Sussex and Surrey National Trust properties prepare to reopen

The National Trust is welcoming visitors back to its historic houses and collections in Sussex and Surrey.

Visitor at Petworth House. National Trust Images. Hannah Elliott
Visitor at Petworth House. National Trust Images. Hannah Elliott

Houses across England will start to reopen from May 17 and welcome visitors back. Staff and volunteers have been working behind the scenes to get houses and collections ready.

Meanwhile, conservation work in Trust houses and collections has continued during the pandemic with focus on a Year of Treasures

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

In Sussex, doors will reopen to the houses at Standen, Nymans, Petworth, Bateman’s, Alfriston Clergy House, Monk’s House and towers of Bodiam Castle. In Surrey the houses at Polesden Lacey, Hatchlands Park, Clandon Park and Leith Hill Place will reopen.

Staff and volunteers have been working hard behind the scenes to get properties ready to reopen safely with social distancing in place.

Some small properties or rooms which can’t accommodate social distancing will reopen later once Covid restrictions are lifted or when repair or redisplay work is completed.

Hilary McGrady, Director General, National Trust says, “This is a big moment that we have all looked forward to for months as we welcome people back safely, to spend time together at their favourite properties.

“Hundreds of our parks, gardens and countryside locations have already reopened, but we know how much our members and supporters have been looking forward to returning to see our houses and collections again.

“Our places are nothing without our visitors there to enjoy them. It is a matter of huge relief, pride and gratitude that the places in our care can start to reopen following closure due to the pandemic. Not a single place will be lost to the public. The cultural treasures that are our shared inheritance are waiting – for everyone.”

Jonathan Marsh, Collections and House Manager at Polesden Lacey in Surrey said, “In recent weeks we’ve been polishing the crystal chandelier in the gold Saloon, dusting the ceramics, winding the clocks and taking off the furniture covers ready to welcome visitors inside again. The house at Polesden Lacey just isn’t the same without our visitors, we can’t wait to throw open the front doors and welcome everyone back safely. We have plenty of space during the week, but at weekends it’s important to prebook tickets via our website and join the house queuing system on arrival, so that we can ensure there is safe social distancing.”

Spokeswoman Hannah Elliott added: “Among the properties introducing new guided tours is Clandon Park in Surrey. From Saturday May 22, the astonishing fire-damaged mansion near Guildford will open for brand-new, personal tours.

“Each weekend, you can explore Clandon in its post-fire state on a 6 person tour, as design and development work continues on its future. Knowledgeable guides will bring to life the extraordinary discoveries and unexpected stories made since the fire, giving you behind-the-scenes access to one of the UK’s biggest heritage challenges.

“At Standen House in West Sussex, a new exhibition will open in the house on 29 May with works by celebrity makers. ‘Joy is in the Making’ looks behind-the-scenes at the crafter, sharing not only their masterful works, but also the inspirations, emotions and deep sense of wellbeing that comes with the creative process.

“The reopening of houses also coincides with the Trust’s focus this year on its collections and the one million items it looks after, with many properties featuring in a new book celebrating 125 treasures in the charity’s care.

Entry arrangements for houses will vary so check property web pages before visiting

Standen House, West Sussex. Standen is an Arts and Crafts family home, designed by Philip Webb. The house is one of the finest examples of Arts and Crafts workmanship, with Morris & Co. interiors creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The house is dressed for a weekend stay in 1925, so you can imagine you are a guest of the family. A new exhibition will open in the house from 29 May. ‘Joy is in the Making’ looks behind-the-scenes at the crafter, sharing not only their masterful works, but also the inspirations, emotions and deep sense of wellbeing that comes with the creative process. This Covid-safe exhibition features work from top-name makers including The Great Pottery Throw Down judge and ceramicist Keith Brymer Jones, world-renowned knitting, needlepoint and patchwork expert Kaffe Fassett, embroidery artist Niamh Wimperis, recently seen on The Victorian House of Arts and Crafts, internationally exhibited textile artist Mr X Stitch plus well-known presenter turned photographer Edith Bowman.

Nymans, West Sussex. The comfortable, elegant house, in the gardens at Nymans, is a charming and intriguing place to visit. It reflects the personalities and stories of the talented Messel family. Nymans dramatic architecture is part Regency, part pseudo-medieval - and now part ruin, following a fire in 1947. Nothing is quite as it seems, but room stewards will explain how this intriguing house fits together. Leonard Messel, together with his wife Maud, set about transforming Nymans into the building we see here today. Their children Linley, Oliver and Anne spent much of their childhood at Nymans. As an adult in the 1940s and 1950s Oliver Messel become a famous theatre designer and Anne married into the aristocracy with her marriage to the Earl of Rosse. Lord Snowdon was Anne's son from her first marriage to Ronald Armstrong Jones. In 1960, he married HRH Princess Margaret.

Petworth House, West Sussex. Inspired by the Baroque palaces of Europe, Petworth House displays one of the finest art collections in the care of the National Trust. It’s an extraordinary and surprising place created by just one family over 900 years. The 17th-century building you see today comprises grand state rooms which form the centrepiece of your visit. Designed to display the taste, lifestyle and artistic patronage of generations of Percys, Seymours and Wyndhams, the state rooms offer an expanse of paintings and sculpture, including major works by artists such as Van Dyck, Turner, Reynolds and Gainsborough. This remarkable collection reflects a journey of survival and success through the Tudor Reformation, the Gunpowder Plot, the Napoleonic Wars and the consolidation of the British Empire.

Bateman’s, East Sussex. Bateman’s is the home of author Rudyard Kipling. Surrounded by the wooded landscape of the Sussex Weald, the 17th-century house, with its mullioned windows and oak beams, provided a much needed sanctuary to this world-famous writer and inspired his work. Bateman's is very much a family home that feels as though the Kiplings have just gone out for the day. The rooms, described by Kipling as 'untouched and unfaked', remain much as he left them. You’ll find oriental rugs and artefacts reflecting his strong association with the East. He wrote Puck of Pook’s Hill and Rewards and Fairies at Bateman's, which includes the poem ‘If’.

Bodiam Castle, East Sussex. Set in the heart of an historic landscape, with spiral staircases, battlements and a portcullis, 14th century Bodiam Castle is one of Britain's most picturesque and romantic ancient monuments. This is a place where you can relive your childhood memories and let your imagination run riot. Some of the towers of the 14th-century moated castle will be open once more. Climb the spiral staircases to find rooms hiding behind their sturdy walls. Bodiam’s museum room will also open its doors for those keen to discover more about its medieval story.

Hatchlands Park, Surrey. The Georgian house at Hatchlands was built in 1756, replacing a Tudor house on the estate. Inside you can see six beautifully restored rooms, richly decorated with a family feel. There’s a chance to see some of Robert Adam’s earliest work, plus wonderful collections of paintings and a world class group of musical instruments brought together by our tenant Alec Cobbe. The Cobbe Collection includes paintings by old masters and 40 remarkable keyboard instruments, which is one of the largest collections of its kind in the world. A must see for music lovers.

Polesden Lacey, Surrey. 'This is a delicious house...' remarked Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother on her honeymoon at Polesden Lacey. This country retreat, only four miles from Dorking and junction 9 of the M25, has glorious views across the rolling Surrey Hills and acres of countryside to explore. It was home to the famous Edwardian hostess Mrs Greville, who entertained royalty and the celebrities of her time. Marvel at the glittering gold Saloon designed to impress kings and maharajahs, or Mrs Greville's extensive collection of Dutch, Italian and British paintings, Chinese and European ceramics and fine French furniture.