Built in 1839 by George Harrington, Nymans has evolved since its beginnings as a Regency house into the romantic medieval ruin it is today, thanks to the demands and architectural preferences of the Messel family.
Nymans looks medieval, but its looks are deceiving. When it was built by George Harrington around 1839, it was just a very plain Regency-style house. In 1890, Ludwig and Annie Messel bought the house and commissioned Ludwig’s architect brother, Alfred Messel, to make it into a more Germanic design. His son, Leonard, inherited it in 1915 when Ludwig died. However, his wife didn’t want to live there and he promised to redesign the house into a mock medieval mansion, which was started by Norman Evill and finished by Sir Walter Tapper. You’ll see that the two ends of the house, where the two different architects worked, look quite different.
Just 19 years after building works finished, there was a fire and the family couldn’t rebuild the property because of the rationing restrictions at the end of the Second World War. Leonard’s daughter, Anne, Lady Rosse, bequeathed the property to the National Trust in 1953. The partially-ruined house gives the surrounding gardens a very romantic feel. Many of the plants in the gardens were collected from the Andes, Himalayas, South America and Tasmania, but you’ll also find English roses in the 1920s Rose Garden. The Australian Dry Garden is a sight to see, demonstrating ‘no maintenance’ gardening; the plants haven’t been watered since they were put in the ground.
On your visit you can explore the gardens by yourself, listen to a talk or try geocaching for a different way to discover the gardens. If rain takes you by surprise, there’s a second-hand bookshop and small gallery to enjoy while you wait for the British weather to pick up again.