Home to the Edward James Foundation, West Dean House is primarily an arts and crafts college. However, there’s more to this striking flint mansion than meets the eye, as it's also a beautiful estate open year-round to the public. The college has a reputation for its leading position as an arts school, with more than 250 practicing artists, designers and musicians delivering the courses. Opened in 1971, it’s a hub for creative talent and developing crafts.
West Dean Estate is 6400 acres of rolling hills and dense woodland in the heart of the South Downs. Just six miles north of Chichester, it is easily accessible for those looking for a little respite from everyday life. Part of the area is used for farming crops and livestock, but there are well over 20 miles of public footpaths for exploring the local nature reserve and enjoying the landscape. There are many popular routes for both walkers and horse riders, including the Kingley Wale Trail and the Chalk Stones Trail. The estate is centred on West Dean House and the glorious gardens.
Since 1622, the gardens have been manicured and sculptured to perfection to produce what visitors can now see today. The trees, shrubs and flowers are separated into four distinct areas: the entrance, the walled kitchen garden, the pleasure grounds and St. Roche’s arboretum. The beautiful greenery is the scene of many garden events, celebrating everything from food and drink, to culture and music.
The Apple Affair is a popular festival for visitors to discover over 100 different varieties of apple…and of course taste a few too. They also hold a spicy Chilli Fiesta during the summer, with music, dancing and food all with one thing in common: the notorious chilli! The college, gardens and surrounding areas are maximised to their fullest potential, allowing visitors to enjoy the magnificent building and its splendid grounds.
West Dean Festival is the highlight of the summer calendar, and for those in the know, it’s a great weekend where people come together to celebrate all aspects of the arts. With the stunning South Downs as the backdrop, guests can enjoy live music, food academies and even a movie stage. The festival was a great success this year, all that’s left to do is to plan the line-up of artists and performers for next summer…better get yourself a ticket!
Not forgetting West Dean's connections with the Surrealist arts movement and the amazing collection built up by Edward James through his patronage of the arts including the Mae West lips sofa and lobster telephone.