n the 19th Century, Augustus Hare, a writer, acquired Holmhurst in Baldslow, Sussex, and made many improvements to the property and its extensive grounds.


With the proceeds of his travel books on Italy, France, Spain and Scandinavia, Augustus Hare built improvements to Holmhurst St Mary, in Sussex, within view of the Channel, making these additions both Italian and Pre-Raphaelite. Augustus Hare not only wrote but illustrated his own travel books, the finest of which is Florence. And he drew images of his dream house as it became reality.

We give here some of his own descriptions, in word and image, of his Sussex Holmhurst.

First, he had planted the Yew tree, then a Ravenna pine and a Monkeypuzzle. In our day only the Yew tree still stood. At the bottom of the garden he planted beech trees, one green, one copper beech which grew to immense sizes by our day.

He writes 15 July 1876:

The intense freshness of the air, the glory of the flowers, the deep blue sea beyond our upland hayfields, and the tame doves cooing in the copper beech-tree, are certainly a refreshing contrast to London.

On 27 November 1887:

I am greatly enjoying a little solitude in this time so congenial for hard work, when all nature seems wrapped in a swampy mistcloud. there are great improvements in the garden. Along that little upper walk to the field, where the frames were, is now a rockery with rare heaths, and behind it a bed of kalmias, and then the cypress hedge and my especial little garden. Rock and fern are also put on the steep descent to the pond, opposite the line of tree-fuschias.

15 August 1889:

I wish you were here this morning. A delicate haze softens the view of the distant sea, sprinkled with the vessels, and the castle-rock rises up pink-grey against it. Far overhead, the softest of white clouds float in the blue ether. In the meadows, where the cows are ringing their Swiss bells, the old oak-trees, are throwing long deep shadows across lawns of the most emerald green, and the flower-beds and the terrace borders are brimming with the most brilliant flowers, over which whole battalions of butterflies and bees are floating and buzzing; the little pathlet at the side winds with enticing shadows under the beech-trees, whilst the white marble Venetian well, covered with delicate sculpture of vines and pomegranates, standing on the little grassy platform, makes a point of refinement which accentuates the whole. Selma steals lazily round the corner to see if she can catch a bird, but finds it quite too hot for the exertion; and Rollo raises himself now and then carelessly ro snap at a fly. The doves are cooing on the ledge of the rof, and the pigeons are collecting on the smokeless chimneys. Upstairs Mrs Whitford and Anne are dusting and laughing over their work, with the windows wide open above the ivied verandah, and Rogers is planting out a box of sweet-scented tobacco plants which has come by the post. Such is little Holmhurst on an August morning.

Originally Augustus Hare had brought back this well head back from Venice,
then proceeded to build the lovely Renaissance terrace with it placed in its centre.


29 September 1898:

The building and changes here go on well, but very slowly, a result of having the work done with my own stone, and as much as possible by the men of our village. I think all will look well in the end. Not a chair or a book will be moved from the older part of the house, consecrated by my mother's memory, but room will be given for the many things connected with Esmeralda, which I bought back at Sir Edward Paul's sale, and, if I survive her, for many precious pieces of furniture, pictures, prints, and books from Norwich which Mrs Vaughan says that she has left me. Where you will remember a steep grass bank, there is now a double stone terrrace with vases and obelisks, and luxuriant beds of brilliant flowers edged with stone, copied as a whole from the Italian Villa Lante near Viterbo. At the end are a staircase and gateway to the Solitude, the 'Ave-Vale Gate', with 'Ave' on the outside and 'Vale' within. The AVE-VALE GATE is a reproduction of the one at the old house at Stebbington in Huntingdonshire.


Cypresses are growing up beside it to enhance the impression of Italy, which is further carried out in a widening staircase from the centre of the terrace, with lead vases on the piers [since sold off by the Sisters], copied in design and proportions from one at the Villa Arson near Nice. Just now, in this hot noonday, the gorgeous flowers against the stone parapet, and background of brown-green ilex and blue-green pine are really very Italian, while below in the meadows all is as English as it can be, the cows feeding in the rich grass, the heavy rounded masses of oak foliage, and the misty sea asleep in the motionless heat.

