The History of the Grange
The Grange is a Georgian house, originally built as a vicarage. It was later extended by the Rev Dr Thomas Redman Hooker, the much loved vicar of St Margaret’s Church from 1792 – 1838. It is possible that an underground tunnel ran from The Grange to the beach for Dr Hooker’s sideline as a smugglers’ “lookout” man! More respectably, he established a well-known school for boys that attracted the sons of many wealthy and distinguished families. His effigy and plaque are on the wall in nearby St Margaret’s Church.
A nationally more famous resident was Sir William Nicholson RA who produced a number of downland and coastal oil paintings of this area where he lived between 1909 – 1914. He called himself “the painter of the Downs”, and was in his time as famous as Kipling.
During WWII the Grange was used as an Officers’ Mess. During the 1950’s it was taken over by the local authorities to house the library and the museum. In 1992 it seemed likely that, due to of lack of funds, the museum and exhibition facilities on the first floor and the public library on the ground floor would be closed. The Preservation Society came to the rescue and in 1993 obtained a lease on the building so that this important village building would not be lost. The lease with Brighton and Hove Council has recently been extended to 2030
Today as well as the Public Library, The Grange houses a Museum, an Art Gallery, a Tourist Office and, in the summer months, a Tea Garden.
The Grange Museum
The Grange Museum has a wide range of exhibitions and displays of interest to all ages. Old Rottingdean is captured in a collection of photographs showing how the village has changed over time, including Magnus Volks’ amazing “Daddy-Long-Legs” seashore railway – a short-lived invention that ran three miles from a point opposite Paston Place in Brighton to a specially constructed pier at Rottingdean. Built on 24ft high stilts, to counteract the high tide through which it had to run, it accommodated 150 people, was virtually wrecked by a storm after running for one week in November 1896 and was repaired to return to service the following summer. Sadly, by 1901 it was deemed a white elephant and finally scrapped along with its pier in 1910.
The Museum also has exhibits featuring some of the lives of some of the famous residents in the village. Amongst others are the writer Enid Bagnold, (whose book “National Velvet” was made into a film that clearly identified with her life in Rottingdean and starred a young Elisabeth Taylor), and Fox Talbot, the father of photography. Also, more recently, the internationally known folk singer Bob Copper whose old family folk songs formed the basis for the foundation of the English Folk Song Society and whose family’s farming history in the area dates back to the 16th Century.
There is a whole room devoted to the life and work of Edward Burne-Jones, one of the most celebrated Pre-Raphaelite artists and a village resident, whose stained glass windows, created in collaboration with William Morris, can be seen in nearby St Margaret’s Church.
The Kipling Room is a wonderful reconstruction of Rudyard Kipling’s study in his house the Elms. This house is now privately owned, so the Kipling Society very kindly created this display that brings the most famous resident of the village to life. Here you can see Kipling and his family from the time he spent in Rottingdean (1897 – 1902), captured in images from his own Family Photo Album, a time. when he wrote some of his best work including the Just So Stories.
Children at the Grange
The Grange welcomes children of all ages with special events arranged throughout the year.
For more information click here.
The Grange Art Gallery
The Grange Art Gallery is a bright and popular gallery offering a showcase for original and affordable art in a wide range of media including, painting, photography, sculpture and textile art. The gallery offers wall space for approximately 45 paintings. Exhibitions change constantly throughout the year, varying in length from two to five weeks. Displays of craft work – ceramics, glassware, jewellery, sculpture, work in wood, etc – are changed every two months. Exhibitions of sculpture may also be held in the Grange gardens.
The Grange Garden
It was whilst the Grange was owned by the artist William Nicholson and the lawyer Sir George Lewis at the beginning of the 2oth century, that the garden was transformed from simple rolling lawns and trees to its present distinct character. The designer was Sir Edwin Lutyens who, with the help of Gertrude Jekyll created the four gardens: the formal front garden, the north walkway, the flagged courtyard and the walled wide-bedded top garden.
In 2006 the Rottingdean Preservation Society embarked on restoring the Lutyens’ garden to its former glory. A volunteer gardening group was formed and set about the arduous task of clearing the ivy from the trees and walls and the shrubs and brambles from the courtyard, finally revealing Lutyens’ distinctive slate slabs, niches and alchoves, miraculously undamaged.
The spring of 2007 saw the true shape of the original garden, but with rather bar beds. An appeal to the Village for plants, brought forth an astonishing result – trees, shrubs, perennials and bulbs were all donated and the volunteers set to work planting. Whilst trying to keep to Lutyens’ design, we have had to make allowances for drier summers and the need for low maintenance as we are a charity with limited resources. We have received help from the English Heritage’s Lutyens department through information and encouragement.
Now the garden is full and flourishing with a wide variety of plants and shrubs that are still true to the original Lutyens’ vision. The Grange Tea Garden offers light refreshments while you take a rest enjoying the view of beautiful flowers and plants.
Please click here for more information on the Grange Garden Volunteers.