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 prosperous 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.
The Beales were intellectual and cultured, maintaining 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 associates 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 – 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.
Through their wealthy neighbours in Holland Park, the Beales were introduced to the work of Philip Webb, an architect and leading figure in the Arts and Crafts movement.
The Beales were a family without pretension, 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, and many who visit remark upon this.