Elsewhere he wrote:

The enlargement of the house involved a larger terrace and I was able to use plans and measurements made several years before in the glorious garden of the Lante family at the Villa Bagnaja near Viterbo. The low panelled wall perplexingly unnecessary to English masons is after the Villa Bagnaja and the size of the obelisks and the ornaments on their base is the same as that of those made for Cardinal Lante.


Originally Augustus Hare had brought back this well head from Venice, then proceeded to build the lovely Renaissance terrace placing it there.

In the centre is an early VENETIAN FONT or WELL HEAD which came from one of the houses pulled down when the new street was made from S. Moise to S. Marco. It is not later than 12th century. The steps on which it stands were made with the terrace and they were not finished before I began to plant secums, veronicas, etc., in their interstices. In front a flight of widening steps leads to the lawn and was copied as a whole from a staircase at the Villa Arson near Nice. Hence I call them the ARSON STEPS. The two stone vases on the centre of the steps were made for me - copied from those on the tomb of the Duke of Buckingham in Westminster Abbey. The ARSON STEPS are not merely curved but waved like the waves of the sea, the stones at the bend of the curve being made to project on both sides at the same angle. The parapet follows a wider curve of its own. Each step is paved with Sussex pebbles in a different pattern very visible after rain but the top step is inlaid with bits of marble from the Roman Palace of the Caesars and mosaics from the Temple of Juno at Gabii and the Palace of Commodus on the Appian Way.



A pretty bit of wall with an arched door was moved stone by stone further down the terrace. On the outside of this door are two statues which we call St Oswald and St Cuthbert though some think they are Henry II and Thomas Becket, which came from the ancient church of All Hallows, Barking.


The main gable of the terrace front is adapted from a house in the village of Painswick in Gloucestershire, the frame is from an old house in Venice and the monogram A.J.C.H. contained within it was designed at Holmhurst by an old friend. The SUNDIAL was made from my design. In the upper part is the word 'Irrevocable'; in the lower the French motto, 'C'est l'heure de bien faire'. We found it impossible to set this sundial exactly when it arrived and had to send for an expert from London to do it. It only serves its purpose in the morning, the sun goes off that wall after noonday.

The windows downstairs are of Utopia, upstairs of Salem

The windows, downstairs, are of Arcadia, upstairs, of Beulah.

The inscription over the porch, 'PAX INTRANTIBUS, SALUS EXEUNTIBUS, BENEDICTIO HABITANTIBUS', was adapted from that over the portal of Douglas Castle. The patron saints, Cuthbert and Cecilia, my third name being Cuthbert and my Mother's birthday on St Cecilia's Day) - were carved by Farman & Brindley. The PORCH itself gave me more trouble architecturally than any other part of the building, the space from which it was to project being too small to allow of its being effective. The difficulty was overcome by the buttresses which give a false breadth to the front, which the niches and statues - by withdrawing attention - are adapted to conceal.


The statue of Queen Anne is the famous statue which formerly stood in front of St Paul's Cathedral at the head of Ludgate Hill. It is said that there was a great feeling about a Protestant sovereign (not a Stuart prince) coming to the throne, it was subscribed for by all the Protestant princes of Europe to be unveiled on the Coronation of Queen Anne. Anyway, it is the work of Bird, the most illustrious sculptor of Queen Anne's reign, celebrated for the beautiful monument of Dean Vincent in Westminster Abbey. The charlatan sculptor, Belt, went to the city council and said, 'Your Queen Anne has lost many fingers and fragments, you had better let me make another copy. I will do it very cheaply.' And Belt was allowed to make his stone copy and put it up, and the Carrara marble statue of the Queen and her four attendant ladies disappeared suddenly in the night, vanished into space leaving no trace behind.

