“ Address: The Tye / Alfriston / Polegate BN26 5TL / East Sussex „
THE CLERGY HOUSE
Earlier in the year I spent a weekend with my husband, son, his fiancée and her parents, in the lovely quaint village of Alfriston. This village is in the English county of East Sussex. We arrived at our accommodation but soon set out to explore the village. Our first stop was the church on village green or Tye.
St. Andrew is a lovely church. After spending some time inside we walked around the exterior.
On looking around outside the church and at the view across the churchyard one can't help noticing its neighbouring building, The Clergy House.
The clergy house stands close to the church but is a much smaller building.
This house straight away caught my interest as it looked so quaint and typical of old England, with its thatched roof and timber frame. I thought at first when viewing from a distance that it could be the vicarage of St Andrew's but soon discovered, on nearing the building that in fact it isn't occupied but is, in fact open to the public and owned by the national trust. Interestingly In fact it is the first building owned by the national trust, acquired in the year 1896. As it was open to the public we went to look inside.
A WHISPER OF THE PAST
I learnt that this house was first built as a yeoman farmer's dwelling in the fourteenth century. There are two floors to the house. It did later become used by clergy although it was rather small and simple, lacking in grandeur compared to most vicarages in pre nineteenth century England.
Rather than go too much into the history of this house I shall use the timeline from http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/alfriston-clergy-house
1350 - House built by a farmer who prospered after the Black Death
1395 - The church take over the ownership of the Clergy House
1600 - All the windows of the house are glazed
1800 - House divided into two cottages
1885 - Church authorities seek permission to demolish house
1888 - Death of Harriet Coates, the last occupant of the house
1896 - We buy the house for £10
INSIDE THE HOUSE
Once entering the house, I could easily imagine being inside a dwelling from days long gone by. I felt a little like a character from the television programme 'Larks rise to Candleford.' I think we were fortunate that there were only a few other visitors in the house at this time which helped our imaginations to go back in time.
It smelt old and looked old and my main impression of the house was of carved beams, low ceilings, narrow hallways, oak beams and leaded glass windows.
The Clergy House is known for its chalk and sour milk floor which I now know was an early form of concrete.
BREATHE IN THE AIR
Outside the house are gardens which are a joy to behold, especially on such a day as we were lucky enough to visit on. On this lovely warm and sunny spring day the gardens were really coming to life.
The gardens are famed in the area for their flora and fauna. Indeed it is a good spot for bird watchers.
The outside areas consist of a rose garden, orchard and vegetable garden. At this time of year the shrubs were to be enjoyed but it was too early for the roses to be in full bloom.
Many of the plants are chosen for their scents. I would imagine in the summer the garden must be a real feast for the senses and is indeed an enviable spot.
The Clergy House has a small shop selling the usual national trust souvenirs: postcards, stationery, preserves, and much more.
I don't think there is much here to entertain children for longer than a short visit unless they go as part of a group such as a on a school trip and have a guide. I saw there were advertised children's activities such as quizzes. Pushchairs are allowed but it can be a bit of a tight squeeze.
Another consideration if visiting with children is that there are no toilets available at the clergy house and the nearest public toilets are in the nearby car park.
Cars cannot drive right up to the clergy house but there is a drop off point nearby.
Braille and large print guides are available and so is, I understand, a sensory experience.
I think for visitors confined to a wheelchair some of the clergy house may prove a little difficult as it is old and not easy to adapt. There are steps to get into the house and corridors are narrow.
However, it is still in nice weather worth visiting to see the exterior of the house close by and for the beautiful gardens. But please note that some parts of the garden would also be difficult to access owing to steps here and there.
East Sussex, BN26 5TL
Telephone: 01323 871961
Email: Alfriston Clergy House
(With Gift Aid)
Guided tour £1.50 extra (including members)
Guided tour £1.50 extra (including members)
The Clergy House is worth a visit and I will probably visit again when I am next in this area. In my opinion it isn't suitable for an all day trip, however, the village of Alfriston is, making this house an easy place to visit for a couple of hours.