Literary Homes: Charleston

Charleston House | Miranda's Notebook

Last Sunday was just the sort of blue-sky day that begged for an escape from London and a carefree drive through the countryside. Mum (who’s always game for an adventure) and I decided to head off to East Sussex, home of the Bloomsbury Group and the inspiration for many of Eric Ravillious’ famous landscapes.

I’ve been to Lewes and its surrounding environs a few times in the past, but always in rather inclement weather. It says much for the beauty of the English countryside, though, that I was able to appreciate it even in biting winds and a perpetual mist. I do, however, remember thinking it quite remarkable that everyone didn’t freeze to death when I first visited Charleston in a particularly cold March. Clearly, the Bloomsbury Set were of hardier stuff than I!

Our drive on Sunday, though, couldn’t be more perfect, and we both gloried in the lush green landscape, dotted with fluffy clouds of May blooming in the hedgerows and sheep roaming the fields. Mum and I arrived in Firle (only a few minutes drive from Charleston) just in time for lunch, and thought a Sunday Roast at the charming Ram Inn would be the perfect start to our afternoon. We’d stayed at the Ram Inn twice in the past (it has wonderfully comfy rooms, with names such as ‘Bloomsbury,’ ‘Beanstalk’ and ‘Bo-Peep.’ I’m particularly fond of the Beanstalk!) and were big fans of the pub restaurant too.

The Ram Inn, Firle | Miranda's Notebook The Ram Inn, Firle | Miranda's NotebookThe Ram Inn, Firle | Miranda's Notebook

I thoroughly enjoyed a glass of local English sparkling wine and an appetising roast, as well as spending some time in the garden skimming through some of my Bloomsbury Group related books. After our leisurely lunch, we went on to Charleston House. I’d forgotten that the Charleston Festival had started that weekend, so the gardens were rather crowded, and we decided not to go on a tour of the house (having seen it before), but it was still a joy to stroll through the pretty grounds, especially on such a pleasantly summer-like day.

The gardens at Charleston are a little untamed, which I think matches the house perfectly. Owned by Vanessa and Clive Bell, and home too to the artist Duncan Grant, as well as frequently visited by other members of the Bloomsbury Group (including Virginia and Leonard Woolf, who lived very close by), Charleston is a truly exceptional place. There is something almost child-like in the care free abandon in which Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant painted the furniture, walls and ceramics within the house. A stilted, formal garden would be too great a contrast to the artistic freedom that Charleston so inspiringly represents. Instead, the gardens are unfettered and comfortable: the perfect place to sit with a picnic (which many people were doing) and laugh with friends.

Charleston House | Miranda's Notebook Charleston House | Miranda's Notebook Charleston Garden | Miranda's Notebook Charleston Garden | Miranda's Notebook Charleston Garden | Miranda's Notebook Charleston Garden | Miranda's Notebook Charleston Garden | Miranda's Notebook Charleston Garden | Miranda's Notebook Charleston Garden | Miranda's Notebook Charleston Garden | Miranda's Notebook Charleston Garden | Miranda's Notebook

If you’ve never been to Charleston, I can’t recommend a visit enough! Tours around the house are timed, but if you go on a Sunday or Bank Holiday then it’s free-flow. Sadly, pictures aren’t allowed indoors, but it honestly is an absolutely stunning house with a fascinating history.

Have you ever visited Charleston? What did you think of the house and garden? I’ll be publishing my post on Monk’s House (Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s East Sussex residence) next week so do check back for that!

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  • sunday taylor

    Your photos are gorgeous! One of my favorite places to visit when I’m in England. You’ve given me a great place for lunch next time I am there!

    • Thank you so much! I’m sure you’ll have a fabulous time when you go. Oh yes, do stop by the Ram Inn if you’re able – it’s close to Charleston so very convenient and is a great little pub. xxx

  • Cindi Brumpton

    I have been to both Charleston and Monks House. I am completely fascinated with Bloomsbury! Gardens and houses are fab and I would go again.

    • I share your fascination! I agree – I could return to both houses and gardens many times without getting in the least bored. xxx

  • Katie Louise

    so lovely, thank you for sharing

  • Ali

    What a fab opportunity to check out other people’s bookshelves, like I said on your Instagram feed. I find it fascinating, seeing what someone else likes for reading material. I haven’t been to Charleston (though now I know where the one in South Carolina gets its name!), but its going on my Summer Tour list now.


    • It is so interesting to browse the book of other people. I think you’d absolutely love Charleston, Ali – I do hope you get to visit it this summer! The house itself is absolutely spectacular and full of inspiration. xxx

  • Eleanor Baggley

    This is stunning πŸ™‚ Woolf is my favourite author and Vanessa Bell my favourite artist so it’s almost shameful that I’m yet to visit Charleston. It is on my to do list for this summer. I look forward to your post on Monk’s House, too.

    • Oh goodness Eleanor, you will be in heaven when you visit Charleston, I’m sure! Thank you – I’m looking forward to publishing that post as I was especially pleased with the photos I took there. Of the two, Monk’s House garden is my favourite. Have you been to Monk’s House yourself? xxx

  • What a stunning garden and the perfect weather for it! x

  • This really does look like the perfect city escape! I absolutely love the English countryside – as much as I love London, it’s the countryside that made me really fall in love with the UK – so thanks for taking me there again! πŸ™‚ I’m already excited for the post on Monk’s House!

    • Thanks so much Melanie! It was such a fun escape from the city. I love the English countryside too – it always takes my breath away. xxx

  • Chareston, South Carolina, you mean? πŸ™‚ I love how many names in the States are actually British names. I will tell you there is not much more satisfying for me than driving/taking a train through the English countryside.

    • Haha, I know – so many!! It was a shock for me to realise that when I moved to the UK too! I so agree – there’s nothing quite like the English countryside on a lovely day. xxx

  • What a cool experience!! I’ve read some Virginia Woolf… looking forward to checking out your post on that one! … Darling outfit, that skirt is adorable, and you look beautiful!!

    All the Cute
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  • I love all the beautiful blooming flowers in the garden. They make me feel happy. You look beautiful in that outfit.

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  • You always have the beautiful photos Miranda! Charleston looks like a real gem – certainly somewhere I’d love to visit should I be so lucky! And your outfit is Springtime perfection! Xx

    • Thanks so much Carly! Charleston is so special – I really hope you can get to the UK soon and see it for yourself πŸ™‚ xxx

  • Kristina Collins

    I absolutely loved both the house and garden when G and I visited. You are so right that the garden really suits the character of the house. And I adore your skirt πŸ™‚ xx

    • Thanks so much Kristina! The skirt is a favourite of mine from Tara Jarmon – I thought it had a bit of a Bloomsbury vibe πŸ˜‰ xxx

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