Charleston Farmhouse

Firle Near Lewes East Sussex BN8 6LL

In 1916, while war raged in Europe, the post-impressionist artist Duncan Grant, a conscientious objector, moved to this calm corner of Sussex to run a fruit farm with his partner, Bunny Garnett. With them came painter, designer and fellow Bloomsbury Group member, Vanessa Bell, who later gave birth to Grant's child. Charleston Farmhouse, the downland house and garden that Grant ended up renting for over 60 years, was not just a home: Grant and Bell saw it as a canvas for their work, a meeting place for their artistic and literary friends and a backdrop for an experimental way of life in which relationships were fluid and intertwined. The art critic Clive Bell, Vanessa's estranged husband, and Virginia Woolf, her sister, stayed for long periods. The house is now a museum in which Grant and Bell's earthy, free-flowing decorative touches are immaculately preserved: walls, doors and furnishings are embellished with paint and mantelpieces are crammed with lovingly collected objects. Well-informed guides lead tours of the living rooms, bedrooms and studio, and a regular programme of workshops, readings and talks keep the house's creative connections aflame.

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