The Memory of Fox Hall

A blog by Dr Anna Keay

Old buildings are secret passages to the past, and through them you can reach, as the Pevensey children found pushing past the fur coats, lost worlds. Fox Hall in West Sussex has ties to the dramatic life of the Duke of Monmouth, explored in 

The Memory of Fox Hall

The lost world that has been my secret habitat over the years is that of the dashing and doomed Duke of Monmouth, Charles II’s adorned illegitimate son, who invaded England in 1685. My love affair with Monmouth, for I have to admit that this is what it has become, predates my time at Landmark and I have indulged in it in stolen moments, after children's bedtime and on quiet Sunday mornings. The building which takes you to him is one of Landmark’s own, Fox Hall, in the undulating countryside near Chichester.

Here in September 1680 Monmouth came both to try the exotic new sport of fox hunting and to campaign for the removal of his uncle, the future James II, from the royal succession. He was a sensation, dressed from head to toe in scarlet silk and exuding charm and charisma, he delighted the townspeople of Chichester. Little wonder that so many who despised his uncle saw him as the perfect alternative to succeed his father. 

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Political parties, Whigs and Tories, came into being over the bitterly fought issue of Charles II’s successor. Monmouth would become the champion of the Whigs and would die on Tower Hill at just 36 having lost the last battle ever to be fought on English soil. His cousin and friend William III would three years later succeed where he failed. But while Monmouth’s bright star burned out, his memory lived on in the Sussex hunt he made famous.

The Charlton Hunt would become the political gathering of the party he had helped establish. Monmouth’s brother, the Duke of Richmond, would buy a gentry house, Goodwood, to be close to it and his successor built a magical little hunting lodge, Fox Hall, in Charlton itself.

 

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In the 1970s the Landmark Trust rescued Fox Hall and it is now one of Landmark’s best loved buildings. As my biography of the Duke of Monmouth, The Last Royal Rebel, sits inside bookshops, I hope it will retrieve Monmouth himself from obscurity and conjure him up from the past in all his vivid, fleeting glory. 

 

 

Click here to read Anne's first chapter 'Abduction.'