Fairlight Hall – 21st Century
The new Millenium opened with a little more optimism for Fairlight Hall when it was purchased in 1998 by a family of property developers and successful hoteliers. They undertook a major re-decoration of the 16,000 square foot mansion and renamed it Fairlight Castle.
The current owners purchased the property in 2002, gave it back its former name, Fairlight Hall, and embarked upon a major infrastructural renovation as well as extensive repairs to the stone-clad exterior. The entire house was encased in scaffolding for a year. It was re-wired, re-plumbed and generally given a 21st Century makeover. The double height grand Hall, an unashamed reference to the Medieval Hall house, was reinstated with the removal of a ceiling added in the 1930s. The entrance hall was returned to its former grand proportions as envisioned by architect John Crake, and the large stained glass windows once again illuminated the interior in a way which had not been seen for more than half a century. The entrance hall’s minstrel gallery was widened for safety reasons but some of the original incised inscriptions in the walls had been lost when the floor was built in the 1930s. It was decided not to attempt to reinstate the missing lettering and this gives the quotations on the walls an ethereal quality, disjointed and floating like half-remembered sayings. The entire design and renovation of the interiors was managed by John Wright of John Wright Interior Designs. His company also undertook the reinstatement of the Conservatory which had been missing from the East Wing of the house since before the First World War. Since 2004, all building work has been completed by a Hastings-based period renovation specialist, Christopher Charles Paine.
With the exception of the late Victorian extension at the north wing, the sandstone mansion is unchanged from its original design. But aside from undertaking major repairs to the main building, the owners deployed considerable resources to reinstate the surrounding pleasure gardens and parkland. The garden infrastructure of stone walls, winding entrance drive and circular paths exist almost as laid out in the 1850s, but a new front lawn, Portland stone entrance steps and a pond at the front entrance to the Hall were granted permission in 2007. The restoration of The Walled Garden began in 2006, with the repair of the collapsing Victorian walls and the dilapidated Gardener’s Bothy. In the following two years the designer for the project, Suzanne Watson, oversaw the installation of raised beds, a new glasshouse and a 40,000-litre subterranean rainwater collection tank. The walled garden amphitheatre has been used for concerts and performances and won a Sussex Heritage Trust renovation award in 2009.
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