In the last few days of Autumn, I decided to visit a few gardens in West Sussex and enjoy the dahlias and hydrangeas before winter took hold. I have been to Nymans before but not for a long time and I loved seeing the changes and improvements that have been made in this beautiful garden.
Nymans Gardens is near Haywards Heath on A23 and is signposted from the M23 London to Brighton road.
Although the house looks as though it was built many years ago, it was in fact a typical Regency style house built c1839 by George Harrington
The estate was bought by Ludwig and Annie Messel in 1890 and they asked Ludwig’s brother to design a much larger house with a conservatory, billiard room and tower. After Ludwig’s death in 1915, his son Leonard inherited Nymans and the only way he could persuade his wife to move here was by transforming it into a medieval manor house. Part of the conversion was done by the architect Norman Evill who used stone facings and the other half by Sir Walter Tapper who also used brick and changed some of the original plans.
A fire broke out in 1947 and destroyed much of the house which had only been completed nineteen years earlier. However, with restrictions still in place after the Second World War, the Messels decided to incorporate the ruins into the garden rather than rebuilding the house.
The garden is filled with spring flowering shrubs such as rhododendrons, magnolias, cherry trees and camellias and is divided into different areas.
The elaborate entrance into the Walled Garden
with its central marble fountain. Ludwig replaced the original sundial in 1909; each of the four faces is unique and point to the four points of the compass
Outside the Walled Garden is the Heather Garden with the adjacent croquet lawn,
the sunken garden with the ruins of the house in the background and the Rose Garden.
From 1597 until the end of the seventeenth century, the land at Nymans was owned by the Gatland family who built a house on the site of the present house. Nymans passed through several hands until 1890 when Ludwig Messel bought the estate, enlarged the house with advice from Ernest George and, influenced by Sir Edmund Loder at Leonardslee and William Robinson at Gravetye, laid out the gardens. After Ludwig’s death in 1916, his son Colonel Leonard Messel inherited Nymans and he and his wife rebuilt the house using the architects Norman Evill and Walter Tapper and introduced a wide range of plants to the garden particularly from the Himalayas and South America.
Much of the house was destroyed by fire in 1947 except for the north-east wing which remained habitable. Their daughter Anne, Countess of Rosse was first married to Ronald Armstrong-Jones (their son Tony married Princess Margaret) and after their divorce married Michael Parsons, 6th Earl of Rosse in 1935. They spent much of their time at Birr Castle in Ireland but often returned to Nymans to enjoy the gardens. Lord Rosse gave the property to the National Trust in 1954 although Lady Rosse moved back to the house in 1979 after her husband died.