A RICH HISTORY DATING BACK TO THE 12th CENTURY
Buxted Park dates back to the 12th century and has been enjoyed as a seat of power and prestige for many of those 900 years.
The present house was built almost 300 years ago by Thomas Medley, whose family had been keepers of the Privy Purse in the reign of Henry VIII. Clearly even in those days there was money to be made in tax collection…. Thomas Medley himself had been a renowned barrister, however he made a fortune in his own right by using the opportunity of the war against France to introduce the English to port wine and it was this money that built the beautiful house we enjoy today.
Buxted Park became the country seat of Rt Hon. Cecil Jenkinson Bart. when he married Thomas Medley’s granddaughter. He later became Lord Liverpool on the death of his brother, who had served 15 years as Prime Minister. Under his tenure a number of additions were made to the house, including the wonderful Victorian Orangery, still in daily use today. He did not enjoy having the peasants living so close to him, so he ceased maintaining their properties, forcing them to move from the estate across the valley to the villages present location. The only remaining sign of its existence is the 13th century Buxted parish church, where Cranmer’s book of common prayer was first introduced.
As befitting the country seat of such an important family of Georgian and Victorian society, Buxted Park played host to many dignitaries including the Prince Regent and the great queen herself. It is mentioned by the great bard, Wordsworth, in a letter to his brother, then the rector at the church on the estate. This tradition of hospitality has carried on through the centuries, with musicians, stars of both the small and silver screen visiting this wonderful place.
At the beginning of the 20th Century the house was purchased by the renowned designer of the Savoy in London, Basil Ionides. He and his wife were great entertainers and good friends of George V and Queen Mary who were regular guests at house.
In 1940 disaster struck, when much of the house was destroyed by fire. The top story was lost and the shortage of materials during the war meant it was not possible to replace it. For Basil, who is reputed to still reside at the house, the war was not all bad news. The blitz meant he was able to restore Buxted Park with some of the finest architectural pieces at little or no cost. Basil visited bombed out buildings salvaging covings, cornices, chandeliers and beautiful show doors, all of which you will see around you today at Buxted Park. Like many country houses of this period that are still in existence today not everything is original, however the difference at Buxted Park is that even the fakes are genuine. So good was the restoration and the quality of the items he salvaged, that some scurrilous people have actually suggested he was paying the Germans to bomb particular houses.
Following the death of Basil & his wife the Rt. Hon Nellie, the house was purchased by Kenneth Shipman, the owner of Twickenham Studios. He used it to entertain his stars, with guests such as Marlon Brando, Dudley Moore and Gregory Peck regulars at the house. He even built a cinema to view his latest productions, which is still in use today. This period also saw a return to the house of Sir Winston and Lady Churchill, who had also been regular guests in the time of the Ionides. By the early 1970’s British cinema was in decline. The Shipmans sold the estate to the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Akhanton. Enriched by the increasing value of oil in the Middle East, the opulence and grandeur and size made Buxted Park not only ideal as his English home but also an excellent harem for his entourage.
In 1987 the Crown Prince sold the house to the Engineering and Electrical union, who were first to open it as a hotel. The day contracts were exchanged was the day of the great storm, possibly an omen for the union. They lost over 200 ancient trees on the estate that day and it was soon clear that the juxtaposition of the unions own philosophy and the grandeur and opulence that Buxted Park represents were never going to be comfortable bedfellows. The house then went through a number of unhappy marriages before its phoenix-like revival under the present owners Hand Picked Hotels.
The mansion house has now been beautifully restored using the finest fabrics and furnishings, not to mention up to the minute technology. Basil (deceased) has visited a number of our guests during the restoration and passed on his thoughts (without any consultancy fee), a rarity in this day and age. The restoration also includes the grounds where many of the statues and ornaments sold off or removed by the union are being replaced. The original rose gardens at the end of Queen Mary’s walk are also being restored. This grand old house is once again a seat of power, where leaders of industry and commerce come to review and decide on future direction, or take an opportunity to recharge batteries.