Saved for the nation
Alfriston Clergy House in East Sussex was the first building saved forever for the nation by the National Trust. This early 15th-century Wealden hall-house was bought as a restoration project in 1896 by the newly formed National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty.
Construction of the house
The original Wealden hall-house house was constructed around 1400. A typical Wealden house consists of a hall open to the rafters, with two-storeyed bays at either end with access provided through a cross-entry passage. The end bays are jettied on the first floor with the eastern bay being used as private rooms by the owner (a solar and bedroom) and the west as service rooms. The service rooms comprised of a pantry and buttery with access to the bedroom upstairs. A single continuous roof covers the whole building which is supported by a crown post.
The timber-framed building was built predominantly of young oak which we now know, from dendrochronology work, were felled between 1399 to 1407. It is very likely the house was the one built by John Heghland, a local carpenter and purchased in 1403 by John Carlton the first priest appointed by Michelham Priory to Alfriston.
A priest's residence
The Clergy House was used as a residence for Alfriston’s parish priest until the early-18th century and remained in church ownership until it was sold to the National Trust in 1896. The charity’s experiences in conserving and finding a use for the building helped to shape the organisation’s future operations and purpose. Originally rented out to tenants, the house and gardens were opened as a visitor attraction in 1977.