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A Visit To Anne Of Cleves House

A photograph of Anne of Cleves House in Lewes

On the day I went to Monk’s House, I stopped for an early lunch at Anne of Cleves House in the nearby town of Lewes, the place Virginia and Leonard had bought an unconventional, windmill, home, before quickly moving on to Rodmell.

As part of her annulment settlement, Anne of Cleves received a number of properties. She never stayed at the house in Lewes; she lived at Bletchingley Palace in Surrey. I’d say it’s possible her house in Lewes seemed a bit too small and potentially out of the way compared to her other homes. It wasn’t as grand, either.

A photograph of a museum room with vehicles, grandfather clocks, and display stands

The Sussex Archaeology Society own the House and have kitted it out both authentically and in view of their own interests.

My original intention had only been lunch; my penchant for historical sites has to stop somewhere so I decided that the lack of Anne should be a deciding factor. The cafe’s garden, grown in accordance with Tudor ideas and bearing our modern wooden picnic tables, is small but beautiful. Lunch was similar, a super coffee and panini with salad. The interior of the cafe is in the left-most front room of the house.

A photograph of the front right room, with tables set out for workshops

Here I of course went inside.

Through the porch, and the ticket office/shop takes up the first room on the left (just before the cafe), a stunning room of Tudor goodness. There are two doors towards the back; the left takes you to a small vestibule from which you can access other rooms; the right goes up a different staircase to the bedroom. (There’s also another room to the right of the porch in which the Society have set up tables – pictured above.)

A photograph of the bedroom

There’s no linear way around so first up I went to the bedroom, a space that was originally split into three, now split into a semi-open two. It’s a magnificent room, certainly if it could have looked like it does now back in the day -sans radiator – Anne might have loved it. The ceiling extends up into the eaves. There is are two fireplaces – now bricked up – and, as the Society’s design choices show, plenty of room for a number of people to bustle about. Most of the furniture is old and includes a tester bed headboard. The windows look out over road, sideway, and back garden.

A photograph of the kitchen

Back down the stairs which have been reinforced (the original staircase goes a bit further but it’s open to the room – probably the reason it’s roped off), through the shop to the vestibule. Downstairs in the kitchen and a cellar that has been turned into a museum room for examples of iron forgery, mostly fire backs. The upstairs room is dedicated to vehicles, grandfather clocks, and small items (pictured above).

A photograph of the back garden

The back garden, accessed via the vestibule, is smallish and peaceful. The gardeners have made a wonderful job of making it colourful and productive – berries hung along the barn eaves.

A photograph of flowers in the back garden

Looking around the house and having lunch took about an hour in total – you could make it longer but it’s definitely a casual sort of place, not requiring any planning beyond getting there. This makes it quite special – an easy site to add to you list, so long as you don’t live far or are staying nearby. Certainly if you’re visiting other sites in the area and have a lot to pack in, stopping here for lunch is a very good idea as not every site has a cafe and the food is ample.

To sum up my time there, an unplanned venture turned into a memorable experience.

A photograph of the back garden, looking towards the house

The Present Past: Virginia Woolf’s Monk’s House

A photograph of Virginia Woolf's living room

Monk’s House, in the village of Rodmell, near Lewes, in East Sussex, was Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s home for a few decades; they bought the house in 1919, a quick purchase after having previously bought a windmill a short distance away – the two preferred the Rodmell home so they moved in. Wikipedia dates the cottage to both the 1500s and the 1700s – the latter seems more likely, but regardless, it was altered during the Woolfs’ time. They bought some of the surrounding land. Virginia had an extension built for a bedroom and later a writing lodge. After the author’s death, Leonard remained at the House, often joined by Trekkie Parsons, a married artist who is believed to have been his chaste lover. Following Leonard’s death, Trekkie sold the house to Sussex University in 1972 and the National Trust bought it in 1980, turning it into the museum you see today.

A photograph of the front door of Monk's House

Arriving at Monk’s House, a white-washed half-hidden cottage down a gorgeous English country road, you find a space in the small car park and walk back to the entrance. The National Trust has set up their ticket office and shop in Leonard Woolf’s garage; the door-to-street environment, so different a choice to every other Trust property I’ve visited, gives you your first glimpse of what you’re about to experience. Once you’ve purchased your ticket, you exit back onto the road and head for the front garden gate. You pass the front door, surrounded by overgrown plants (another hint) and continue to the back garden, past the greenhouse which is effectively also a conservatory.

A photograph of the conservatory/greenhouse at Monk's House

And there you are. The door to the house is in the greenhouse, and in front of you stretches a number of small garden areas which, if you visit during the hotter months (there’s likely also some overgrowth in autumn) cover… everywhere. The Trust have kept the property close to the way it was when Virginia and Leonard owned it, and they have let the laid-back atmosphere remain. At Monk’s House you can sit in the garden, lay on the lawn, play bowls, relax on a bench, have a picnic, and take your time. The House itself, its rooms very small, is limited to a certain number of people at any one time so that you can properly enjoy it, and even when busy remains a casual experience. I’ll start with the House.

