Fairlight Hall is a Victorian house built in the Gothic style. Situated on the hills at Fairlight it has stunning views across the valley to the sea. Dungeness can be seen on the horizon and the cliffs at Dover on a clear day.

Completed in 1855, to designs by John Crake, a pupil of Decimus Burton, ‘The Hall’, as it was first known, was built by William Drew Lucas Shadwell (ne Stent) who was born in Tillington, near Petworth, in 1817. He inherited his fortune from his Hastings-born uncle, William Lucas Shadwell. Shadwell senior was a prominent lawyer and developer in Hastings who helped finance the town’s first bank and hospital as well as the building of the seafront neo–classical church and crescent, St. Mary’s in the Castle.

Today Fairlight Hall is a private family home and rarely open to the public. There is little information readily available about the history of the garden. However a walk around the estate (currently around 80 acres, or 32 hectares) shows some remnants of the 19th century plantings. When the current owners purchased the house in 2002 most of the pleasure gardens and some of the woodland had become overwhelmed with Rhododendron ponticum.

The owners are working with Head Gardener, Tony Howard, to re-establish a garden on the estate as well as to bring the walled garden back into production. Tony Howard will give us an introduction to the garden and show us around the grounds. Replanting of the Long Border and HaHa Border began in earnest in 2006 and the Tropical Border in 2007. Whilst very much a ‘work in progress’, there is much to see.

The reconstruction and redesign of the walled garden began in 2006 and was completed in 2008. It has been rebuilt on the original footprint using the existing brickwork at the base of the walls. The contemporary design by Suzanne Watson is based on a painting by the modernist artist Vasily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944) and provides a garden that can produce fruit, vegetables and flowers for the house as well as a concert space.

The visit will finish with tea and cake in the walled garden.