Nestled between Chichester and Portsmouth and part of the South Downs National Park, Stansted Park stands in 1800 acres of extraordinary landscaped parkland and ancient forest.
The earliest records of inhabitants on the estate date back to medieval times when the grounds were used for hunting and royalty frequented the Park. King Henry II, Richard the Lionheart and King John have all been known to have visited the forest.
In 1688 the first house was built on the present site for Lord Lumley. The estate changed hands and appearance over the centuries, being bought and sold by many colourful characters including Richard Barwell an Indian Nabob, the famous Jewish converter Lewis Way, a generous London wine merchant by the name of Charles Dixon and the Wilder and Whitaker families, who gained possession in the nineteenth century.
In 1900 a devastating fire tore through the house leaving nothing but the original vaulted crypt. The house was painstakingly rebuilt over the following three years on the exact footprint of the old house. It was purchased in 1924 by the 9th Earl of Bessborough. The family spent the next sixty years here with their families, enjoying all the estate and landscape had to offer.
In 1983 the 10th Earl of Bessborough made the decision to give Stansted Park, the Arboretum, his family home and its beautiful contents to the public. Stansted Park Foundation was set up as a Charitable Trust charged with the preservation of the estate for the benefit of the nation.
This Edwardian building you see today is adorned with the Ponsonby family portraits and possessions as well as original furniture, fixtures and fittings. The house has one of Britain’s best examples of ‘life below stairs’ with room upon room laid out as it would have been in the house’s heyday.
In addition to the mansion, Stansted Park also has a private chapel which has a unique colourful history of its own. This elegant Regency chapel stands on the site of the first great house and re-uses some of its fifteenth century masonry and locks. The chapel’s unique east window illustrates the wish of its founder, Lewis Way, to re-unite the Jewish and Christian faiths.
Today visitors to the Estate can enjoy seasonal tours of this splendid mansion. The public has free access to the walled garden with its Tearoom, Farm Shop, Garden Centre, Maze and Miniature Railway. The grounds offer wonderful country walks through the woods and avenues of the magnificent parkland between 8am and 6pm daily.