Steeped in history and once in the hands of Anne of Cleves, Thomas Cromwell and the Earl of Chichester – Falmer Court Estate, just an hour from London, dates back to the 13th Century.
Strikingly beautiful and nestling in the splendour of the Sussex South Downs, the estate is being meticulously restored to sensational effect by current owners, the Woolley family. They have skilfully created a tasteful and luxurious, polished yet practical environment, versatile for a wealth of modern day uses while respecting the estate’s heritage.
Old vs Present Gallery
The Great Thatched Barn 1979
Re-thatching of the roof 1949
Re-thatching of the roof 1949
Inside The Great Thatched Barn 1974
Working Farmyard 1974
Falmer Court House 1974
The Great Thatched Barn 2021
The Great Thatched Barn with grounds 2021
Re-thatching of the roof 2020
Inside The Great Thatched Barn 2021
The Great Thatched Barn and yard 2021
Falmer Court House 2021
Falmer Court Estate comprises of acres of fertile farmland and 18th Century Falmer Court House, with its exceptional formal parterre gardens. But arguably, it is the remarkable mid-13th Century Great Thatched Barn which takes centre stage.
Known as a tithe barn – a type of barn used in the Middle Ages for storing rents and tithes (one tenth of a farm’s produce was given to the church) monks from the local Lewes parish used to store sheaves of corn and crops in the barn back in the day.
Reputed to be one of the largest in the British Isles, Falmer Court’s Great Thatched Barn is constructed from reliably robust solid oak, where many of the huge timbers were repurposed from 13th Century decommissioned naval ships.
Flint-faced and with an enormous, endless thatched roof, this historic treasure of a building has been lovingly restored through a careful planning and heritage process, making it a wonderfully adaptable venue to host all manner of events, weddings, shoots and film sets.
The Renovation process
Follow our journey of Falmer Court.
From purchasing the estate in 2015, to where it’s at now.
One of the main supporting beams to the south-west corner of the barn had crumbled from its oak base, causing tension over the entire structure to the South side of the barn. Although only a small issue, if left to worsen, we knew the structure and safety of the barn would be at risk!
We have sourced English oak beams, locally (from Lewes,) which match the original materials identically. We used the same oak to replace other areas such as pier and hip joints, complementing the overall feel of the barn and its history.
Additionally, any usable bits of the former oak, we have salvaged, and used in these areas, as well as on the mezzanine balcony for our VIP salon.
Although the vast majority of the the 11,000 square is thatched there is a slate roof to the lower level on the north side. Alongside our re-thatching, we also restored the welsh slate on the north side.
As you can see from the images below, several of the tiles were broken or dirty and aged.
The roof was first stripped, and oak timbers were meticulously repaired and restored, as well as adding insulation and oak weather proofing.
We also wanted to restore the slates back to their former glory, to ensure a the barn remains looking spectacular in the long term.
First, we removed all 6,000 of the tiles and cleaned up 4,500 that remained un-broken. This meant we could re-use 75% of the original tiles.
We sourced identical Welsh slate tiles form the local area, and that identically matched the originals.
The roof is now sound and secure and matches the oak cladding and thatch above it.
Our Great Thatched Barn at Falmer Court has been having a re-thatch through the early months of 2020. Keeping the historical and original look and feel of the Barn was imperative to the conservation and natural beauty of the area, so we called upon South Down Master Thatchers for their expertise. David Henton of South Down Master Thatchers advised we use specialist water reed to re-thatch the barn, restoring it’s natural beauty.
The work has taken 5 months to cover the 11,000 square foot roof space. The team has been incredible with offering us advice on keeping the thatch clean and at its best condition. We look forward to seeing the The Great Thatched Barn at Falmer in all of its beauty soon and sharing it with you on here!
Throughout Autumn and Winter 2020, we have finished renovating the Studio Office, to be used as a working space for the studio team at The Great thatch barn.
The impressive, traditional brick flooring, was lifted, cleaned and dry stored, whilst damp proofing and insulation were added.
We restored and treated the original bricks used for the floor of the office, before re-laying them in their original position, with the final look in-keeping with the history of the barn and creating a herringbone feature out of the original flooring, and adding a border using flint collected from the grounds of Falmer court.
The original flint walls were also cleaned and rescued from damp by removing old render, and residue, to not only protect the stones, but also to feature the spectacular interior of the building.
The iron spiral staircase leading up to the mezzanine level was treated and re-painted to appear as striking as when it was first fitted.
Finally, we treated and restored the ceiling beams, installing insulation and cladding to fit LED sustainable spotlights into the ceiling.
Over 2018-2019, we have landscaped a Formal Garden infant of the main house at Falmer Court. Falmer court resident gardener and landscaper, Noel, carefully designed the site to include classic geometry patterns, elegance and traditional British plants.
In order to celebrate the British Countryside, buxus and yew bushes were used. With a water feature standing proudly in the middle, a focal point for inspiration. Mark Woolley, owner and resident of Falmer Court describes the new garden as, “An English Oasis, and somewhere to really get the feel of what Falmer court is about”
There have been many stages to the project, each important parts of the development. We began by digging out the area and preparing the soil in order. Next, we enjoyed laying the design and finalising plans, rolling out the grass and planting the bushes and flowers. Finally, the installation of the water fountain will finish the project.
By spring, the formal gardens will be a haven of flowering plants. An important part of the Falmer Estate eco-system, and an inspiration to guests and visitors to Falmer Court.