House and Garden at Alfriston Clergy House

The lovely poppies in the vegetable garden at Alfriston Clergy House

The house and garden at Alfriston Clergy House were the epitome of old England as far as Octavia Hill was concerned. So when under threat from demolition, it became the first acquisition of the National Trust. So many buildings have been preserved by the National Trust over the years, but Alfriston remains one of the most special because it was the first.

Construction of the house

The house is typical of the timber-framed Wealden houses built during the Middle Ages. The oak frame was filled with interwoven strips of chestnut or oak, which were covered with daub and limewashed.

The parlour

The parlour has changed over 650 years. When built it had two service rooms where food was prepared and stored. In the 16th century it became the parlour you see today, with a fireplace and chimney.

The great hall

The centre of the building where the yeoman farmer and his family would have eaten. Rising to the rafters, the roof is supported on timbers and a crown post. An oak leaf is carved into a corner beam.

History of this beautiful cottage garden

The present garden was largely laid out by our first tenant, Sir Robert Witt. In the 1920s he was responsible for segmenting it into small, individual ‘rooms’ and for terracing down to the river.

Box tree garden

Our box tree garden is a medieval-style square garden bounded by Yew hedges and divided by paths. At the centre is a sundial commissioned to mark our centenary, sitting on a balustrade from the old London Waterloo Bridge.


After losing most of the trees in the 1987 hurricane, we replanted the orchard with rare varieties of apples such as Lady Sudeley, Crawley beauty, Monarch and the local Alfriston apple.

Rose beds

The roses in the boarders have been chosen for their perfume and are a mix of albas, gallicas, bourbons, rugosas and hybrid musks. They are underplanted with campanulas and other cottage favourites.

Herb garden

This garden contains mostly flowering herbs used in medieval times for medicinal purposes. You will find Bugle which was used for throat infections and the root of Bistort was used to stop blood flow.

Vegetable garden

Divided into eight raised beds retained with railway sleepers, a variety of vegetables are grown throughout the year and include potatoes, runner beans, sweetcorn, rocket, courgettes, and leeks.