On Sunday 15th August we went to this small stately home belonging to the Gage family (Yes – of greengage fame) nestling at the foot of the South Downs a few miles east of Brighton. Train to Glynde and a two mile walk got us there. Popped into the Ram Inn and managed to sample not only the Harvey’s Best, but also the Dark Star Summer Meltdown. Unlike the Winter meldown this one is only gently gingery, and other spices add depth and character. I later asked Rob Jones (of Dark Star Brewery) what spices went into it, he told me it was ‘a mixture’, so there you have it.
In Firle village church there is a window designed by John Piper RA, made by David Walsey and installed in 1985. It commemorates the 6th Viscount Gage, Henry Rainald Gage, who died in 1982, and features the Tree of Life with Southdown sheep, the sun and moon and the Gage coat of arms. Impressively it uses three and sometimes four layers of coloured glass to give complexity to the design.
We went for lunch at Firle Place and at 2pm embarked on an exploration of those parts of the house open to the public (the left hand side of the picture, or eastern Georgian wing).
In the entrance Hall ( I use a capital H because we are talking Hall here, not a lobby. This is a big room) there is a complete suit of shiny metal armour from 1839 made to wear at a mock medieval pagaent in Ayrshire. The notice says that three days of torrential rain saw many of the young men sink into the mud. It doesn’t say how far.
There are two 17th century ‘Grotesque’ tapestries on the walls which “suffered in the second world war when they were kept in a chicken house and were nibbled by rats”.
On a staircase there is a portrait of the 1st Earl Cowper (pronounced Cooper, I was corrected). He was Queen Anne’s Lord Chancellor and only visited Sussex once, after which he said, “I find it a melancholy situation mankind should inherit such a heap of dirt.” With accolades like that I’m surprised the Gage’s don’t keep his portrait in a chicken house.
But the very best was a portrait of 16 year old Lady Penelope Darcy who had three suitors. Her mum – “the formidable Countess Rivers” – urged her to marry them all. And she did. It took a while, she married the oldest one first – sensible move – he died soon after the marriage. Then she had 9 children by the second (I think he was the Gage). After his death she had to wait for the then-wife of the third suitor to die so she could marry him. Always listen to your mother.