The History of Gravetye Manor
Richard Infield built Gravetye Manor in 1598 for his bride, Katharine Compton. The Infield family were natives of this part of Sussex. The initials 'R' and 'K' may be seen in the stone over the main entrance door from the formal garden, and the portraits of Richard and Katharine are carved in oak over the fireplace in one of the bedrooms.
Peace, still the prevailing atmosphere at Gravetye, has dominated its history, although at one time the Manor was used as a Smugglers' hideout and store. The Gravetye furnace supplied 12-pounder guns to Woolwich until 1769, but otherwise the tranquillity of the estate seems to have been undisturbed.
Gravetye's most notable owner, William Robinson one of the greatest gardeners of all time, bought the Manor and the one thousand acres in which it stands in 1884, and it was his home until he died well into his nineties in 1935. It was at Gravetye that he realised many of his ideas for the creation of the English natural garden, the style of which is now admired and copied all over the world, but of which Robinson in the nineteenth century was a pioneer.
He had worked in many formal gardens in England and France but in his planning, planting and landscaping he sought always to enhance the natural beauty of the gardens and woods. The variety and charm of the arrangements of trees and shrubs and the layout of the different types of garden at Gravetye is still his creation and memorial. Even when very old and partly crippled he would go out in his wheelchair and scatter bulbs and seeds from a bag on his lap; the garden room he built at the end of the formal garden provided him with a shelter from which he could watch his beloved flowers and trees from a fresh viewpoint.
Robinson's simple good taste, unusual in one who might be described as late Victorian, extended to his improvements in the Manor. He panelled the interior of the house in wood from the estate and enriched the rooms with chimney-pieces and fireplace furnishings entirely in keeping.
Peter Herbert arrived at Gravetye in 1958. Captivated by Robinson's house and its setting he had the revolutionary idea of injecting his own exceptional hotel keeping and restaurant standards into this rural spot. For nearly 50 years (until his retirement in 2004) Peter Herbert established Gravetye Manor as one of the leading establishments in its class, recognised throughout the world for offering the best kind of Country House Hotel Hospitality.
A new era at Gravetye Manor
The hotel came under the ownership of fund manager Jeremy Hosking in February 2010. A long standing patron of the hotel, he has set about reversing the gradual decline the property had suffered over the last few years. Major structural and infrastructure works have ensured the house will remain standing for generations to come. The hotels facilities internally have also been updated. His intention has always been to remain faithful to William Robinson's own vision of Gravetye so changes were very sympathetically done. The gardens are also receiving some much needed attention. Projects such as the restoration of the kitchen garden are already underway. The focus will be not only on conserving and re-creating Robinson's work but also on progressing the garden in homage to his experimental style of gardening.
Ultimately it is Jeremy's wish to continue the philosophy of great country house hospitality and to maintain and nurture this historically important garden.