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Unique history

 

The estate that you can visit in 2019 results from over 200 years of love, care and investment.

The unique beauty of the gardens and woodland areas was produced through the most careful and expert selection and planting - to present today a mature majesty and splendid spring display that results from two centuries’ of nurturing by dedicated gardeners and horticultural specialists.

It all started when Charles II granted the land of St Leonards Forest to his physician, Sir Edward Greaves. Ownership passed from him to the Aldridge family.

Up until the 19th century, Lower Beeding was largely unpopulated and lawless; the forest was reputed to be a meeting place for smugglers.

The area became more respectable when prosperous families moved there, drawn by the pleasant scenery and views of the South Downs. In 1801, some 400 hectares of the Aldridge estate in the south of the parish were sold to Charles George Beauclerk. He built a house called St Leonards Lodge on the site and began laying out the gardens and park in 1803.

In 1852 William Egerton Hubbard bought the estate; he built the present mansion and continued to develop the gardens, selling the estate to his future son-in law Sir Edmund Loder.

 

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From 1889 until his death in 1920, Sir Edmund further expanded the gardens and created a large collection of rare wild animals including unusual species of deer, wallabies and a colony of beavers. His son, Robin Loder, took over the management of the estate before putting it up for sale in 2010.

The Mansion is the principal building and is Listed Grade II. It sits on a natural terrace above the steep west side of a valley, commanding impressive views east and south over the gardens to Hogstolt Hill and to the South Downs some 15-25 km distant.

The two-storey Italianate house, built with ashlar and a slate roof, sash windows and an entrance porch supported on four rusticated Tuscan columns, was designed and built from 1853 to 1855 by T. L. Donaldson.

It replaced an earlier, stone-built house on the same site, designed by John Johnson in 1801 for Charles Beauclerk and known as St Leonards Lodge, the name soon being changed to Leonardslee with Donaldson's new house. The present house was reduced in size in 1971 and then renovated and converted to office accommodation by a company that owned the site, Eurotherm International, in 1984.

The present owners acquired the estate in 2017 and are dedicated to restoring, maintaining and further improving the gardens and buildings, so that the public can once again experience their beauty and special qualities.

 

 

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