A Garden of Design

The mansion house at Woolbeding Gardens

Originally owned by the Lascelles family, Woolbeding Estate was given to the National Trust in 1957, comprising of a total of 1102 acres, of which 26 acres are devoted to the gardens.

Since 1972 Woolbeding has been leased to Simon Sainsbury, and subsequently his partner Stewart Grimshaw. It was during this time that the garden evolved into the extensive and vibrant creation you can see today.

Georgian Charm

The Georgian Grade 1 listed house has enjoyed being a social venue to a wealth of previous residents. The celebrated Sussex poet and novelist, Charlotte Smith, lived with her husband and children at Woolbeding for two years between 1785 and 1787. Then between 1791 and 1831, Lord Robert Spencer, son of the 3rd Duke of Marlborough, occupied the estate, entertaining prominent Whig politicians. Woolbeding has always played host to many admirers. Benjamin Disraeli, when visiting the house, described the valley of the Little Rother at Woolbeding as 'the greenest valley with the prettiest river in the world.'

20th Century Paradise

Whilst some of the features seen at Woolbeding today trace their plans back to earlier periods in the garden's history, the garden itself came into its prime during the mid to late twentieth century. Designers Lanning Roper, and later Julian and Isabel Bannerman, were the creative minds responsible for helping Simon Saunsbury and Stewart Grimshaw shape the gardens into their present structure. The garden consists of two distinct sections: the area closest to the house being arranged in a series of formal garden rooms and the second section has been designed as a less formal Pleasure Ground.

Development of the gardens commenced in 1973, when Simon Sainsbury and Stewart Grimshaw appointed American garden designer Lanning Roper. Roper's distinctive design features are evident throughout, with clear structures, elegance and restraint being the principal elements used within the layout. His sweeping changes included the replanting of the west herbaceous borders and construction of the garden rooms. From 2000, Julian and Isabel Bannerman were employed to develop the Pleasure Ground area. This area developed over a period of ten years to become an ideal environment for exploring, full of unique architectural structures that blend harmoniously into the surrounding rock and water.

Woolbeding Gardens is under the management of our National Trust gardeners (The house remains a private residence), with our small team of dedicated gardeners are always on hand to help you appreciate the beauty of a remarkably inspiring garden.