Standen is an Arts and Crafts house located to the south of East Grinstead, West Sussex, England. The house and its surrounding gardens belong to the National Trust and are open to the public. It is a Grade I listed building.
Between 1891 and 1894 architect Philip Webb, who was a friend of William Morris, designed the house for a prosperous London solicitor, James Beale, his wife Margaret, and their family. It is decorated with Morris carpets, fabrics and wallpapers, and the garden complements the beauty of the house. The house still has its original electric light fittings.
After Beale's death in 1912, Margaret Beale continued to live at Standen. When she died in 1936, their unmarried daughter, Margaret, succeeded her, and after her death in 1947, Standen came into the possession of Helen, their youngest daughter, also unmarried. On Helen's death in 1972 the house passed by bequest to the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty.
The estate was formed from three farms which the Beales purchased in 1890. The Beales started planting a 12-acre (4.9 ha) garden almost immediately after they had purchased the land, using the site of an 18th-century garden and orchard. In early 1891 trees were planted, a yew hedge established and the kitchen garden begun.
The Beales consulted a London landscape gardener who drew up a layout that assumed that the new house would be located on the line of the existing terrace. However, Webb suggested that it rather be placed further into the hillside. The proposed planting schemes were characterised by strict geometrical layouts of colourful flowerbeds and shrubs. Webb preferred something else, however: a mixture of natural styles combining old-fashioned formality and compartmentalised gardens. Webb also designed a number of elements in the garden.
The resulting Arts and Crafts garden used local materials for its formal elements, and loose plantings amongst yew hedges, trellis and pergolas, emphasising natural colour schemes and subtle combinations of colour and foliage.
A history of Standen
Standen was designed to look as though it has always been here – almost as if it has ‘grown’ out of the rock face and is a part of the landscape, however the land that Standen now stands upon was originally made up of three farms: Stone, Hollybush and Standen.
The location commands fine views of the Medway Valley and Ashdown Forest, so it is no surprise that James and Margaret Beale chose this as the site of their planned country house. In spring 1891, they enlisted the architect Philip Webb to lead the project.
Modern home, ancient influences
Work began on Standen at the end of 1891. The plans for the house had been revised many times until all parties agreed on the design.
Webb often drew inspiration from landscapes and historic buildings, and decided to preserve and incorporate some of the medieval farm buildings on the site into his design. Despite these historic influences, Standen was built as a thoroughly modern home, complete with central heating and electricity.
Standen was constructed using local materials and traditional construction methods: only ‘the best materials and workmanship’ would do – a practice in line with the ideals of Arts and Crafts.
‘A house should be clothed by its garden’ William Morris
The house and garden were intended to be seen as a whole, and were designed to compliment each other. This followed William Morris’ theory that gardens were a continuation of a house, and should be used as such. Margaret Beale was fascinated by plants, and had a strong influence over how the gardens were laid out.
Finished at last
Work finished at Standen in 1894, at a cost of £18,065, and the Beales moved in shortly afterwards.
The family and Webb had developed a close working relationship, frequently communicating by letter. When work on the house finished the Beales gifted Webb with a silver snuff box, engraved with ‘When clients talk irritating nonsense, I take a pinch of snuff’, which hints at the kind of working relationship the two parties had enjoyed.
The family loved Standen, and found it met their needs so well that they scarcely made any changes to it over the following years. Webb had created a unique building about which there is still a real sense of discovery. The contents of the house are rich and varied: from the abundance of Arts and Crafts interiors, to objects that give a glimpse into the lives of the Beale family.
In 1972, the National Trust took over Standen. The house was in need of serious repair and the first custodian of the property, Arthur Grogan, set about revitalising the house and bringing it back to its former glory.
For more information about the collection please go to http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk and search for Standen.