National Trust, Nymans

Image credit: National Trust/Joe Whelan

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Nymans, famous for its renowned collection of rare plants, reflects the passionate interests of three generations of the Messel family. Largely created by Ludwig Messel (1890–1916), who bought the house and 600 acres of land in 1890, it was one of the first gardens to come to the National Trust in 1953. He commissioned the fashionable architect, Ernest George, to extend the existing early nineteenth-century villa with a huge conservatory and an Italianate tower, which overlooked the High Weald towards the South Downs. When the estate was inherited in 1915 by Leonard Messel (1872–1953), Ludwig’s eldest son, he and his wife Maud Sambourne (1875–1960) created a romantic, pseudo-medieval manor house, under the guidance of Sir Walter Tapper and Norman Evill, although much was lost in a fire in 1947. Today the pictures that remain were mostly acquired at a sale of chattels from Nymans in 1994, or were accepted in lieu of tax a year later. The collection has works by Leonard and Maud’s son, Oliver Messel (1904–1978), artist, stage designer and friend of the painter, Glyn Philpot, including the portrait of the much-married Russian émigré Princess Natalia Pavovna Paley (1905–1981). Her identity had been lost until she was by chance recognised by Diana, Lady Mosley, in 2001. The most notable of the few Old Masters is a panel, once cut vertically to create a triptych, of ‘Christ Blessing the Little Children’. Following conservation, it has now been attributed to Adam van Noort.

Handcross, near Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH17 6EB England

01444 405250