Historic St Mary’s House and Garden was given the royal seal of approval thanks to a very special visitor.
It welcomed HRH Princess Alexandra of Kent last Tuesday where she met some 45 loyal volunteers who have contributed their time and energies in helping to keep this nationally important Grade I house open for the public benefit.
Her Royal Highness was greeted by the Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex, Susan Pyper, accompanied by Marine cadet, Sgt Kurt Smith.Tom Crowley, chief executive, Horsham District Council, was then presented.
Owner-custodians, Peter Thorogood and Roger Linton had the great pleasure of taking the Princess on a personal tour of the fine historic rooms in Bramber where she expressed considerable interest in the various family collections and many exhibits.
She was fascinated by the variety of fine panelling, especially the unique ‘Painted Room’ with its unique trompe l’oeil murals painted for the visit of Queen Elizabeth I.
In the beautiful Victorian music room, Her Royal Highness then presented Long Service Awards to eight volunteers in recognition of their support for St Mary’s during the last thirty years.
The Princess then moved outside to the Jubilee Rose Garden, where she paused to see the appropriately chosen Princess Alexandra of Kent roses and a special commemorative tree, Acer Palmatum shadeshojo, planted in her honour.
By this time all the remaining volunteers had assembled in the newly-planted ‘King’s Garden’, designed by Roger Linton, Curator of St Mary’s, to commemorate the escape through Bramber of Charles II on his way to France in 1651.
At the centre of the garden is a sapling ‘grandson’ of the original ‘Boscobel’ oak-tree in which the king hid after the Battle of Worcester.
The Princess then cut the red ribbon and declared the King’s Garden open, after which she chatted to each of the 45 volunteers in turn.
Following a break for family tea in the Drawing Room, HRH Princess Alexandra came out to the South Lawn, where she was applauded by all the volunteers and guests who had gathered there for a group photograph.
Her Royal Highness was then presented with a posy by ten-year-old Chloe Whitaker, daughter of one of the Trustees, and a gift of St Mary’s honey by Vanessa Timms. Peter and Roger thanked the Princess on everyone’s behalf for all her encouragement and support.
Mr Thorogood said: “We have had many memorable moments during our thirty-two years at St Mary’s, but this Royal visit has been without question the highlight.”
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