Nymans Gardens

One of the Great Gardens of the Sussex Weald

Nymans Gardens

Learn the story of the secret garden of the beautiful Sussex Weald. There are romantic ruins, merging with a liveable house surrounded by gently scented magnolias in the springtime. Step into the creation of Messel family, who played, lived and picnicked in the shade of the woodland and pockets of green spaces. 

Discover the garden’s 19th-century roots, rare and exotic plant collections and explore the hidden corners of this beguiling landscape. The Old house deceives the trained eye into thinking it of great antiquity from the late middle ages. But, it is a Victorian revival which was mostly destroyed by fire in 1947, producing part romantic ruin, part house, enveloped by majestic gardens. 

Other fantastic gardens surround Nymans, such as Leonardslee, famous for collections of rhododendrons and the royal botanical gardens at Wakehurst Palace, a Kew Gardens branch. Our Great Gardens of the South features Nymans - we will design a day tour from London to include other places of interests nearby.

Gem of the Sussex Weald

A brief history of Nymans

Fashionable country retreat
It all started with Ludwig Messel (1847-1915), from Germany, but made his money in London as a stockbroker. Like many middle classes of the period, they desired to have a country home close to London to retire and bring his six children up. The Sussex Weald was a fashionable country retreat and Nymans with its 600 acres was ideal. 

The ground was fertile, loam over sandstone, the area attracted gardening fanatics. Ludwig was encouraged by Sir Edmund Loder of Leonardslee Gardens, and gardening writer William Robinson at Gravetye Manor (now a lovely hotel, still with enchanting gardens) encouraged to get creative and make a something special. 

The garden evolves
First fifteen varieties of Pine trees arrived, then a rock garden and the old orchard became the Walled Garden for exotic and tender plants. More than fifty types of magnolia and cherry and eighty species of hybrid rhododendrons. Many of these exotic plants were discovered by the great plant hunter Ernest 'Chinese' Wilson, whose most celebrated discovery is the handkerchief tree. By the way, visitors to RHS Garden Wisley can see stunning examples of these trees. 

Ludwig died in 1915, and his eldest son Leonard and wife Maud Samborne moved in. However, they found the house rather large, unwieldy some would say. Leonard and Maud transformed the house into a mock medieval manor house during the 1920s. Maud planted bulbs were and created the Rose garden with what was then unfashionable 'old roses', Maud's cuttings filled the house was with their potent scent.

Plant hunting
Leonard supported plant hunting trips, and plants arrived from Tasmania and the Andes, some of which were bred at Nymans. Leonard was encouraged to exhibit and which led to awards from the Royal Horticultural Society. 

In 1947 disaster struck, fire swept through the house and destroying a prized botanical library. The partially rebuilt house became the family home of Leonard and Maud's daughter Anne.

Anne was a celebrity in her time and often featured in the media. Anne married Michael, 6th Earl of Rosse and both continued to win gardening awards. In 1953 Leonard Messel bequeathed the garden to the National Trust, and Anne continued to live at the house until her death 1992, aged 90. 

The Great Storm of 1987
The Great Storm of 1987 devastated Britain's population of mature trees. During the night of 15th to 16th October, 1987 wind speeds in Sussex reached over 120 MPH before the failure of the anemometer. It is estimated the storm felled fifteen million trees, including in Kent the six of the famous Seven Oaks of Sevenoaks town. Nymans losing almost 500 mature trees with the original pinetum swiped out. Two great redwoods are probably the sole survivors of the storm. New tree planting began in the 1990s', renewal and life have returned. 

The Garden
There are six hundred acres to explore at Nymans, much of which is a glorious woodland valley with lakes. The garden sits on a fertile ridge in a rectangle shape. There are 17 elements to the garden with a mix of wild, mixed borders, rose, and sunken. Our favourite features are the romantic ruins of the house with traditional yew hedging, and the 150 varieties of the fragrant old fashioned roses in the rose garden. 

Touring and accommodation
Nymans Gardens is and easy day tour from London and can be combined with one other site, for example; Wakehurst Place, Hever Castle, RHS Wisley and Penshurst Palace - there are many options, please contact us for further information. Our suggested Great Gardens of the South itinerary features Nymans, please take a look at the itinerary.

We have a database of luxury Bed and Breakfast and Hotels. The five-star option for the South East of England is South Lodge Hotel and Spa. This hotel is ideal if you wish to tour England's Wine Country, castles and gardens mentioned, and it is only 25 minutes to Gatwick airport and one hour to Heathrow.

If this is your first time to England, we would recommend a custom version of our Town and Country Tour; it covers the famous places and allows you to utilise your private driver-guide by getting-off-the-beaten-path. Our Classic tour of Ireland is a good place to start for the first trip to Ireland, and we suggest the Classic tour of Scotland for your first trip to the bonny Highlands. There is a wide choice of accommodation in the UK; CottagesManor House Hotels and traditional Guest Houses.

Nymans Gardens Gem of the Sussex Weald

Discover a garden full of exotic trees, flowering shrubs and traditional borders

  • Awarding Winning Species of Plants
  • National Trust Property Since 1953
  • Woodland Walks
  • VIP Guided Tours Available
  • 600 Acre Estate to Explore

Help us make your trip exceptional

Our UK, EU and US office-based staff will listen to what you want to see and experience.

Whether you are a honeymoon couple, a family or a corporate incentive group, our team’s collective resources will be brought together to build the experience that’s right for you.

We will require your arrival and departure dates, details of your personal preferences and places that you would like to visit as well as the events you would like to experience.

We will then prepare a draft itinerary and send it to you by email for your approval. Once agreed, we will send you a Booking Confirmation with Personalised Itinerary and Information Pack via email.

Contact information

From the UK: +44(0)20 8669 3666

FREE from Canada or the USA: 1-888-472-1799

Email: [email protected]

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