As writers we often find ourselves in the unique position of meeting amazing people, or visiting fascinating places of interest. Yesterday I had the great pleasure of doing both. A visit to St Mary's House and gardens at Bramber West Sussex is one of those places that anyone remotely interested in history must visit. The origins of St Mary's date back to the days of the Knights Templar when the land was given to them by the widow of Philip de Braose. The present building dates to around 1470 when it was used as an Inn by pilgrims on their way to the tomb of St Thomas of Canterbury. The history is absolutely fascinating, but I must jump to 1984 when two extremely talented people purchased the properly, which by then was in very neglected state, and saved St Mary's for future generations to love and enjoy.
Peter Thorogood, author, composer, literary historian and leading authority on the 19th century poet Thomas Hood (1799-1845), and Roger Linton a gifted designer, trained at the Royal College of Art, restorer and conservator have combined their talents and skills to return St Mary's to its former glory. The story of how they set about saving the house and gardens in told in Return to Splendor by Peter Thorogood and obtained from Bramber Press, specialising in publishing books, CD and cassette recordings by authors, composers and performers associated with St Mary's House. Roger Linton's fine work is displayed throughout the house and ranges from the restoration of a four-poster bed to the decorating of the octagonal dining room in the Pre-Raphaelite style to designing and planting the Topiary Garden, featured in a number of television programmes, magazine and newspaper articles.
Obviously such a project needs continuous funding and the enterprising Peter and Roger are always devising ways of keeping their hard work going by organising open days, concerts, private functions, and conferences. They are also licenced for Civil Marriages, which would provide any lucky couple with a perfect setting for that memorable day. I urge anyone visiting my blogspot to arrange a trip to St Mary's soon - see website for opening times - and I promise you will not be disappointed, and I am sure like me you will come away much richer for the experience. Thank you Peter and Roger for sparing me some of your most valuable time, and for a most enjoyable visit.