Parham House and Gardens
Parham House and Gardens is an extraordinary Elizabethan house set within an ancient deer park. The garden cleverly mixes historical elements with the new, exuding a timeless tranquillity.
Parham Estate was originally owned by the Monastery of Westminster and was granted to Robert Palmer by King Henry VIII in 1540 on the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The foundation stone for Parham House was laid in 1577 by two-year-old Thomas Palmer, grandson of Robert Palmer. Only three families have lived here since.
Parham House was bought by Sir Thomas Bishopp, 1st Baronet in 1601. For over 300 years his descendants continued to live at Parham House until the Honourable Clive Pearson bought Parham from in 1922. The Pearsons found the house in a dilapidated state and employed the architect Victor Heal to help them carry out major renovation and conservation work during the 1920s and 1930s. They meticulously researched the architectural features they found, restoring them using traditional methods of craftsmanship.
Mr and Mrs Pearson, followed by their daughter Veronica Mary Tritton, spent more than 60 years carefully restoring Parham and filling it with a sensitively chosen collection of beautiful old furniture, paintings and textiles, also acquiring items originally in the house that had been sold off or gifted. With a spectacular Long Gallery, the third longest in England, and important collections of needlework, paintings and furniture, Parham House is considered to be one of England’s finest historic houses.
In 1993, the house passed to Lady Emma Bernard, the great niece of Veronica Tritton, who continues to live at Parham with her husband and children to this day.
The garden is careful to not be too manicured, sitting comfortably within the surrounds of the South Downs and blending with the wider landscape. It is thought that the garden pre-dates the house with the land first being cultivated as far back as the 14thCentury by the monks from the monastery. The site’s open aspect, sheltered by the South Downs, would no doubt have made it an appealing location, suitable for a productive fruit and vegetable garden.
Parham’s history is captured within the garden today as it maintains an orchard, nuttery and vegetable garden within the historic four-acre walled garden. The orchard in particular is reflective of a bygone era; it contains more than 40 apple varieties chosen for the personal taste of the Bernard family, as well as damsons, pears and quinces. More historical features can be found in the form of a 1920s glasshouse filled to the brim with vibrant pelargoniums and other tender plants, an exquisite Wendy House and dipping ponds dotted within the confines for gardeners of yesteryear to water their specimens. Completing the walled garden are stunning, colour-themed herbaceous borders overflowing with profuse plantings and teeming with wildlife – an important component as the gardens are run on organic and ecological principles.
Beyond the stone walls of the walled garden, are the 18th Century landscaped Pleasure Grounds. These contain a lake and many specimen trees. Beside the lake is Cannock House, a small classical summer house added in the early 19th Century. Recently restored, it enjoys lovely views of the cricket ground on the West Plain and South Downs.
Parham House and Gardens is a truly delightful garden that works in harmony with its surroundings. It remains a firm favourite with the guests on our tours, and certainly holds its weight against many of the better-known gardens.
We visit Parham House and Gardens on our Spring Treasures & the Chelsea Flower Show tour in 2021.
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Images © Eliza Ford