Yes, really! Some less than generous souls might call this name dropping but I prefer the term linking……
Saint Hill Manor, a late Georgian Sussex sandstone mansion, has had some very interesting owners through its history. The 30-roomed home was built for Gibbs Crawford as a place of “domestic comfort & luxury” and it retains that feel today. It has been beautifully restored and is well worth a visit.
Built in 1792, it was later home to Dr Edgar March Crookshank an assistant of Joseph Lister & governor of the Royal Veterinary College. During WW2 the house was given over to RAF members of the world famous Guinea Pig Club – patients of Sir Archibald McIndoe, who pioneered facial reconstructive surgery.
After the war the house was purchased by the then American ambassador and a full scale renovation was commanded by his wife. Her most intriguing legacy is found in the manor ballroom and comprises of a floor to ceiling four-wall mural of monkeys – different kinds of monkeys enjoying all the fun of a fair – it’s a true delight, I defy anyone to keep a straight face on entering the room! There are 145 monkeys and 20 different species painted by John Spencer Churchill, nephew of Sir Winston. Many of the monkeys represent people known to the artist, “Much as I tried to prevent it happening, the monkeys resemble human beings”. There is even a capuchin monkey artist sporting a panama and cigar – surely a reference to the great man.
The next owner maintained the house as it was, but added to it inspirations of his own, resulting in a marvellous combination of Georgian English oak panelling with eastern marble columns and references to the Koran; for the next owner was none other than the Maharaja of Jaipur. And talking of religion, that brings me to the house’s final owner, Ron Hubbard father of the Scientology religion followed by Tom Cruise amongst many more.
Now where is this glorious pile? East Grinstead in West Sussex, which reminds me of another country house in East Grinstead, previously blogged with some interesting links to the White House . Can I do it…………………? Yes! What links Saint Hill Manor with President Obama well, the White House, anyway? You didn’t get it straight way? It’s just possible, not fully documented but probable, that they shared the same architect, notably Benjamin Henry Latrobe.
Now, how’s that for name dropping?