A photograph of Monk's House dining room

You walk in through the greenhouse door into what is now the dining room; its function changed from bedroom to dining room when Virginia extended the house. A staircase directly to your right holds books; it’s closed off, likely due to space. Presumably the first floor holds the room that was Leonard’s – certainly there is a balcony on which the Trust have placed deck chairs and a few other windows. The dining table is roped off because the furniture is at least partly original – the decoration on the chairs was created by Virginia’s sister, the artist Vanessa Bell. The painting of Leonard you see to the left was done by Trekkie Parsons. To the right, not pictured, is Vanessa Bell’s famous painting of Virginia. The room also houses Leonard’s bowling balls.

A photograph of the fireplace in Virginia Woolf's living room

To the left of the dining room is the living room, shown in the opening photograph to this post. The fireplace above is the other end of the room. You can probably tell from these just how small the house is. Due to the smallness I didn’t take a photograph of the kitchen, which is at the far right side of the dining room. It’s tiny; it holds a dresser and a cupboard that was painted by Trekkie (the Trust says whilst she was waiting for food to boil), and a few other kitchen items.

A photograph of Virginia Woolf's bedroom

From the kitchen you return outside. Then you take a left turn into the extension built to house Virginia’s bedroom. The author had this room built so that she had a place to write, and it’s indeed inspiring, light shining through the windows, the walls painted a bright colour. On the shelves stand her self-bound volumes of Shakespeare. Virginia soon found that the bedroom wasn’t quite what she was after in terms of her concept of a room of one’s own, and so she and Leonard built a writing lodge.

A photograph of the view from Virginia Woolf's bedroom door

This is the view that awaits you as you turn to leave the room. I couldn’t not include it.

A photograph of the purposefully-overgrown gardens

Here’s the view from further right. It’s hard not to fall in love with this place. If you’ve ever seen the garden that inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett you’ll know that it was quite average apart from its walls. I can’t help but wonder if Virginia and Leonard decided to create their own homage to the book.

A photograph of flowers in the garden at Monk's House - red flowers are in focus against a background of greenery and purple flowers

Leonard was the gardener of the pair and he designed the space to be atmospheric and inspiring. The garden to the right of the greenhouse, the first garden you see as you step onto the property, contains a sunken pond (photo below this post). The path shown just above, purposefully overgrown, that’s parallel to the one from the bedroom door, takes you to a few side-by-side flower gardens which continue on to a couple of lawns, one which holds the burial places of the couple’s ashes.

A photograph of Leonard's burial site

Virginia’s spot has a similar plaque and bust to Leonard’s; there was a group picnicking beside it so I didn’t take a photograph, but you can just about see the plaque at the right edge of the photograph. The burial spots were chosen for their elm trees, which have unfortunately both since died; Leonard’s was blown over in the wind, Virginia’s had problems with mold.

A photograph of the writing lodge

As you move on further, part of the garden opens into a wild area where the Trust have a shed and green house they use for upkeep. The village church is this garden’s neighbour. Beyond that is Virginia’s writing lodge. The lodge has been split into two sections via a windowed wall, allowing you to see the room as it might have been set up whilst not having to worry about knocking things over. The section in which you stand has a collage of copies of A Room Of One’s Own on the wall, different covers and pages from many different languages. According to my research, the fairly tidy desk is fantasy; Virginia kept her space less organised. It was here she wrote almost all her novels. (You can find a photograph of the outside of the lodge at the bottom of this post.)

A photograph of the lawn at Monk's House

Out of the door and to the other side is the lawn on which the Woolfs invited their friends to play bowls; the view is stunning; it’s easy to see why it was so favoured. On this lawn is also a pond, currently the host to water-boatmen, dragonflies, water fleas, and lotus flowers. On one side of the lawn, near the lodge, is the allotment. The other side takes you back to the House, your longer-than-it-first-seemed walk around now complete.

A photograph of the wild(er) garden at Monk's House

Whilst I may have visited on a glorious day, I would say that you could visit whatever the weather or season (besides winter when the property is closed for all-round maintenance) and enjoy yourself. The experience of the place is such that it’s going to inspire you no matter what.

