Friston Place (also known as Beechington, Bechington, Bechyngton Place, Friston House, Friston Farm, Friston Place Farm)5007

Wealden, England, East Sussex, Wealden

Brief Description

Friston Place is a formal, compartmentalised garden laid out around an early-16th-century manor house. There are surviving elements of garden and landscape features from the 16th century onwards.

History

Friston Place was built by the early-16th-century on land previously granted by charter from Edward I to William Boyd Etchingham, and subsequently owned by the Lords de la Warr and the Potman family.Around 1500, a Thomas Selwyn acquired the land by marriage to Margery Potman and probably enlarged an existing 14th-century building into the timber-framed Wealden hall-house.

Detailed Description

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING

Friston Place is situated in a valley, a ‘deep dell' (Lower), of the South Downs, sheltered on all sides by Friston Forest and with wooded hills to the north. The site, which covers some 15 hectares, comprises the house and ornamental gardens. It lies some 7 kilometres south of the A22 Eastbourne to London road, 400 metres west of the village of Friston. The site is bounded on the east side by Jevington Road (the Friston to Polegate road) and to the north, south and west by Friston Forest.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES

Friston Place is approached from the west side of the Jevington Road between tree-clad banks and through a white-painted, five-bar gate hung between a post and cleft rail wooden fence, which forms the eastern site boundary. The narrow, tarmacadum and consolidated gravel-surfaced drive descends south-westwards for 130 metres flanked by grass banks topped by one metre high flint walls and mature trees, and offering occasional glimpses from its north side over the valley below.

The drive then curves sharply to the north-west, continuing for a further 150 metres, with pasture on the north and south sides, before covering the final 100 metres. This final stretch passes along the north side of the manor house, from which there are views westwards to the site of a previous kitchen garden.

At a stone mounting block on the south side of the drive, two steps descend between a pair of two metre high stone piers (listed grade II) topped with stone balls to a stone flagged path along the east house front. The piers are flanked by a one metre high flint wall which forms the garden boundary. The main drive continues westwards past the mounting block for a further 70 metres alongside an 18th-century barn on the north of the drive to 17th-century stables, now both converted for residential use.

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS

The main gardens lie to the east and south of the house. From the stone flagged path along the east front, a second stone flagged path 15 metres long leads directly east from the entrance porch. This path is flanked by grass plats with box corner balls and leads to stone steps on the north side of the well-house, and to a grass terrace (15 metres x 25 metres), the lower of two terraces constructed by the Maitlands (3rd edition Ordnance Survey map).

The terrace is enclosed on its north and south sides by one metre high flint walls and on the east side by a steep grass bank, from the north side of which stone steps, bordered by a lavender hedge, ascend to the second upper terrace. This upper terrace comprises a large (40 metres x 30 metres) rectangular-shaped lawn bounded on the north by a one metre high flint wall and on its east and south sides by a flint walled ha-ha.

From the north-east corner of the upper terrace, a flight of stone steps leads further up to a raised sitting area, with views west across the terrace, which is backed by a curved yew hedge (recently cut back but now, 2005, with strong re-growth) and sheltered by mature trees. From the south end of the sitting area a 0.5 metre high, white-painted iron gate gives access, through a one metre high flint wall on the east side, to a 120 metre long grass walk. The walk follows the eastern boundary of the terraces, with views eastwards across pasture and westwards to the house and wooded hillside beyond.

The northern end of the walk is planted with an avenue of immature limes, whilst at the southern end there are the remains of an avenue of mature Scots pine (now, 2005, in poor condition) and beech. Adjoining the ha-ha at the western end of the south side of the top terrace is a 15 metre long, two metre high, flint wall (with dedication plaque to Lady Joan Shawcross 1917-74) with an arch through to a walled garden.

The stone-flagged path running along the east front continues southwards from the entrance porch for ten metres to three stone steps which ascend to an arch in a beech hedge to the south garden front. Immediately beyond the hedge is an informal lawn with a central mature elder, bordered by flower beds.

Two levels of stone terraces, dating from the 20th century, bounded by low flint walls and covered with a wisteria-clad wooden pergola run for 20 metres along the length of the south-east front of the house, accessed from a sloping lawn by semi-circular steps on the north side of the terraces.

Approximately 20 metres to the south of the terrace, a pair of three metre high flint cones (20th-century), mounted on ivy-covered bases and topped by golden balls, marks the entrance to a wide grass path with a 50 metre long, mixed border on each side. At the end of the path is an ornate iron rotunda (20th-century) now, 2005, covered in climbers.

Immediately south of the rotunda, mature shrubs and bushes screen a wooden seat built into a one metre high flint wall on the southern garden boundary. Twenty metres east from the rotunda, steps lead up to a further walled area (around 60 metres x 60 metres) of formally planted trees (some, 2005, replaced), possibly originally designed as a quincunx.

