Rising from the ashes: the story of Nymans' fire

The ruins in autumn

It’s 75 years since the Messel family’s dream house in the country was almost destroyed by a catastrophic fire. Visit our new exhibition, 'Rising from the ashes; the story of Nymans' fire' to discover how the Messel family overcame tragedy by focusing on their beloved garden.

Discover the story of the fire at Nymans
Image of showcase at Nymans Rising from the ashes fire exhibition
Discover the story of the fire at Nymans

On a freezing winter’s night in 1947, their cherished horticultural library of international significance went up in flames, as did a Velasquez painting that hung in the library. Luckily no one was injured. With typical resilience the family set about turning tragedy to opportunity, focusing again on nurturing the garden with the romantic ruins at its heart. Their legacy was one of hope, experimentation and creativity, still evident today in the stunning grade II* listed garden displaying one of the most significant plant collections in the UK.

See the position of the original staircase
An image of the original staircase as part of the Rising from the ashes exhibition at Nymans
See the position of the original staircase

Most of the house was destroyed by the fire, tragically only 19 years after building work finished. With rationing and restrictions on building materials still in place after the end of the Second World War, it was simply impossible for the family to rebuild. What survived of the house was made safe for the family to use as a base when visiting the magnificent garden. Lord and Lady Rosse would visit here often and Anne moved back permanently in 1979 to a partially ruined house.

View from the ruins to the house
View from the ruins to the house
View from the ruins to the house

Discover the story of the fire at Nymans with our new exhibition, 'Rising from the ashes; the story of Nymans' fire', where you'll find artifacts that depict the night of the fire. The immersive exhibition tells the story of the fire from the Messel families point of view using excerpts from Leonard Messel's diary, original correspondence and items salvaged from the fire.

This is the first time the gallery has opened in almost two years.

The exhibition runs until Monday 30 October 2022 and is open daily between 11am - 3.30pm. Entry included with admission (free admission for National Trust members).