The architecture of Nymans

South-west front of the house at Nymans

The medieval manor that you see today is not as old as it seems. Before any of the Messel family lived here, Nymans was a plain Regency style house, probably built around 1839 by a man named George Harrington.

The south front of the original house
The south front of the original house

The Regency House

In 1890 the property was bought by Ludwig and Annie Messel, and they set about changing their new home. Ludwig commissioned a larger Germanic looking house, adding features such as a conservatory, billiard room, and tower. Designs were drawn up by Ludwig’s brother Alfred Messel, who was already a famous architect in Germany, and work was carried out by local builders. 

The house at Nymans
The house at Nymans

Spy Tower?

They continued to remodel the house over a number of years and by the time Ludwig died in 1915 the house had changed again. They kept the same structure but altered the style of the exterior building. Despite being the victim of many vicious rumours that accused him of using the structure as a spy tower, none of which were true, Ludwig kept a tower as part of the redesign.

The forecourt garden at Nymans
The forecourt garden at Nymans

Leonard's House

Ludwig’s son Leonard, who inherited Nymans upon his father’s death in 1915, could only convince his wife Maud to move to the property by promising to completely redesign the look of the house yet again. This time the style of the house was transformed into a mock medieval mansion. The couple started conversion using architect Norman Evill who used stone throughout. 

However architect Sir Walter Tapper took over after a disagreement halfway through the remodel resulted in Evill leaving the project. Tapper completed the house, including the Great Hall, but he used brick with stone facing instead and changed some of the original plans. There are many very visible differences between the styles of the two ends of the house.

Anne and Michael Rosse in the forecourt garden at Nymans
Anne and Michael Rosse in the forecourt garden at Nymans

Anne's Retreat

Most of the house was destroyed by fire in 1947, only 19 years after building 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 the partially ruined house.