What to See
The House is entered through Fountain Court to the right of the old Water Tower. On the left hand side lies the north front of the House, behind a Gothic screen wall dating from the mid 19th century. The first entrance leads into the Kitchen Court Yard. A little further on stands the main entrance porch and front door, transferred here from the south side of the house during the early 19th century.
The Great Hall
The magnificent Great Hall is the heart of Parham House, with its tall mullioned windows overlooking the South Downs. The early English furniture includes a draw-leaf table with fine Elizabethan “melon-bulb” legs and a 400 year old Narwhal tusk in its original case. A very fine portrait collection of notable Elizabethans and Jacobean royalty hangs here, including a magnificent portrait by Robert Peake of Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, riding a white horse.
The Great Parlour
The ceiling in this room had been removed in 1790 to make it as high as the Great Hall. Clive Pearson replaced it in 1935 to re-create the Great Chamber above, and commissioned Esmond Burton to do the intricate plasterwork by hand.
The 17th century needlework fills this room with colour. A picture of Charles I’s great warship “The Sovereign of the Seas” hangs over the fireplace, with portraits of Charles I by Mytens, Susan Villiers by William Larkin and Elizabeth of Bohemia by Paul van Somer.
This room was originally a woodstore, with doors leading to all parts of the house. In 1790 it was remodelled elegantly in cream and gold by the 12th Lord Zouche. The dessert service on the Regency breakfast table is by Barr, Flight and Barr, a wedding present to Lord Zouche’s son Cecil who died in the American War in 1813 and is buried near the Niagara Falls. The two views of London are by William James in the style of Canaletto.
The Great Chamber
Originally one of the principal reception rooms for the Elizabethan family, the Great Chamber was remodelled to become Alicia Pearson’s bedroom. The Great Bed was a wedding present to the Pearsons from the 1st Viscountess Cowdray. The needlework on its canopy, headboard, backcloth and bedspread dates from 1585 and was probably commissioned by Marie de Medici, sister-in-law to Mary Queen of Scots. Its curtains, pelmets and valances were worked in flame stitch embroidery in about 1620.
The West Room
This room is hung with portraits of ancestors of the Byshopp family. A double portrait over the chimney piece is by Sir Peter Lely of Sir Ralph Assheton and his wife Elizabeth. She ran away from him, and after her return he had this picture altered to show him holding a lock of her hair, with his foot on her dress.
The 16th century Italian wool wall hangings are very rare, and the earliest known examples of flame stitch in England.
The Green Ante Room
Almost everything in this room is 17th century, including one of the earliest surviving examples of needlework carpets. On the walls hang some Hungarian Point needlework curtains.
The portrait of Charles is painted by Verelst , surrounded by two of his mistresses, Barbara Villiers and Louise de Kerouaille, and his wife, Catherine of Braganza, painted by Lely.
The Green Room
This room has as its centre the great botanist, Sir Joseph Banks, to whom Alicia Pearson was related. One of the globes on display is dedicated to Banks. The south coast of Australia is missing, as it had not been charted at the time!
The portrait of Omiah, the first South Sea Islander to visit Europe, is said to be by James Northcote. Thomas Gainsborough painted the portrait of Major Norton Knatchbull in his military uniform, and his niece, Joan Knatchbull, is by George Romney.
There are also two paintings of a kangaroo and a dingo dog, which are exceptionally good copies of the originals by George Stubbs that used to be on loan to Parham. These copies are by the artist Ying Yang by kind permission of the owners of the originals.
The Long Gallery
This spectacular room runs the entire length of the House. It is 160 feet long, the third longest Long Gallery in England, and would have been used for entertaining, recreation and even military exercise – the Parham Troop of Yeomanry was drilled here in the days of the Napoleonic Wars.
The ceiling was designed by Oliver Messel and completed in 1968, the Pearsons’ twentieth century contribution to the old house.
The Long Gallery contains a wonderful variety of furniture, needlework, pictures, antiquities and objets d’art.
The White Room
Just off the Long Gallery, this room contains Parham’s important collection of rare Stuart needlework pictures and a little bed holding a mid-Victorian wax baby in 18th century robes.
The Ship Room
So-called because of the plasterwork ship over the fireplace, the Ship Room holds a permanent exhibition about life at Parham from 1922, when Mr and Mrs Pearson (above) bought it, to 1948, when they opened it to the public.
Wherever you go throughout the house you’ll find lovely arrangements of cut flowers, chosen to complement the furnishings in each of the rooms. All of the flowers are grown in the Walled Garden.
"There are many old and historic houses now opening their doors for the first time to the public, but none, I believe, holds safe within its walls a more enchanted atmosphere, a greater peace and kindliness, distilled perhaps from all the centuries it has outlived"
The Hon Mrs Clive Pearson