe map of 1846 listed the Homestead Farm buildings in addition to the farmhouse and a double cottage and garden. Fields farmed by the owner stretched between St. Mary's Church, Aldingbourne and Westergate Street, Aldingbourne. One field was identified as a flood meadow, and there were oyster beds (ozier beds) on Hook Lane. There was a double cottage and garden, with a moderate-sized house, and a large number of outbuildings. In addition, the 1875 map shows a large pond and extensive orchards.
The 1874 map shows a long drive from New Road up to the farm at the entrance to which there were two small ponds. At that point the drive swung to the right to end up in front of the farm in a grand sweep. To the south of the house was a walled garden with four large square borders bisected by paths. There were two small buildings set in the wall to south and west. West of this garden is shown as an area of scrub, and south of it is a very large orchard which extends into the next field. The 1898 map shows no change.
In the 1920s Admiral Sir Reginald Henderson and Lady Henderson bought the farm from the Toop family. He made major changes to the farmhouse. The name was changed to Stepaside.
Sir Reginald died in 1939. During World War 2, the War Department requisitioned the house. During occupation by the military the house was partially destroyed by fire, and was abandoned by Lady Henderson until her death in 1961. During this period it ‘presents a scene of melancholy desolation' (West Sussex Gazette dated 5th May 1955).
The property was then sold to Wing Commander G. Briggs, who demolished the house and built a smaller house adjacent to the old one. Stanley Roth and Partners were the architects. Since the whole garden and orchard were extremely overgrown it took the new owner a considerable amount of time to clear it. Some of the outbuildings were demolished, and a swimming pool and tennis court were built, but little attempt was made to restore the garden. The fields and the vegetable garden had been maintained throughout.
In 1979 the house was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Jerome O'Hea together with seven acres of land surrounding the four acre garden. Sadly, the first task that had to be tackled was to fell 20 mature elm trees, that were killed by Dutch Elm Disease, to the south and east of the property. Twenty-four indigenous trees, with the help of a grant from West Sussex County Council, replaced these.
- Associated People
- Features & Designations
- House (featured building)
- Description: After the death of Lady Henderson in 1961, the property was sold to Wing Commander G. Briggs, who demolished the house and built a smaller house adjacent to the old one.
- Earliest Date:
- Latest Date:
- Description: The vegetable garden from the original house has been maintained throughout.
- Description: The two old walled gardens were incorporated into the new garden design from 1981.
- Description: The area around the old pond was landscaped in 1981 so that it could be seen from the house, and several silver birches were planted on the south side. These were under-planted with small daffodils and shrub roses.
- Garden Terrace
- Description: There is a wide terrace on three sides of the house.
- Description: The Summer House, adjacent to the pond, was known as `The Old Tea House?, as tea was taken there after tennis parties.
- Walled Garden
- Key Information
Part: standing remains
Sussex Gardens Trust