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History of the Slindon Estate

The Folly on the Slindon Estate, West Sussex
The Folly on the Slindon Estate | © National Trust Images/John Miller

For a little place, Slindon boasts a history worthy of a large town – from playing its part in the war effort to hosting high society. Evidence of occupation has been found as far back as Palaeolithic times, and the land has been lived on from the Bronze Age right up to the present day.

Prehistoric Slindon

About half a million years ago, Slindon was on the coast. The area now known as Slindon Park was perched on a cliff with waves lapping at the shore below. Geological evidence has found that this raised beach was part of a large bay running from Arundel to Chichester.

Archaeological digs at nearby Boxgrove uncovered remains of an extinct human ancestor, bones of a rhinoceros and bears as well as basic Stone Age tools.

Bronze Age burials

At the very top of the estate, around Bignor Hill, the lumps and bumps of Bronze Age round burial mounds are visible. Easier to spot in winter when the vegetation dies down, but topped with vibrant wild flowers in the summer, they make a fitting resting place for past residents of this landscape.

A respectable estate

In the first part of the 19th century Anthony James Radcliffe, fifth Earl of Newburgh, and his wife Anne brought stability and luxury to Slindon. They built structures to demonstrate their wealth and standing in society such as South Lodge, the grand flint gateway to Slindon Park, and the folly that still stands at Nore Hill.

Tea at the folly

The flint archway known as the Folly was built in 1814 at the request of Anne, Countess of Newburgh. The design was taken from an old Italian print, and it originally had a thatched tea house on the south side. The Countess would drive here in a four-horse wagonette to take tea and enjoy the view. It's still a lovely place to picnic, with great views down to the coast.

Warren Barn at Slindon Estate, West Sussex
Warren Barn at Slindon Estate | © National Trust Images/Laurence Perry

Slindon in the First World War

Alongside housing a convalescent hospital for recuperating officers in Slindon House, an airship station was also cut into the southern edge of Northwood to serve the airships that patrolled the English Channel. On the wider estate, the Canadian Forestry Corp arrived to fell valuable Slindon timber for the war effort and to build a nearby Prisoner of War camp.

Slindon in the Second World War

The Second World War saw Slindon House become a home for evacuees, but it was eventually requisitioned as a Canadian military base. The area of woodland cleared by the Canadian foresters during the First World War now came under the plough to meet Britain’s desperate need for food.

Gumber decoy airfield

At Gumber Farm, a decoy airfield was constructed to try to deflect bombing from the important airfield at Tangmere. The men stationed at Gumber would wheel out wooden aeroplanes during the day and light flares to imitate landing lights at night. Discovery didn’t take long though, and the site was active only between 1940 and 1941.

Path through woodland at Nore Hill on the Slindon Estate, West Sussex
Path through woodland at Nore Hill on the Slindon Estate | © National Trust Images/John Miller

A kind benefactor

Frederick Wootton Isaacson came to live at Slindon House in 1908, with his sister Violet, Lady Beaumont. He largely rebuilt the house between 1914 and 1917. After the war the house experienced a resurgence of life and entertained leading political and social figures of the day.

Frederick was very much a part of village life as the squire. Without an heir, and wanting Slindon to remain as it was, upon his death in 1948 he left his estate of 3,500 acres, Slindon House, and many other properties, to the National Trust.

A walker on chalky Little Down footpath at Slindon Estate, West Sussex in summer, with banks of frothy white flowers on both sides

Discover more at Slindon Estate

Find out how to get to the Slindon Estate, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

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