This is the oldest section of Great Dixter Manor and as you can see it tips to the left!
All great manors have a fascinating story to tell and Great Dixter is no exception. Nathanial Lloyd, born in Manchester, made his fortune when he founded his own color printing firm in 1893. In 1905, he married Daisy Field and rented a manor home in Rye where Nathanial could play golf on the weekends. He became so successful in his business, that by 1909, he was able to retire and devoted himself to golf and his passion for shooting. Nathanial and Daisy began to look for an old house to buy and they purchased Dixter, (a manor completed by the end of the Middle Ages), and its immediate grounds and farm buildings in May, 1910, for six thousand pounds, and the manor was re-named Great Dixter.
Lloyd hired Sir Ernest George as his architect, but soon realized that the apprentice to George, Edwin Lutyens, was the man to complete his manor. Lutyens wanted to enlarge or adapt existing buildings by using local materials and build on existing traditions. He drew up plans which consisted of the mid-15th century original home and added additions to it, by bringing a yeoman’s house from Benenden. He then added another addition to the house in 1912. So the manor then consisted of three houses, beautifully connected together. Lutyens admired the work of Gertrude Jekyll, who had a reputation for complimenting the grounds of the manors to the garden, which was a new approach to the English Garden. The ideas of Jekyll led Lutyens to design an English Garden for Great Dixter. Lutyens went on designing and building to become “the greatest British architect of the twentieth (or of any other) century.”
This was the ” Yeoman’s House” moved from Benenden, seventeen miles away! I don’t think I could have had that big of imagination! How could the combining of the houses work? The Yeoman’s House was literally falling down!
Nathaniel and Daisy Lloyd raised six children at Great Dixter where they all developed a lasting attachment to the house and a deep knowledge of the garden. One of the bathrooms still has the pencil marks on a wall, recording their increasing height year by year. Selwyn (1909-35), the eldest child, went into the family business, but died at a young age from TB; Oliver (1911-85), whose second Christian name Cromwell spoke of Daisy’s ancestral connections, became a medical doctor and academic; Patrick (1913-56) was a professional soldier and died on active service in the Middle East; Quentin (1916-95) served as the estate manager for Great Dixter for many years; Letitia (1919-74) trained as a nurse; Christopher (1921-2006), the youngest child, was born in the north bedroom of the Lutyens wing and for the rest of his life Dixter was his home.
With the renovations and extension complete by 1912, Great Dixter was a large and comfortable family home. Central heating and electric lighting were installed from the onset and there was a domestic staff of five or more, including a chauffeur, a cook, two housemaids and a nursery maid. Outside staff included nine gardeners. For four years during the First World War, part of the house became a hospital and a total of 380 wounded soldiers passed through the temporary wards created in the Great Hall. In the Second War, Dixter housed evacuee boys from September 1939 until it was decided that they should go further west and away from the path of enemy aircraft.
After Nathaniel’s death in 1933, Daisy was in control until her death in 1972. Her contribution to the garden was most evident in the wild flower meadows, but her passion for all things plant related was as extensive as it was infectious. She was a determinedly energetic lady, an accomplished cook and brilliant embroiderer, who, having taken to wearing Austrian peasant costume, became an eccentric figure on the local scene. Christopher Lloyd, exceptional gardener and writer of gardening books, was the last Lloyd to occupy the manor and it was left to a charitable trust upon his death in 2006.
Part of the manor is open, but no photography is allowed inside!
But we did manage a photo of the garden from the window!
We took many photos of the gardens around various out buildings such as the oasts, which were restored in 2012.
This was one of the meadows. I just couldn’t get wrapped up in it though. I didn’t like the formal topiaries mixed in with the meadow. I would have preferred all lawn around these, but they didn’t ask me.
I think they were undecided too!
Flowers, flowers everywhere!
The Loggia…….with more flowers and plants……
I hope you enjoyed the history of Great Dixter! There is a lot to explore here, so we’ll meet up with you again tomorrow! Enjoy!