Skip to content

The history of Standen House and Garden

Partial view of the house at Standen House and Garden, West Sussex
Partial view of the house at Standen House and Garden | © National Trust Images/John Miller

Standen was designed to look as though it has always been here, almost as if it has ‘grown’ out of the rock face and is a part of the landscape. However, the land that Standen now stands upon was originally made up of three farms: Stone, Hollybush and Standen. Discover the history of this modern, Arts and Crafts-inspired, country home.

Modern home, ancient influences

Art historian Abigail Harrison-Moore recently called Standen one of the most charming examples of Arts and Crafts workmanship in the UK.

The location commands fine views of the Medway Valley and Ashdown Forest, so it's no surprise that James and Margaret Beale chose this as the site of their planned country house. In spring 1891, they enlisted the architect Philip Webb to lead the project.

Work began on Standen at the end of 1891. The plans for the house had been revised many times until all parties agreed on the design. Webb often drew inspiration from landscapes and historic buildings and decided to preserve and incorporate some of the medieval farm buildings on the site into his design.

Despite these historic influences, Standen was built as a thoroughly modern home, complete with central heating and electricity.

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.

Arts and Crafts at Standen

Standen was constructed using local materials and traditional construction methods: only ‘the best materials and workmanship’ would do – a practice in line with the ideals of Arts and Crafts.

'A house should be clothed by its garden'

- William Morris

The house and garden were intended to be seen as a whole and were designed to complement each other. This followed William Morris’s theory that gardens were a continuation of a house and should be used as such. Margaret Beale was fascinated by plants and had a strong influence over how the garden was laid out.

Part of a handwritten letter to Miss Amy Beale from Philip Webb, including a sketch of a room design, dated 3 August 1893
Part of a letter to Miss Amy Beale from Philip Webb, dated 3 August 1893 | © National Trust Images

Finished at last

Work finished at Standen in 1894, at a cost of £18,065, and the Beales moved in shortly afterwards. The family and Webb had developed a close working relationship, frequently communicating by letter. When work on the house finished the Beales gave Webb a silver snuff box, engraved with ‘When clients talk irritating nonsense, I take a pinch of snuff’, which hints at the kind of working relationship the two parties had enjoyed.

The family loved Standen and found it met their needs so well that they scarcely made any changes to it over the following years. It 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.

Standen and the National Trust

In 1972, the National Trust took over Standen. The house was in need of serious repair and the first custodian of the property, Arthur Grogan, set about revitalising the house and bringing it back to its former glory.

Visitors in the gardens of Standen House, West Sussex

Discover more at Standen House and Garden

Find out when Standen House and Garden is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

You might also be interested in

The exterior of the arts and crafts house at Standen in West Sussex surrounded by rhododendrons in bloom

A history of the Beale family 

Discover the Beale family, who commissioned Standen to be designed and built by architect Philip Webb .

Arts and Crafts design soft furnishings, including cushions, a rug, and curtains, in The Drawing Room at Standen House, West Sussex

The house at Standen 

Explore the family home of the Beales, designed by Philip Webb and furnished throughout by Morris & Co fabrics and wallpapers. An Arts and Crafts inspired comfortable country retreat.

National Trust Images / John Miller

The garden at Standen 

Stroll around the Arts and Crafts inspired hillside garden at Standen, explore themed outdoor rooms and find a rare collection of plants including ones grown by Margaret Beale.

Someone slicing into a Victoria sponge cake

Eating at Standen House and Garden 

Treat yourself to a seasonal meal or snack from the Barn Café at Standen House and Garden.

Dog & owner

Visiting Standen House and Garden with your dog 

Bring your dog for a walk at Standen and explore acres of woodland paths. Dogs are also welcome in the formal garden so you can explore more with your four-legged friend. Standen House and Garden is a two pawprint rated place. 

An exterior view of the roofs  and red brick facade of Standen House, West Sussex surrounded by autumnal trees

Who was Helen Beale? 

Helen Beale was the youngest daughter of James and Margaret Beale. She was independent and headstrong, which led her to be involved in nursing, the WRNS and the First World War.

Overhead view of an octagonal table with the figure of Silenus, a drunken follower of Bacchu, in The Library at Claydon House in Buckinghamshire


Learn about people from the past, discover remarkable works of art and brush up on your knowledge of architecture and gardens.

William de Morgan (1839-1917) ruby and pink lustre De Morgan bowl by Charles Passenger in The Billiard Room at Standen, West Sussex

Standen House and Garden's collections 

Explore the objects and works of art we care for at Standen House and Garden on the National Trust Collections website.