Sharnden is an early-20th century garden laid out with extensive terraces and glades by the garden designer Percy Cane to the south and east of a late-19th-century house. Other features include paved and lavender walks, a kitchen garden, a gatehouse and a lake.
There was a partly moated manor house on an adjacent site from the 15th-century onwards. In 1894, a shooting lodge was built on high ground to the north-west of the manor house. By 1909 the lodge was known as Sharnden. Glasshouses were erected in the nearby early-19th-century partly walled kitchen garden. In the 1920s, new owners commissioned the garden designer Percy Cane to create gardens to the south-east.
TerrainThe house is in an elevated position 100m above sea level with southerly views.
Detailed DescriptionSITE DESCRIPTION
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING
Nineteenth century Sharnden is set back on the west of Coggins Mill Road at its junction with the north end of Pennybridge Lane, c4km south-west of the Crowborough to Wadhurst Road (B2100). It is in an elevated position 100m above sea level with southerly views over the River Rother and across wooded and open countryside towards Heathfield to the south and Brightling Beacon and Pevensey Bay to the south-east. The site is c2.5km north-east of Mayfield village, 8km east of Crowborough and 10km south of Tunbridge Wells. The 11ha site is bordered to the north by the track to Cinderhill Farm and on the west, south and east by the agricultural fields of surrounding farms.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES
Sharnden is approached along a grey tarmacadam drive that divides after 100m, the north-east fork leading to Sharnden Coach House and Cinderhill Farm and the south-east one to the former shooting lodge, Sharnden, entering between brick gate piers. Immediately to the east of the drive is a C19 two-storey (with attic) brick gatehouse with tile hanging on the first storey and a tiled roof, surrounded by lawn with mature trees and shrubs and a 2m laurel hedge. West of the drive is a pond, seen through low shrubs and backed by mature trees, that form the northern boundary of a partly walled kitchen garden (1st ed OS map). East of the pond, a 20m gravel track leads to a C20 brick garage and the entrance to the kitchen garden. At this point, 20m from the site entrance, a hedge-lined track leads to the C15 manor house c1km south, the first 50m forming the east boundary of the kitchen garden. The drive to Sharnden turns east following the C19 drive to the shooting lodge (shown on the 1898 OS map).
This drive is bordered on the south by ranch style fencing with views south across the pastures and woods of adjoining land. Ornamental shrub (mainly rhododendrons and azaleas) and tree planting in lawn borders the 80m drive before it divides, sweeping to the north-east towards Sharnden and continuing a further 150m east to Lower Sharnden. The drive to Sharnden terminates in a gravel car parking area on the east front of the house.
Sharnden is a two-storey red brick building with attic built 1894-1904, partly tile hung with tiled roof, three brick chimneys and three bays on the south-east front under an uneven roofline. The main entrance on the west retains stone mullioned windows and an all oak door with wrought iron fittings with the date 1894 inscribed above, whilst other entrances and windows have been replaced or altered since the 1960s. One hundred metres to the south-east of the main building, on the site of the 1920s sundial garden, is Lower Sharnden, a single-storey brick house with attic, tiled roof and low eaves built in the late 1950s. Immediately below its terraced gardens, a wooden single-storey cabin (built 2000 and used as guest accommodation) stands on the site of a late C20 swimming pool.
GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS
To the south of the main entrance to Sharnden house stone flags lead between low random-coursed stone piers, with narrow double-leaf wrought iron gates in a 1m high wall, to a terrace on the south front with views over surrounding countryside. Directly south of the gates, steps (now, 2004, in poor condition and with self-seeded plants) lead down to lower lawns (now bisected by the drive to Lower Sharnden). On the west side of the south terrace are the ruins of a conservatory, whilst at the east end, brick steps with stone retaining walls give access to an upper lawn with views across the lake and woods below. Centred on the south garden front door, a wide flight of shallow stone steps with stone retaining walls (with rock plants, Virginia creeper and wisteria) descends south towards lower lawns. The stone flags then continue east to become a c300m paved terraced walk (now in divided ownership) described in the 1924 Studio article and contemporary illustrations. The first 40m of the paved walk is bordered by low walls with stone capping (now, 2004, under repair) and then descends by a series of steps to the entrance to terrace gardens (now, 2004, blocked by a temporary wood and wire fence and the sundial from the 1920s sundial garden).
Along the first of three terrace levels a 180m paved walk is bordered by grass and narrow flower borders below balustrade walls. Beyond terrace walls on the north, the southern end of a lake, shown in the 1926 Sales Particulars is now, 2004, overgrown. On the east side of the lake, Percy Cane's upper glades remain, framed by groups of native trees (including maple and beech) with an understorey of rhododendrons. On the south side of the paved walk views give onto the site of the 1920s rose garden on the terrace below and the countryside beyond. The walk descends by stone steps to a rectangular area c40m x 50m, the midpoint of the terrace gardens walk, a pool with eagle statue and stone flag surround forming the central feature. The paved walk then continues east as a lavender walk with standard roses, terminating in a late C20 wooden arch that leads to informal glades and the site of former tennis and croquet lawns (1935 Sales Particulars), sheltered by mature trees and shrubs.
