The Beale family at Standen

The Beale family at Standen c1900 © National Trust

The Beale family at Standen c1900

Standen was built between 1891-94 as the country home of James Beale, a successful solicitor from Birmingham, and his wife and seven children. The family had relocated to Holland Park in London during the 1870s, so that James could manage the London office of the family firm, Beale & Co.

The Beales were one of a number of prominent non-conformist families from Birmingham, who had prospered during the city’s manufacturing boom, and dominated the social and business life of the city.

‘…first and foremost a railway man’

Beale & Co. specialised in railway work, becoming rich through its dealings with the Midland Railway. The firm handled the complex negotiations which enabled the Railway to bring its main line through to St Pancras in London.

The Beales as a family were intellectual and cultured, and had a strong interest in the arts and sciences. They travelled widely, undertaking a world tour in 1906, and were also fair-minded and socially progressive – some of their friends and acquaintances were working towards better lives for women and the lower classes.

A house in the country

With business at Beale & Co. thriving, James Beale decided he would like to build a house in the countryside as a retreat for holidays, weekends, and eventually his retirement. James wanted somewhere that he could hunt, ride and play golf, and where he and his wife could entertain their large family and friends.

Their wealthy neighbours in Holland Park, introduced the Beales to the work of Philip Webb, an architect and leading figure in the Arts and Crafts movement.

The Beales were an unpretentious family, and they wanted their house to reflect that – a comfortable house in the country, rather than a lavish stately home. Webb designed Standen, an Arts and Crafts family home hidden deep in the Sussex countryside.

An idyllic family home

Standen became the centre of Beale family life and a favourite place of the grandchildren, who spent fine days exploring the vast garden, and wet afternoons playing in the ‘Little Room’ at the end of the conservatory.

Philip Webb ensured that Standen perfectly met the family’s requirements, but it was the Beales that were responsible for creating a special home in an idyllic landscape.

The family loved Standen and found it so comfortable that they made few alterations. The house retains the warm and welcoming atmosphere of a family home to this day.