An Ipswich Society outing, 13 June 2017
Sissinghurst began to be settled by the Anglo-Saxons who fed their pigs on the local acorns. A small, moated manor house was built in medieval times when the affluent and ambitious Sir Richard Baker, from Cranbrook, came into possession in the mid-1500s. He created a Prodigy House (the Tower was its central point) surrounded by a large deer-park. As so often happens, this brief glory had its day, decay set in and it all ended up a ‘ruin': most of the buildings went and the deer-park reverted to farmland.
In 1930 Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson bought the run-down estate and set about creating the gardens. In their partnership Harold did the planning and Vita did the planting; everywhere there is a contrast between his orderliness and her extravagance. There are five garden ‘rooms' round the Tower, all different, all coming into their own at different times. On our visit the roses were at their peak and a glorious sight it was. Beyond is a large orchard bordered on two sides by the moat.
From the 1560s Tower there is a marvellous view of the estate and the Kentish Weald. Vita's writing-room on the first floor is viewable, just as she left it. The room above houses a printing-press given to Vita by Leonard Woolf, founder of the Hogarth Press. Virginia Woolf was one of Vita's female lovers - there were quite a few - and Harold had his male lovers.
Sissinghurst is an experience not to be missed; no words can convey its magic - we were so lucky with the weather. A coachful of members thank Lois and Chris Terry for organising this marvellous outing.