New book tells story of West Sussex's architectural "medieval jigsaw puzzle"

A new book tells The Story Of Bailiffscourt, the country-house hotel in Climping.

Sally Orson-Jones (The Story Of Bailiffscourt)
Sally Orson-Jones (The Story Of Bailiffscourt)

Author Sally Orson-Jones said: “I was lucky enough to grow up at Bailiffscourt during the 1960s and 1970s. This is the story of this extraordinary place and the tale of how my grandmother, Emmy Birer, created the first hotel here in the 1940s.

“It is, I hope, a very easy and accessible book to read – it’s 67 illustrated pages – and would be of interest to anyone who has visited this lovely and unique place as well as anyone with an interest in English country houses or architecture. The book goes right back to Bailiffscourt’s first foundations just after the Norman conquest, covers the period in the 1920s when the current extraordinary building was conceived and built by Lady Moyne and her inspired architect Amyas Phillips, and continues up until the time my grandmother founded the first hotel there in 1947.

“Her heart-warming story is the last chapter of the book.

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    “My grandmother Emmy Birer started the first hotel at Bailiffscourt in Climping in 1947 and she was still running it, now with my mother, Ilse Smart, when I grew up there during the 1960s and 70s.

    “Even at the time I realised what a magical place it was, and I have always retained my love and fascination for this beautiful, unique building and its story

    “When I realised that no one else was going to write that story, I decided to do it myself.

    “By profession I am a fiction editor.

    “I have worked on all Sarah Waters’ books, for example.

    “But I found that writing and researching my own book was a particular but hugely enjoyable challenge.

    “I am incredibly grateful to the staff of the current hotel, whose patience with my endless requests to peer into rooms and poke through boxes of forgotten treasures was a huge help.

    “I also had my family’s own rich memories, and the input of so many people who had worked at the hotel over the years.

    “Bailiffscourt’s history started just after the Norman Conquest, as part of the vast estate covering much of West Sussex which was given by William to one of his principal counsellors, Roger de Montgomerie.

    “In the 1920s, the abandoned land was bought by Lord Moyne, a member of the famous Guinness family, and the current extraordinary building was conceived and built by Lady Moyne and her architect Amyas Phillips.

    “I particularly wanted to pay tribute to the work of Mr Phillips, who, despite the fact that he wasn’t able to finish his architectural training, managed to create something of such enduring and complex beauty.

    “I couldn’t find a photograph of him anywhere, and finally managed to get in touch with his son, who sent me the wonderful image that can be seen on page ten of the book.

    “The building that he created is a kind of medieval jigsaw puzzle.”

    The book, illustrated with colour photos throughout, can be bought for £16.99 plus P&P on