This property is part of our Historic Hotels series, which features Harper hotels and resorts that began as private homes to the world’s famous—industry pioneers, authors, real estate magnates and, yes, even a dictator.
This alluring manor house, built in 1598, is buried deep in the tranquil West Sussex countryside, some 33 miles south of London. For the great Irish landscape gardener William Robinson, Gravetye Manor became more than just a home; it was a place to plant his legacy. In 1884, Robinson purchased the almost 300-year-old Elizabethan manor and the surrounding land to further establish his philosophy on the enduring beauty of natural gardening, made famous in his seminal books such as Wild Garden.
During his years at Gravetye, Robinson commuted by steam train to London and was often seen throwing bluebell bulbs from the carriage window in late autumn. For this detail, the train is today known as The Bluebell Railway. “There is a special connection between Gravetye and the Bluebell Railway,” says Celine Leslie, sales and marketing manager at Gravetye. “Sometimes when I’m out in the garden I can clearly hear the train, gently chugging away through the valley. On those days it feels that very little has changed in the last 100 years.” In the 50 years Robinson spent at Gravetye, he oversaw many traditions, including the welcoming of local schoolchildren to his home on his birthday. The children would dance on the long lawn that is now the manor’s croquet ground before being served a fine tea. Robinson died in 1935, but his majestic gardens have been scrupulously preserved.