Parham: An Elizabethan House and its Restoration

Edited by: 
Jayne Kirk
First Published: 
9 February, 2009

Parham House lies tranquilly at the foot of the South Downs, an Elizabethan house with weathered stone walls, glittering leaded windows and a gabled silhouette. In its ancient park, deer roam beneath spreading oaks and 18th-century lawns fan out towards the church, all that remains of Parham village. Rescued from decay and lovingly restored by Clive and Alicia Pearson and their architect Victor Heal, the house was opened to the public in 1948. Visitors have been beguiled by its magic ever since.

This book tells the story of the house, and of the three families - the Palmers, the Bisshopps and the Pearsons - who owned it for more than 400 years. Begun by Sir Thomas Palmer, whose grandson laid the foundation stone in 1578, it was transformed many times, according to the individual tastes, aspirations and personalities of those who inherited it. Many of these characters are memorable, particularly the 17th-century Sir Edward Bisshopp, who fled the country after murdering a playwright, and the Victorian traveller Robert Curzon, 14th Baron Zouche, who had to wait fifty years before attempting to realise his dream of a grander, more romantic house.

Restoration and repair has ensured that Parham still stands today. Parham: an Elizabethan House and its Restoration brings to life the way its restorers dealt with the practical and aesthetic problems they encountered. A precious archive of drawings, letters and other papers has revealed much new evidence about changes to the fabric. This has been supplemented by specially commissioned studies of the roof, and of the decorative plasterwork and panelling. Professional and volunteer archaeologists have searched the park for traces of the monastic grange and village that once stood somewhere within it, while personal recollections have added yet another perspective. All the findings have been masterfully pieced together by Jayne Kirk, who has thrown a brilliant light onto the hidden history of this intriguing country house.

'Parham is parcelled history… Such places are infinitely precious'.   Sir Simon Jenkins, Chairman of the National Trust.