Today we are visiting another estate belonging to the National Trust. How exactly did the National Trust get stated?
This is what I learned.
Octavia Hill, the eighth daughter of nine children, born into a modest family, was a social reformer, with a strong commitment to alleviating poverty in the late nineteenth century. With no formal education, she worked from the age of 14 for the welfare of working people. She wanted to improve the housing of the working classes. Due to a severe shortage of available property, she decided to become a landlord herself. John Ruskin provided the money to buy three cottages of six rooms each, and placed Hill to manage them. She improved the properties, all which had been on dilapidated ground, among cowsheds and manure. Hill was a very prudent manager believing in personal responsibility, and punctual payment. She visited each home personally paying careful attention to allocations with regard to size of families and location of the accommodation offered. It was mandatory that the head of the family work, send his children to school, and not overcrowd his rooms, in addition to paying the rent on time. As her holdings increased to over 3000 cottages, she added assistants, who checked every detail of the premises, and got to know the tenants personally. She promoted tenant’s associations and after-work, and children’s after school programs. This was an early stage of social work. Among Hill’s concerns was that her tenant’s and all urban workers should have access to open spaces. She believed in “the life-enhancing virtues of pure earth, clean air and blue sky”. She wanted four things. Places to sit, places to play in, places to stroll in and places to spend a day in. She campaigned against building on existing suburban woodlands. Together she and Ruskin conceived of a trust that could buy and preserve places of natural beauty and historic places for the nation.
The National Trust was formed in 1875 and the first property, acquired in 1896, was the rare 14th century, thatched and timber-framed, Wealden “hall house,” in Alfriston. The Alfriston Clergy House was built in 1350 by a farmer who prospered after the Black Death. In 1395 the house was taken over by St Andrew’s Church, which is close by, and used as a vicarage, and eventually rented out for income. In 1885 church authorities wanted the house demolished. Rev F.W. Beynon campaigned to save the house and contacted the newly formed National Trust. Harriet Coates was the last person to live in the house before it was purchased in 1896 for ten pounds, by the National Trust, which now maintains the property.
Today, the Alfriston Clergy House, is surrounded by a tranquil cottage garden full of wildlife, with beautiful views of the River Cuckmere. Alfriston is a small village of 760, noted in the Doomsday Book as Aelfrictun, (the son of Alfric). Coming to the village green we find a local winery, announcing the the direction of the Clergy House.
The oak leaf is the symbol of the National Trust. Here in the eaves of the Clergy House is a carved oak leaf. Perhaps it was the inspiration for the symbol? Look for it on signs signifying homes on the National Trust.
Here is a look at the timber-framed house.
Next we visit the tidy garden and the gardeners who keep it that way!
The water runs from the Cuckmere River, which is nearby, right along the back of the cottage, creating the perfect setting in the South Downs!
As with all National Trust properties, there is a gift shop which sells goods specific to that property, along with plants from the property. If I lived here I’d have to have a plant from each National Trust estate!
St Andrew’s Church, with Saxon origins, is known as “The Cathedral of the South Downs,” and is surrounded by a flowered graveyard. Built in the form of a cross it sits on a small flint-walled mound in the middle of the local village green.
Let’s explore the village. The streets are narrow and don’t allow for parking, but a parking lot can be found at the end of the village and it is just a short walk to the pubs and other historic sites. The Star Inn, a religious hostel built in 1345 and used to accommodate monks and pilgrims, is now one of three pubs in the village. Later a smuggling gang used the inn as a base, before the leader was transported to Australia in 1830. The George Inn and the Smugglers Inn are also pubs located along the main road through Alfriston.
We popped into The George Inn for a bite to eat. We had a drink inside and then went outside in the garden to have a meal. YUMMY!
Walking through the village we see the small shops and monuments of the village.
This was my favorite “little house” in Alfriston. I could live here!
No records survive to establish what function this little building once served. A map of 1874 marks it as a dovecote, but it’s sufficiently similar to examples in other parts of the country to suggest that this was, in fact, Alfriston’s lock-up, where the local hotheads and drunks were left to cool down before the administration of justice. Yikes!
I called this house, “Lavender Door Cottage.” I absolutely loved it! Alfriston is a beautiful village and we had a great day exploring the first house on the National Trust! It had a place to sit, a place to play, a place to stroll, and was a wonderful place to spend the day in! Octavia Hill would be so proud! See you tomorrow at another property! Enjoy!