On the south end of the north-south axis with the pool, steps (now, 2004, in poor repair and self-seeded with ferns and cotoneaster) lead to the site of the 1920s rose garden still enclosed by topiary and yew hedges. Its crazy paving circular path and arc-shaped rose beds have been replaced by lawn. Adjacent to the former rose garden on the east, Lower Sharnden is accessed along a tarmacadum drive from the west (with Victorian style lampposts), which has replaced the west-east path of Cane's rose bed. Along this drive borders contain herbaceous planting and a recessed seating area in the north retaining wall (1935 Sales Particulars) is, 2004, hidden behind an overgrown rhododendron. From the former rose garden a path leads south to steps down to a paved garden on the lowest terrace. Similar steps descend from the south front of Lower Sharnden, a recessed circular pool built into the north retaining wall forming a central point. The quadripartite design of the paved garden with central rectangular pool survives (illustrated in the 1920s and 1930s as planted with rock plants and small shrubs), but is now, 2004, partly hidden beneath a profusion of mature acers, azaleas and flowering shrubs. Bastions with integral seating (now, 2004, in poor condition with self-seeded ferns and other plants) on the south-west and south-east corners of the paved garden give views over informal glades and woodlands below, accessed by two flights of steps.
Steps (now, 2004, with grey-painted metal rail on the east side) from the south-west of the terraced garden lead to guest accommodation set on a level platform (with empty swimming pool below the building) with views over the surrounding fields and woodland. Glades with wide grassed walks between mature shrub and tree plantings (including Lebanon and blue cedars and redwoods) enclose the garden on the south-east, east and north-east. To the north-east, glades border the main section of the lake, steps and retaining rockery walls (now, 2004, in poor condition) rising on the west side to the upper lawn.
The C19 trapezium-shaped kitchen garden, brick walled on the west and south sides, is located 120m south-west of the main house of Sharnden to the west of the entrance drive. The north side is bounded by a pond edge (on which are the remains of a C19 wind turbine for lifting water) and the east side by the hedge along the track to the C15 manor house. Shown on the 1st ed OS map as partly orchard, by 1935 the garden was described as ‘well-stocked with fruit trees, and containing a range of heated glasshouses comprising:- vinery, tomato house, flower, fig and melon houses'. The kitchen garden is now part of the gate lodge property, the glasshouses no longer exist (2004) and the ground is cultivated as an ornamental, vegetable and fruit garden.
Books and articles
J.R. Daniel-Tyssen, ‘The Parliamentary Surveys of the County of Sussex', Sussex Archaeological Collections 25 (1873), 53-57.
S.B.W., ‘A Garden Designed by Mr. Percy S. Cane', The Studio 87 (January -June 1924), 193-197.
Ronald Webber, Percy Cane. Garden Designer (Edinburgh: John Bartholemew & Son Ltd, 1975), 61-2, 185.
Charlotte Johnson, Percy Cane. Garden Designer (1995). Thesis submitted for the post-graduate diploma in the Conservation of Historic Gardens and Landscapes, Architectural Association, London.
Map of Merryweathers alias Moons Mill Farm, 1757. East Sussex Record Office (ESRO) Ref AMS5761/1.
Tithe Map for Mayfield 1843. ESRO Ref TD/E133.
OS 25" to 1mile: 1st edition published 1874 (Sheet 29/2); 2nd edition published 1897 (Sheet 29/2); 3rd edition published 1909 (Sheet 29/2); Revised edition published 1931 (Sheet 29/2)
Digital photographs of Sharnden gardens and surrounding landscape, Barbara Simms, May 2004
Diocese of Chichester Capitular Records 1448-1947. WSRO Ref Cap/III 7-10.
Conveyance of the Manor of Sharnden in Mayfield 15 May 1863. ESRO Ref AMS1100.
Sharnden Manor Estate 1926 Sales Particulars. ESRO Ref DW/C47/151 (7 illustrations).
Sharnden Manor Estate 1935 Sales Particulars. ESRO Ref AMS 6209/1/73. (4 illustrations)
Sharnden Old Manor 1949 Sales Particulars. National Monuments Records Archives Ref SA02181.
Abstract of the Title of Sharnden Manor 1957 (Private Collection).
Sales Particulars for Hurricane Barn Farm and Cinderhill Oast (map only), undated (probably 1970s). (Private Collection).
Description written: May 2004
- House (featured building)
- Description: Sharnden is a two-storey red brick building with attic. The house is partly tile hung with tiled roof, three brick chimneys and three bays on the south-east front under an uneven roofline.