For two years I hunted Queen Anne. No one, Deans, Canons, officials, no one had any idea what had become of her. At last, my friend, Lewis Gilbertson, walking near the Vauxhall Bridge Road and seeing a curious mound in a mason's yard asked what it was. The owner said, 'There is a ladder. You can go and see'. He went and in a pit he saw the five statues. 'It is a great pity', said the mason, 'but they are to be sold in a few days to sculptors for the weight of the marble and will all be destroyed'. But an investigation was made, it was found they had never belonged to the City Council at all, and that it had had no right to give any orders concerning them. They belonged to three persons - the Bishop of London, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Mayor. I flew to Fulham and the Bishop gave me his share, then to Lambeth and the Archbishop not only gave me his share but said, 'And I will tackle the Lord Mayor'. Then I got the secretary of the South East Company to come and see the statues and make an estimate for their removal, but he said, 'It is no use talking about it for the statue of the Queen could not go under any of our tunnels!' 'But she could lie down'. - 'No, she cannot lie down, she has too much train'. However, eventually, a plan was contrived by which the Queen leant forward and she eventually arrived at Holmhurst with four trucks, four trollies, sixteen men and twenty-eight horses. Each of the four ladies sat in a separate wagon and a strange procession they made. The Queen weighs seven tons, each of the ladies four tons. We could not move the London pedestal which was only a shell filled with rubble and rubbish. The present pedestal is an exact copy of it, with one step less and was made of the stone from our quarry. The pedestal and the removal of the statues cost £400: the Queen's railway ticket was £50. The attendant ladies are: Britannia, Ireland, the American Colonies and France - for English sovereigns did not give up their claim to French royalty until the Georges.

When the statues first arrived, we had made them quite perfect and all the missing members replaced, but winters' storms have worn all the reproductions away and only the original marble remains. The Queen has now lost both her arms; fragments of them, her orb and sceptre, are in the verandah of the house. Ireland is far the best of the statues; she formerly held a harp. The American Colony statue is almost wholly undraped; a little beast of Lizard type creeps from behind her feet which rest upon the gory head of an enemy.
See also Anthony McIntosh:


ENTRANCE HALL [ARCADIA]: Three panes of coloured glass in door leading to the verandah, from Hersmonceux Castle. One said to represent a Lady Dacre, was given to me as a boy by Uncle Julius. The other - the wolfdogs with T.D. for Thomas, Lord Dacre, and Lukas with the emblem of St Luke - from the Castle Chapel were in the staircase window at Lime. They were given to me by our successor at Lime because he was going to destroy that window.

  Detail with Arcadia's stained glass


CARVED CANOPY: with sculpture of a boar hunt, from Baynard's Castle in Surrey. The brackets do not belong but were picked up in London.

CEILING BEAMS: covered with carvings from Baynard's which I bought in for £90 when it was sold by my cousin, Thomas Thurlow. The last beam (from the old chapel at Baynard's) has the head of St John Baptist. At the end of the passage are some very beautiful PANELS, with representations of children, goats, etc., almost as fine as intaglios. Of the lower panels on the walls those with a napkin pattern come from Baynard's and date from Henry II. Some richly carved ones come from Wells, others from a destroyed house at Bristol. The round pilasters at the angles and eight plain oak panels near the door formed the old pulpit of Winchelsea Church, turned out of the building in 1898 and taken to the cellar of the Rectory whence I bought them - the Winchelsea sounding board is worked in with the rest. WINDOW SEAT: end carving from Baynard's. CHIMNEY PIECE: bought from an old house in Great St Helen's, Bishopsgate. The stone part of the chimney piece was always at Holmhurst. The three figures at the top come from Baynard's and were added to the Great St Helen's mantelpiece. BRACKETS OF ARCH: from an Indian mosque at Ahmedabad.

THE GREAT PARLOUR [UTOPIA]: The door frame from a house in Walbrook. The DOOR (at least the outer panels) belonged to an Indian Mosque and was carved by Mohammed Bahab and Lunna, natives of Bhara in the Punjab and was bought on the breaking up of the Indian Exhibition in 1896 for £19.8.6. The CHIMNEY PIECE came from an old Venetian palace and was bought through an antiquary in 1893. It is of hard stone known as Istrian marble. The inner fireplace is lined with slices of common roofing tiles placed edgeways. I took the idea from a fireplace I once saw at Chawton in Hampshire. The CEILING is copied from one in the fine old Feathers Inn at Ludlow. OLD ENGLISH FIRE DOGS from a manor farm at Sidley Green, probably originally from Herstmonceux Castle. WINDOW SEAT: heavy carved baluster ends from Baynard's Castle.

Augustus Hare added to Utopia a splendid William Morris wallpaper, still intact when I was a six-year old school girl being taught by Sister Veronica in WWII. The white marble of the fireplace, the white ornamental plastered ceiling and the black oak of the window seat and door contrasted beautifully with it.


In my day these stair rails still existed.

In the dormitory room we called Hebron up these steps Augustus Hare had his library, making its floor sag.


