“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 name Parham (the "par" is pronounced like the "par" in parrot) is thought to derive from the Old English "perham", a compound word meaning "pear enclosure".
The land was granted by King Henry VIII to Robert Palmer of Henfield, and on 28th January 1577 the foundation stone of the current House was laid by his two-year-old grandson Thomas, a custom thought to bring good luck. When he grew up, Thomas sold Parham to Thomas Bishopp, whose descendants lived here for eleven generations until 1922, when it was sold to the Hon. Clive and Alicia Pearson.
Clive Pearson was the second son of Weetman Dickinson Pearson, 1st Viscount Cowdray. He married Alicia Knatchbull-Hugessen, daughter of 1st Lord Brabourne. They fell in love with Parham as soon as they saw it.
The House was in a very bad state of repair, and the Pearsons employed the architect Victor Heal to supervise renovation works during the 1920s and 1930s. Everything was done with the greatest care and sensitivity, with minute attention to detail and historical accuracy.
During the Second World War, the Pearsons took in many friends and relations, as well as 30 evacuee children from London. Canadian soldiers were based on the Estate from 1942 to the end of the war, with the officers based in the half of the House now open to visitors. In 1948 the Pearsons opened Parham to the public. They were amongst the first to do so regularly in the post-war years. Their daughter Veronica Tritton welcomed and continued this tradition until she died in 1993.
Parham, its beautiful gardens and its 875-acre estate are now owned by a Charitable Trust and Mrs Tritton's great-niece Lady Emma Barnard and her family live here. They are involved with every aspect of its care and preservation, and Parham is still very much a family home.
A precious collection
The Pearsons spent more than 40 years filling Parham with a sensitively chosen collection of furniture, paintings, books, textiles and clocks. They also acquired interesting items which had once been at Parham or had a historical or family association with the House. The portraits are particularly notable, and there are many very fine rugs and carpets.
Alicia Pearson was a skilled needlewoman, and she created at Parham one of the finest and most important collections of early needlework in the country.
Needlework & Tapestry
The range of objects embraces an unparalleled group of Stuart embroidered pictures and panels, covers for furniture, room hangings, bed hangings of the most remarkable quality, a royal saddle, samplers and many other items executed by both amateur and professional embroiderers.
In addition to the seventeenth-century collection, representative examples of the work for the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries are also to be found throughout the House. The collection is complemented by the many portraits, whose sitters show off a wealth of needlework detail in their splendid clothing.
In the 1940s, Alicia Pearson insisted on having flowers all through the House for the enjoyment of visitors. We still follow this tradition, and sometimes as many as thirty buckets of flowers and greenery are brought in for arranging. No flowers are ever bought, and the arrangements, done 'the Parham way', harmonise with the colours in the rooms.