- Earliest Date:
- Latest Date:
- Gate Piers
- Description: Brick gate piers.
- Description: Two-storey (with attic) brick gatehouse with tile hanging on the first storey and a tiled roof.
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- Tree Feature
- Description: Mature trees.
- Description: Laurel hedge.
- Description: West of the drive is a pond.
- Description: Lower Sharnden, a single-storey brick house with attic, tiled roof and low eaves built in the late 1950s.
- Earliest Date:
- Latest Date:
- Description: The main entrance to Sharnden house has stone flags leading between low random-coursed stone piers, with narrow double-leaf wrought iron gates in a 1 metre high wall.
- Description: Steps (now, 2004, in poor condition and with self-seeded plants).
- Description: On the west side of the south terrace are the ruins of a conservatory.
- Description: A wide flight of shallow stone steps with stone retaining walls (with rock plants, Virginia creeper and wisteria) descends south towards lower lawns.
- Terraced Walk
- Description: Paved terraced walk.
- Description: The sundial from the 1920s sundial garden (which is now the site of Lower Sharnden).
- Description: On the east side of the lake, Percy Cane's upper glades remain.
- Rose Garden
- Description: The site of the 1920s rose garden
- Earliest Date:
- Latest Date:
- Description: A pool with eagle statue and stone flag surround.
- Description: Lavender walk.
- Description: Wooden arch.
- Earliest Date:
- Latest Date:
- Description: Yew hedges.
- Description: Bastions with integral seating (now, 2004, in poor condition).
- Description: Glades with wide grassed walks between mature shrub and tree plantings (including Lebanon and blue cedars and redwoods) enclose the garden on the south-east, east and north-east. To
- Kitchen Garden
- Description: The 19th-century trapezium-shaped kitchen garden, brick walled on the west and south sides is cultivated as an ornamental, vegetable and fruit garden.
- Mayfield and Five
Detailed HistoryCHRONOLOGY OF THE HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT
The Manor of Sharnden with a C15 partly moated house was acquired by the vicars choral of Chichester in the C16. Leased to a Stephen Penkherst by 1634, a new lease was granted to the Medley family in 1725, which lived there until the death of Edward Medley in 1751. A 1757 estate map of adjoining farmland indicates that at that time Sharnden was held by a John Arkold. By the Tithe Award of 1843, the owner-occupiers of the 108.5ha property were recorded as Thomas and Edward Taylor, the Tithe Map showing a c1ha moated area containing a manor house and yard with orchards nearby and woods, pasture and arable land beyond, but no apparent garden. In 1863, when bought by a William Harris, a garden is indicated on the conveyance documents and by 1874 (1st ed OS map) a designed parkland features on the north, east and south of the house.
In 1894, the new owner, a London businessman, began building a shooting lodge at Rusher's Cross, c1km north-west of the manor house, on naturally high ground c100m above sea level. By 1898 (2nd ed OS map) the garden of the partly built lodge (then named Sharnden Lodge), comprised terraces with views to the parkland, fields and hills to the south and an ornamental lake, thought to have once been a hammer pool for the C15 manor house. The shooting lodge was completed by 1904 (shown on the 1909 OS map) together with a gatehouse, coach house and stables to its west, apparently on the site of earlier buildings (shown on the 1874 map). Glasshouses were erected in the nearby early C19 partly walled kitchen garden. By 1909 the shooting lodge was shown on OS maps as Sharnden and the C15 manor house as Sharnden Farm (now, 2004, Sharnden Old Manor Farm).
In the 1920s further expansion took place at Sharnden when new owners, a Mr & Mrs Sam Dennis, commissioned the garden designer Percy Cane to create gardens to the south-east without obstructing views from the house. Described in The Studio (1924) as ‘a series of small country gardens.... and informal surroundings of trees and flower bordered glades', later illustrations show terraced gardens accessed by wide stone steps leading down from the house. The gardens included ‘a paved terrace walk flanked by grass alleys and dwarf balustrade walls, extending the whole length of their grounds and connected by flights of stone steps with the Lower Lawns, Rose Garden, Paved Garden with flower beds and two lily pools, Sundial Garden with revolving summer house and pavilion, bordered by fine Yew hedges and herbaceous borders and Azalea walk' (1935 Sales Particulars). Sharnden and gardens of 11ha were owned from 1928 by a William Wells until his death in 1936 when they were bought by a Miss Birt. During the war the house was requisitioned and for a time was occupied by the Canadian Army. In 1947, Miss Birt, then living in the gatehouse, sold the property to a Charles Langley Owen who sold to the Lyttleton family ten years later. The Lyttletons divided the house into three and built a new house, Lower Sharnden, on the site of Cane's sundial garden. The house and grounds remain in multiple private ownership, the gardens and glades (except the west terrace walk) by Percy Cane being attached to Lower Sharnden.
- Early 20th Century (1901-1932)
- Associated People
Sussex Gardens Trust