When the Trust had Holmhurst subdivided they had all the fireplaces ripped out. Singleheart, for instance, had seventeenth-century blue and white tiles surrounding its fireplace, while Utopia's was made of Istrian marble, beautifully setting off the William Morris wall-paper..



Before we had lived long at Holmhurst we made over a bit of land to my dear mother-like nurse, Mary Lea, that she might build a house to which she could retire when she chose, and we gave her stone from our quarry for the purpose . . . I made the plans and designs, with step gables or 'crowsteps', such as we had seen in old houses in Scotland. When finished, the house was comfortably let to an old lady for £40 a year . . . but after my mother's death the very sight of the house made Lea miserable. She fancied that my Penrhyn and Stanley cousins would think she ought to go and live in it it, that she was too old for service, etc., and at last I bought it back from her, paying all that had been laid out on it and used it from that time for receiving friends whose very small incomes would not otherwise have allowed them to have a long stay in the country. This was the origin of the HOSPICE and many and various have been the persons it has received - generally the visits - of a month or six weeks - have been a success for me as well as for the 'Hospitallers'.

In response to this essay letters have come from several Augustus Hare collectors, including the following, given below with his permission,

Dear Julia Bolton Holloway,

My name is Niclas Wallin, I´m a Swedish antiquarian book dealer who is very interested in Augustus Hare. In 1994 I bought his Walks in Rome, 1 week before going to Rome. I knew nothing about him then. Since then I have collected and read many of his books, and I have done some research as well. I have been to our Royal Palace here in Stockholm and the King let me read letters from Augustus to our King Gustav V, whom he taught both English and French during a stay in Rome in 1879 I think!
I have also had some help from Princess Orietta Pogson Doria Pamphilj in Rome, she let me use her archive. I have yet to contact Fondazione Caetani in Rome and look for more material there.

Now, when searching the Internet, I stumbled across your web page with material on Holmhurst, a place which I have of course read of in The Story of My Life, as well as in his last will, which I have found with the help of a professional.

I would like to visit Hurstmonceaux as well as Holmhurst sometime and maybe you could give me directions whom I should contact before going to England, so that I could make a proper visit?

If you could help me with some directions I would be very grateful indeed!

Yours sincerely,

Niclas S Wallin

Tegnérg. 10, 113 58 STOCKHOLM, Sweden
Phone: +46 8 673 27 37 Fax: +46 8 34 14 19

Open Monday - Friday 12.00 - 18.00 Saturday 12.00 - 15.00


Email: (shop) or (home)

Out-of-Print Books, International Booksearch.

To whom I had to sadly say that Holmhurst is now sold off by the Mother Agnes Trust to a developer to be subdivided into luxury apartments. We had offered to buy it from the Trust, whose stated purpose was to continue the Library, in order to so continue the Holmhurst Theological Library and the Community of the Holy Family's work of education and prayer, as a retreat house, ecumenically. But were rebuffed.

Hurstmonceaux is directly on the railroad line between Gatwick and Hastings. For Holmhurst, from the Hastings or St Leonards train station, one goes up on the Ridge to Conquest Hospital, built on land once owned by Augustus Hare and then by the Community of the Holy Family. Holmhurst St Mary is behind the stone wall at its side and it faces onto the sea. Beyond its buildings are the statue of Queen Anne and the graveyard for the Anglican Sisters of the Community of the Holy Family. Please lay flowers on the graves of Mothers Agnes, Muriel, Gwendolyn, Sisters Barbara, Catherine, Christine, Edith, Eileen, Florence, Helen, Joan, Lucy, Margaret, Mary, Mary Frances, Phyllis, Valerie, Veronica, in my name.

I have now received a request for information concerning the painter of these two paintings by a friend of Augustus Hare, one of his Ave Vale Gate, the other of an unidentified monastery in Liguria. Can anyone tell us more about her and these?


Go to Holmhurst St Mary and Community of the Holy Family (

See also Family and School Albums:


Poems Pennyeach; Mosaic; Family Album; Halbert Harold Holloway, The Woman, the Sun, the Flowers and the Courage; Sir James Roberts; My England (in progress); Jonathan Luke Holloway, Home Birth Can Be An Option; Holmhurst St Mary; Mother Agnes Mason, C.H.F.; Deaf/Death; David and Solomon; How to Make Cradles and Libraries; Hazel Oddy, Martha's Supplication; Tangled Tale; Oliveleaf Chronicle


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