Nymans House and Grounds
Nymans house and grounds dates back to the late 19th century. It is currently owned by the National Trust and is situated in the village of Handcross overlooking the picturesque High Weald of Sussex.
Nymans house and grounds occupy 600 acres and were bought in the late 19th century by Ludwig Messel, a German Jewish immigrant. Messel set out to develop the grounds for family life and entertaining with the help of his Head Gardener James Comber who stayed in his role for many years. With James’ extensive plant knowledge at his disposal Messel formed Nymans’ plant collections of Camellias and Rhododendrons which were combined with Ericas (Heather), Eucryphias and Magnolias. The cultivar Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’ was named after his son Colonel Leonard Messel. Many hybrid plants, some planned, others not, have their origins at Nymans some of which can be identified by the term nymansensis (of Nymans). Eucryphia x nymansensis is a hybrid cross between E. cordifolia x E. glutinosa and is also known as E. “Nymansay”. William Robinson, famous for his ideas on wild gardening also advised Ludwig on the establishment of the Wild Garden.
In 1915 Ludwig’s son Leonard took over Nymans house and grounds and at the request of his wife Maud ‘re-designed’ the rather dull Regency house into a Gothic/Tudor style. In fact, Maud refused to move there until the house was more to her taste. With her help the garden was extended to the north. He and Maud also ventured on seed collecting expeditions to the Himalayas and South America.
The maturity of the gardens peaked in the 1930s and were frequently open to the public. However, World War II saw a dramatic reduction in staffing levels and in 1947 disaster struck when a fire gutted the house, thankfully nobody was hurt. However the house was left in ruins and only partially rebuilt later becoming the home of Leonard Messel’s daughter, Anne Messel and her second husband the 6th Earl of Rosse.
When Leonard died in 1953 Nymans house and grounds were the first ever to be willed to the National Trust including 275 acres of woodland. Lady Rosse remained to serve as Garden Director.
More recently Nymans gardens were overwhelmed by the Great Storm of October 1987 and 486 of the mature trees were lost as were many of the shrubs. Sadly the pinetum, one of the gardens first features was destroyed with only 3 specimens surviving to this day.
I’m sure that my visit to Nymans house and grounds is the first of many. The gardens in the Winter are rich in structural interest with some beautiful examples of winter flowering shrubs. I know that the gardens will transform in the Spring and again in the Summer and I can’t wait to see the beds and borders in full bloom.