Explore inside Alfriston Clergy House
The significance of Alfriston Clergy House is drawn from its status as the first building saved for the nation by the National Trust and the role it plays within the organisation’s early history. On a visit to the Clergy House there are many significant highlights not to be missed. Here are a few of the favourites.
A high status room
The hall is the communal centre of the building, the key room where residents and guests were entertained, so it was always the most impressive room in the house. In fact, the decoration of the hall illustrates the high status of the property with the carved service room doorways and evidence of red ochre paint on the dais beam. The most fascinating feature is the carving of the oakleaf that survives from when the house was built.
The origins of the oakleaf
A carved oakleaf sits in the north-east corner of the room highlighted by a spotlight. There is a frequently assumed link between this decorative oak leaf and the National Trust’s symbol. Although untrue, for many people this forms a further aspect of the site’s symbolism for the National Trust’s foundation and early history. The National Trust’s oakleaf symbol was designed by Joseph Armitage in 1936 who won an open competition held by the charity to create their emblem.
Chalk and sour milk floor
While in the hall, take a moment to look up at the roof timbers and crown post, which is the main support for the roof. Then look down to discover the sour milk and chalk floor. This type of floor was quite common in medieval England. Chalk was easy to obtain locally and was rammed into the floor, with sour milk added to strengthen it for heavy footfall.
Other rooms and occupants
The house is currently dressed to reflect different time periods and stories they tell. The Hall is medieval while the parlour is early 1600s telling the story of one of the residents of the house Rev. Hugh Walker. The bed on the first floor is dressed in late Victorian style where you can learn about tenant Harriet Coates and her role in the saving of the Clergy House. The reading room transports you to the 1920s when it was home to Sir Robert Witt who, along with his wife Mary, played a big part in the design of the garden.
The National Trust was founded on 12 January 1895 with the purpose of:
‘……promoting the permanent preservation for the benefit of the nation of lands and tenements (including buildings) of beauty or historic interest and as regards lands for the preservation (so far as practicable) of their natural aspect features and animal and plant life’
Alfriston Clergy House, the first building permanently preserved, is a pilgrimage for supporters of the National Trust worldwide.
Discover a classic cottage garden with perennial borders, topiary and an orchard. This compact, peaceful garden is a great place to unwind and relax at any time of year.
Alfriston Clergy House, the first house to be saved by the National Trust, has centuries of stories to tell. Find out about the owners, the changes to the building and its decline and rescue.