VISIT TO PARHAM HOUSE, SUSSEX – July 2013
Parham (pronounced “Parram”) is a delightful Elizabethan H-plan house, centred around a traditional Great Hall and with a spectacular Long Gallery. Simon Jenkins, in his book England’s Thousand Best Houses rated it in the top twenty, and it was not difficult to see why as we enjoyed a guided tour of the house before it opened to the public for the day.
Set in a 17c deer park below the South Downs, the house has a fine collection of furniture and paintings (Lely, Romney, Gainsborough), and one of the most important collections of 17c embroidery in the country, with an unparalleled group of Stuart embroidered pictures and panels, together with covers for furniture, bed hangings of superb quality, horse furniture, samplers and many other items. There are also representative examples of work from the 18c – 20c.
After lunch, either in the Big Kitchen displaying row upon row of copper utensils, or with a picnic in the grounds, we enjoyed the wonderful four-acre walled garden with its vast borders and parterres, an orchard, greenhouse, and a wendy house like no other, complete with fireplace and chimney. Fresh flowers are cut for arrangements throughout the house and sometimes as many as thirty buckets of flowers and greenery are cut each week.
A little coda to our visit was in the barn where plants are sold – a swallow’s nest in the rafters with the female darting back and forth to feed her four chicks precariously perched on a beam, ignoring the constant stream of plant buyers. Many of those were Society members and the storage bay of our coach for the journey home was testament to that!
A Parham ‘receipt’ from an 18th century Parham recipe book:
To cure the itch. Take 2 pennyworth of white Lead, 2 penny worth of roach-allom, one nutmeg, half an Ounce of Flower of Brimstone, boyle all these in a quart of Cream, & dress your Self every night by a Fire going to bed. Take flower of Brimstone 3 or 4 mornings before you anoint your Self.