A rose garden lies on the east side of the terrace with a two metre high yew hedge on its west side and two metre high flint walls on the north, south and east boundary, from which wide stone steps planted with alpine and sun-loving plants lead up to Maitland's upper top terrace. The rose garden has climbing roses planted within low evergreen-edged beds on the periphery, but a central circular bed is now (2005) planted with alternating rows of purple and green beech.

The south-west end of the house faces a lawn sloping south-westwards and planted with mature beeches and conifers. In the south-west corner of the lawn, a two metre high wrought-iron gate in a flint wall leads to a further flint walled enclosure (30 metres x 30 metres) containing a swimming pool (rectangular with curved end on the east) and a concrete paving surround. On the pool's south side, a hard tennis court is enclosed by a two metre high wire mesh fence on its south and west sides. A wooden gate in the wall on the west side of the pool garden leads east to the west end of the house, from which a narrow, curved 30 metre tarmac-surfaced path leads north-west to the main drive.

REFERENCES

Books and articles

Thomas Walker Horsfield, The History, Antiquities and Topography of the County of Sussex Vol 1 (London: Messrs Nichols & Son, 1835), 283.

Mark Antony Lower, A Compendious History of Sussex, topographical, archaeological and anecdotal (Lewes, 1870), 193.

W.T. Pike (ed), Sussex in the Twentieth Century: Contemporary Biographies. Pike's New Century Series (Brighton: W.T. Pike, 1910), 108.

Rev A.A. Evans, Friston Parish Church. A Short Historical Account of the Church and Parish (1920), 7, 11-12. British Library ref X.909/26628.

Viscountess Wolseley, ‘Historic Houses of Sussex. No. 104 - Friston Place', Sussex County Magazine 10/5 (May, 1936), 294-301.

Clive Aslet, ‘Friston Place, East Sussex. The Home of Lord Shawcross', Country Life (19 June 1986), 1748-52.

Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd and Christopher Sykes, English Manor Houses (London: King, 2001), 94-99.

John Farrant, Sussex Depicted. Views and Descriptions 1600-1800 .Sussex Record Society Vol 85 (Lewes: Sussex Record Society, 2001), 228-89.

Ian Nairn and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Sussex (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003), 508. 1st edn 1965.

Maps

Tithe Map and Award for Friston 1844. East Sussex Record Office (ESRO) ref TD/E55.

OS 25" to 1mile: 1st edition published 1873 (Sheet 79/11); 2nd edition published 1899 (Sheet 79/11); 3rd edition published 1909 (Sheet 79/11)

Illustrations

S.H. Grimm, Friston House in the occupation of George Allfrey from the south side. BL Ref Additional MS.Burrell, 1798.

S.H. Grimm, Friston Place from the hill on the east. BL Ref Additional MS.Burrell, 1798.

Archival Items

Friston Place Sales Advertisement. Curtis & Henson, London W1. Sussex County Magazine 10/5 (May 1936), ii.

English Heritage Listed Building Entry TV 59 NW 27/24 (13 October 1952)

Friston Place, Jevington Road, Friston. Friston Place, Wellhouse... Garden Walls and Gate-piers, Cottages...Barn.