The rest of my photos

A photograph of the writing lodge - exterior

A photograph of peach and purple coloured flowers in the gardens

A photograph of the orchard

A photograph of a red and yellow flower in the far garden

A photograph of an in-progress flower border. There's a wooden wheelbarrow and seedlings in pots as well as a piece of slate which reads, in chalk, 'We are reinstating this long border which Virginia Woolf described as burning and blazing. Pop back to see progress

A photograph of the first garden you come to once through the gate - the sunken pond with statues around it. Neighbouring houses can be seen over the fence

A photograph of Leonard's garage

A photograph of the inner staircase

A Day At Beaulieu, New Forest

A photograph of Beaulieu Palace House

Please note: the lens I took with me this visit turned out to be entirely the wrong one for the weather and light in the house so I have supplemented them with photos from a previous trip in June 2013. The arrangement of furniture in the house has changed since that day but the gardens are much the same.

Last Sunday morning and early afternoon I spent at Beaulieu (‘byu-lee’) in the New Forest. It was to my knowledge the hottest day of the year so far here, the temperature reaching 29 degrees Celsius at some points.

A photograph of the Abbey's arch

Beaulieu is an estate that offers a lot to do and it’s always packed with visitors. It’s best known for its National Motor Museum which was created by the 3rd baron Montagu of Beaulieu in 1952, whose statue stands outside the entrance to the museum building. The Montagu family still own the estate, living at Palace House, the historic home on the edge of the estate, by the river. It was originally built in the 1200s as the gatehouse of the abbey, and following Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries the estate was purchased by Thomas Wriothesley – whose portrait is in the house – then passed down through the Montagu family.The house is partly open to visitors; not surprisingly, it’s my favourite element of the place. (And currently, there is a garden set piece dedicated to Alice Liddell, the supposed inspiration for Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, who visited Beaulieu as an adult. Image at the bottom of this post.)

A photograph of the Abbey

Beaulieu Abbey is medieval, founded in the early 1200s by King John. It was the residence of a fair few Cistercian monks and nowadays it’s rather haunted. You can view part of the inside but the upper floor is solely for event hire. (In recent years I attended a reception there; the hall is dark as expected but worth seeing if you get the chance – all beams and rafters.) You can also walk along the foundations of the abbey church, outside.) The surviving rectory serves as the parish church.

A photograph of the monorail

Apart from the attractions I’ve already noted, Beaulieu has an elevated monorail that takes you from near the entrance of the estate, through the eves of the Motor Museum and up to the Abbey. A kitchen garden is accessible. And the restaurant features a lot of choices – on this day I favoured the slushies, which were invariably crowned best item on the menu.

A photograph of some of the Jaguars

And on this day about a hundred Jaguars were parked up by the main thoroughfare, an added attraction. (The Motor Museum contains many old vehicles – early and record breaking cars, cars from films and television. The Weasley’s Ford Anglia from The Chamber of Secrets resides there as does Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. There’s also a tent dedicated to Top Gear experiments.)

A photograph of the dining room

But back to the house; it’s lovely to walk around and this visit I noticed more rooms were open to the public than in years gone by; not that there were ever few rooms – for a house still lived in the access is very generous. You are welcome to take photographs, invited to in fact. The welcome in general is super; Beaulieu staff are on hand to tell you about the rooms or give you a tour, and there are lots of information boards sporting text from the Montagu family themselves. You never have to wonder who features in a painting and whilst areas are naturally cordoned off it doesn’t feel at all restrictive.

A photograph of the staircase

As I walked up the grand stairs, a member of staff asked if I had a similar staircase at home – I kind of understood where he was coming from because I did nip up there quickly – I told him I’d been to many historic houses. After a number of different staircase designs you’re prepared for anything.

The rest of my photos
















The Forest Of Bere, Rainy Spring Day

A photograph of the Forest of Bere, bluebells all over the ground

On a dreary day in May, having decided to get lunch to go, we chose to drive for longer than usual to find somewhere new to sit. On a road we’d never been on, a ‘what’s that?’ moment happened; we turned down the tiny lane and found the Forest of Bere. It’s a relatively small area of land just north of Fareham and on that day there were bluebells as far as the eye could see.

A photograph of the Forest of Bere, a path leading to an old railway bridge

A couple of bridges define the place where a railway line once skirted the edge of what is now a road. There are a couple of entrances, that we could find, and the ‘main’ one is set up for picnics and short walks, parking and benches aplenty. Some sites call it ‘the former forest of Bere’ – it is essentially, now, at least, a patch of forest in an otherwise rural but populated place – there is a country park and myriad villages nearby.

A photograph of the Forest of Bere's picnic area

A photograph of the Forest of Bere, a path surrounded by bluebells

A photograph of the Forest of Bere, an old railway bridge, graffiti on the underside of it

The Vyne, Autumn

The Vyne

When I last wrote about The Vyne I focused on the interior as it was cold and we didn’t get many photographs. Looking through them again, however, I realised the weather didn’t look so bad…

The Vyne

The Vyne

The Vyne

The Vyne

Do you have any recommendations for places to visit in autumn?


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