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Sompting Abbotts


In 1856 a new flint Gothic-style house was built, west of the older house. The 1875 map shows the ground to the west and north of the house, against the road, planted with a mixture of coniferous and deciduous trees. A lodge was built by the road to the east of the house. Since 1921 the house has been used as a preparatory school.

The 1875 map shows the new house standing to the east of the foundations of its predecessor. The ground to the west and north of the house, against the road, is planted with a mixture of coniferous and deciduous trees. A lodge was built by the road to the east of the house and to the north of the access road which runs up to the house. The ground to the east and south appears to be sweeping lawns with groups of trees. There are some buildings to the east which may be the stables or garden buildings. There is very little difference in the 1912 or 1932 Ordnance Survey maps.

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The name Sompting denotes marshy ground. The southern part of the parish is low alluvial land which was once part of the tidal estuary of the broadwater of Sompting Beck. The church and the two manor houses of the parish were built on rising ground to the north. The land has been continuously settled since Neolithic times. The Chichester to Brighton Roman road runs south of the church through Sompting Abbotts park.

Two centres of settlement were recorded in the 11th century, but by the Norman conquest the parish had been divided into three manors. After the Norman conquest the land was held by William de Braose, who granted one of the manors to the Abbey of Fecamp. By 1414 this land was granted to the newly-founded Syon Abbey, and the manor became known as Sompting Abbotts. Syon Abbey was granted a charter by Henry V in 1415. It was the only monastery in England belonging to the late-medieval Order of St. Bridget and became one of the richest, owning land in almost every county of southern England. After the Dissolution Sompting Abbotts was granted to Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk.

By 1830 the manor had descended to Reverend P.G. Croft who died in 1859. In the early-18th century there was a large manor house with a symmetrical south front of five bays with a central pediment. P.G. Croft's brother, J.S. Croft left £8,000 in 1849 for the rebuilding of the house. In 1856 a new flint Gothic-style house was built, west of the older house, to the design of Phillip Charles Hardwick.

Phillip Charles Hardwick was the son of the successful Victorian architect Philip Hardwick and was equally successful. He took over his father's London practice at the age of 21 and was described as a careful and industrious student of medieval art, especially English. Charterhouse School was one of his greatest works. He also designed the Great Western Hotel (Paddington), Euston Station (and the Doric arch), but was best known for his Italian Renaissance banks and Jacobean country houses. He had a large country house practice but Sompting Abbotts was not one of his most successful (Hobhouse, 1976). There is no indication that he also designed gardens for his houses.

The house descended through the Croft family and in 1923 Mrs Tristram (grand-daughter) released the interest in the estate to her son, Major Guy Tristram who retained it until his death in 1963. A study of land ownership of the South Downs between the Arun and the Adur (Godfrey, 2000) reveals that in 1840 there were three people who owned 43% of the land total, each having more than 3,000 acres (the Duke of Norfolk, Charles Goring and Col. George Wyndham).

There were five owners who had a holding between 1,000 and 3,000 acres, one of whom was the Reverend P.G. Croft of Sompting Abbotts. Thus the Croft estate, with a holding of 1,527 acres (4% of the land total) was an important one and the estate retained its holding (1,944 acres in 1910 and 1,643 in 1940) until 1978, when the estate covering 1,850 acres was held by a family trust. From 1921 the house had been used as a preparatory school for children from age 3 to 13. In 1978 the school had grounds of around 30 acres (Victoria County History: Sussex, Volume 6 Part 1).

The A27 Sompting bypass, first built in 1939 and made into a dual carriageway in 1978, separates the church and Sompting Abbotts from the southern area of the parish.


Victorian (1837-1901)

Associated People
Features & Designations


  • House
  • Road
  • Lodge
  • School
  • Trees
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential


Victorian (1837-1901)



Open to the public


Civil Parish





  • Shirley Penny

  • Sussex Gardens Trust