Description written: August 2005

Features

Style

  • Formal
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: Friston Place (listed grade I) is a three-storey, red-brick house under a tiled roof with gables and curved bargeboards, casement windows and stone mullions. The house was probably developed by Thomas Selwyn in the early-16th-century as a timber-framed building with plaster infilling around the core of a small manor house built by the Potman family in the early-15th-century. Later generations of Selwyns added two bays on the north-west, service end of the house during the 16th century and a new west wing and brick facade in the 17th century (Farrant). A window bay on the east front was built out beyond the original doorway (now inside the house), and an outer doorway with keystones with the initials and dates `T.S. 1613? and `P.S. 1634? (removed from the stables and placed there about 1896) form the main entrance.
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  • Well House
  • Description: Friston Place (listed grade I) is a three-storey, red-brick house under a tiled roof with gables and curved bargeboards, casement windows and stone mullions. The house was probably developed by Thomas Selwyn in the early-16th-century as a timber-framed building with plaster infilling around the core of a small manor house built by the Potman family in the early-15th-century. Later generations of Selwyns added two bays on the north-west, service end of the house during the 16th century and a new west wing and brick facade in the 17th century (Farrant). A window bay on the east front was built out beyond the original doorway (now inside the house), and an outer doorway with keystones with the initials and dates `T.S. 1613? and `P.S. 1634? (removed from the stables and placed there about 1896) form the main entrance.
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  • Garden Building
  • Description: Twenty metres north of the house the 18th-century barn (listed grade II) faced with flints and dressings, quoins and a horizontal course of red brick, under a half-hipped tiled roof, is now, 2005, converted to residential use.
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  • Stable Block
  • Description: One hundred metres north-west of the house, 17th-century stables (listed grade II*), built two storeys high with an attic in a gable end under a tiled roof and faced with flints with stone quoins, have also been converted to residential use.
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  • Drive
  • Description: The narrow, tarmacadum and consolidated gravel-surfaced drive descends south-westwards for 130 metres flanked by grass banks topped by one metre high flint walls and mature trees.
  • Kitchen Garden
  • Description: Site of the former kitchen garden.
  • Artefact
  • Description: Stone mounting block.
  • Structure
  • Description: There is a pair of two metre high stone piers (listed grade II) topped with stone balls.
  • Plat
  • Description: Grass plats with box corner balls.
  • Garden Terrace
  • Description: Grassed terrace.
  • Hedge
  • Description: Lavender hedge.
  • Garden Terrace
  • Description: This upper terrace comprises a large (40 metres x 30 metres) rectangular-shaped lawn bounded on the north by a one metre high flint wall and on its east and south sides by a flint walled ha-ha.
  • Hedge
  • Description: Curved yew hedge.
  • Walk
  • Description: 120 metre long grass walk.
  • Tree Avenue
  • Description: Avenue of immature limes
  • Tree Avenue
  • Description: Avenue of mature Scots pine (now, 2005, in poor condition) and beech
  • Planting
  • Description: Walled garden.
  • Specimen Tree
  • Description: Mature Elder.
  • Terrace
  • Description: Two levels of stone terraces.
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  • Pergola
  • Description: Wisteria-clad wooden pergola.
  • Garden Ornament
  • Description: Approximately 20 metres to the south of the terrace is a pair of three metre high flint cones mounted on ivy-covered bases and topped by golden balls
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  • Rotunda
  • Description: Ornate iron rotunda.
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  • Tree Feature
  • Description: Steps lead up to a further walled area (around 60 metres x 60 metres) of formally planted trees (some, 2005, replaced), possibly originally designed as a quincunx.
  • Rose Garden
  • Description: The rose garden has climbing roses planted within low evergreen-edged beds on the periphery, but a central circular bed is now (2005) planted with alternating rows of purple and green beech.
  • Outdoor Swimming Pool
  • Description: Rectangular with curved end on the east.
Ha-ha
Access & Directions

Directions

The site lies some 7 kilometres south of the A22 Eastbourne to London road, 400 metres west of the village of Friston.
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Alfriston
History

Detailed History

Friston Place (initially known as Beechington, Bechington, Bechyngton Place, and then variously as Friston House, Friston Farm and Friston Place Farm) was built by the early-16th-century on land previously granted by charter from Edward I to William Boyd Etchingham, and subsequently owned by the Lords de la Warr and the Potman family (Lower).

Around 1500, a Thomas Selwyn acquired the land by marriage to Margery Potman and probably enlarged an existing 14th-century building into the timber-framed Wealden hall-house. The house was enlarged again by successive generations of the Selwyns, before the estate was sold to a Thomas Medley of Coneyborough on William Selwyn's death in 1704. The Medley family lived there until 1754, and possibly during the time that an early-18th-century view of the house was made, depicting it surrounded by pasture and woodland (Aslet).

The estate was then let to the Allfreys, wealthy and progressive farmers, during whose tenancy it was depicted by Samuel Grimm in a painting (1798) as a modest farmhouse with a walled garden to its north-east. By 1824 plans were being made by the Medley family to reduce the size of the house, but these were not implemented (Farrant).

The 1844 Tithe Map refers to it as Friston Farm and as an estate of around 288 hectares with a house, buildings, meadows, pastures, arable land and warren. It was then occupied by William Scrase, but owned by Charles Cecil Cope Jenkinson, third Earl of Liverpool, who had acquired it in 1836 on his marriage to the heiress of the Medley estates.

In 1867 the 6th Duke of Devonshire bought the estate. Ordnance Survey maps (1873, 1899) show the house, now named Friston Place, with formal walled ornamental gardens on its east and south sides, a quadripartite garden on the north-east (possibly a kitchen garden), and farm buildings and yards on the north-west.

By the turn of the century the 7th Duke had sold the estate to a gentleman farmer, a J.A. Maitland, whose family developed the garden, constructing a series of terraces on the south-east of the house and planting trees (3rd edition Ordnance Survey map). Contemporary writings document that during their 40 year ownership the Maitlands created ‘a garden and lawns in keeping with the house, with shrubbery, a rosary, and with old walls in whose crevices are stonecrops of several kinds, saxifrages, and trails of the creeping ivy-leaved toadflax' (Evans) and ‘age old gardens and grounds of great charm' (Sales Advertisement 1936).

The property was owned by a Mrs Young from 1938 to 1945, who developed the garden in a romantic style around the remains of earlier garden features including Tudor stone steps, a rose garden, a ‘pleasaunce' and a well-house. Friston Place was bought by the politician Sir Hartley Shawcross in 1958, whose family has continued to develop the garden according to Mrs Young's designs, and whose descendants still retain ownership.

Period

  • Early 20th Century (1901-1932)
Contact

Telephone

01793 445050

Official Website

Click Here
References

References