There is an interesting historical link between Pashley Manor and the Boleyn family.
The original house at Pashley was on the moated island and was probably a hunting lodge. This house was owned at the outset of the Wars of the Roses by Sir Geoffrey Boleyn, Lord Mayor of London in 1457 and great-grandfather of Anne Boleyn. His son, Sir William, and then William’s eldest son, Sir Thomas, who held court at Pashley in 1518, and eventually Sir Thomas’ brother, Sir James Boleyn – uncles to Anne Boleyn, each owned Pashley in turn.
In 1540 the estate was sold to Sir Thomas May, an affluent iron master, who moved the lodge from the moated island and built the house, which still stands today, on higher land just north of the original site.
Today the 1550 house retains its Tudor front and has a Georgian addition at the back, which acts as a backdrop to the gardens and is covered with a magnificent wisteria. There is a sculpture of Anne Boleyn, by eminent Sussex sculptor Philip Jackson, situated on the moated island where the hunting lodge used to be.
It is difficult to realise today how wild and out of control the grounds surrounding Pashley were on the arrival of the Sellick family in 1981. They consisted of only a small formal area to the west of the house, a sloping lawn to the moat and, of course, the many mature trees and rhododendrons you see today. Sadly over one thousand trees were lost from the estate in the 1987 hurricane, however, this was a blessing in disguise since it opened up much finer views over the surrounding rolling terrain.
The series of picturesque and wild linked waterways seemed to constantly empty themselves. The old Walled Garden contained, beneath the brambles, weeds, tall grasses and nettles, nothing but tumbled down greenhouses and collapsed cold frames; all dominated beyond the wall by large conifers grown for a long past Christmas market. Very gradually, with help, enthusiasm and encouragement from the eminent landscape architect and author, the late Anthony du Gard Pasley, an old friend of the Sellicks’, a garden with great potential was uncovered and has become one of the handsomest landscapes in Sussex – recognised after 20 years in 1999 when the Historic Houses Association and Christie’s voted Pashley ‘Garden of the Year’.
There is evidence of gardening at Pashley from the 16th Century. The Walled Garden was completed in 1720 and is historically listed in its own right. It was one of the first things to be re-planned and replanted in 1982. In 1987 the South West lawn was ploughed up and the slope re-shaped in order to reveal a flash of water from the back of the house. The terrace was levelled, and is now used to sit and enjoy teas and lunches, and the flower beds along this side of the house and round the lawn were planted.
In 1990 the Rose Garden, espaliered pear trees along the Rose Walk and the Kitchen Garden were designed and planted.
The Golden Bed, in memory of a lost daughter, was created in 1993/4 and the Bluebell Walk through the beech, oak and hazel woods was cleared and opened in 1998. The colourful herbaceous borders were planned and prepared in autumn 1998 and planted up in 1999.
Nearly every year a new project is undertaken, whether it be gravelled paths for easier access; clearing further views throughout the ancient shrubberies; taking in yet more overgrown areas to plant with trees and shrubs; or reclaiming ancient parts of the long-lost Victorian gardens.
2009 saw the results of a mass planting of azaleas in the green valley. The main project in this year was the construction of the new building you now see at the bottom of the drive, which is our new reception and shop. This fine timber-framed building with its handsome clock tower is made of green oak with cedar weatherboarding and roofed with handmade local tiles.
In 2012 many of the paths and fences had reshaping, repair and maintenance work done on them and two new flower beds were added at the back of the croquet lawn. In 2015 the swimming pool area was rejuvenated with some hard pruning to bring unruly shrubs under control and a refit of the greenhouse, which now looks much better and will be easier to maintain.
In 2016 the Tea Terrace and surrounding flower beds have been re-shaped, to provide more space for café tables and a better continuity with the balustrading on the back of the house, and visitor WC facilities have been updated and improved. In 2017-18 the Fountain Pond was re-shaped and re-landscaped and the original fountain had a new water feature installed and in 2019 a new allium bed has been added in the walled garden. In 2022 the square beds in the herbaceous borders have been completely emptied and redesigned and re-planted.