Laughton Place

Near Lewes, East Sussex

Overview

This moated brick tower is all that is left of a much larger house built in 1534 for which the tower served as an outlook post, as well as a set of private rooms. It now stands proudly on the flatlands between the South Downs and Ashdown Forest.

  • Dogs AllowedDogs Allowed
  • CotCot
  • Open SpaceOpen Space
  • Parking AvailableParking Available
  • MicrowaveMicrowave
  • RemoteRemote
  • ShowerShower
  • Waitrose DeliveryWaitrose Delivery

Beds 1 Twin, 1 Double

Sleeps
4
4 nights from
£345 equivalent to £21.56 per person, per night

The Pelham Buckle

Laughton Place stands in a quiet and peaceful location on a moated site, within the wide circle of the South Downs. Experience the charm of period properties in the area, such as Anne of Cleves House and Charleston House, and enjoy the great outdoors in Southover Grange Gardens and Lewes Priory Park.

When we bought it in 1978, Laughton Tower had great cracks in its sides and the floor had fallen in – much engineering and lime mortar went into its repair. The rooms inside include the delicate arabesque decoration of the terracotta embellishments which include the Pelham Buckle, the badge won for prowess in the Middle Ages and a family emblem ever since.

This is a wonderful base for exploring the Sussex Downs, which inspired the Bloomsbury set at Charleston and Rodmell, and the Surrealists at Farley Farmhouse. Alfriston, Lewes and Glyndebourne are all close by – as, of course, is the coast.

‘The sun shone. The moon shone. The mists rolled in. The best way to watch the world from the battlements is with mugs of mulled wine in your hands.’

From the logbook

Map & local info

Laughton Place stands in a peaceful location on a moated site, within the wide circle of the South Downs. Take a trip to the nearby town of Lewes to browse the historic Farmers Market and many antique shops, explore its very own castle and relax in one of the wide choice of cafes and restaurants.

Experience the charm of period properties in the area, such as Anne of Cleves House, and enjoy the great outdoors in Southover Grange Gardens and Lewes Priory Park.

Laughton Place is ideally situated for visits to the opera at Glyndebourne and also to the seaside towns and attractions on the South Coast of England like the Pavilion at Brighton, Beachy Head and Battle Abbey at Hastings

Lewes Castle & Museum is a short twenty minute drive away; the castle is one of the oldest Norman Fortresses in England, and the museum houses a fine archaeological collection, including prehistoric flints, fine Roman pottery, Saxon weapons, and medieval gold rings. Also within a similar driving distance are Michelham Priory (with England’s longest medieval water-filled moat, dating back to 1229), and Charleston, which was the hub of the Bloomsbury Group’s activities outside London. You can gain free entry to Lewes Castle and Michelham, and 50% off entry at Charleston, with a National Art Pass, which enables its members to enjoy free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic houses throughout the UK as well as 50% off entry to major exhibitions.

The pass is presented by one of Landmark's partners, the Art Fund, the national fundraising charity for art, which has been supporting museums and galleries for over 110 years by helping them to buy and display great works of art for everyone to enjoy. Income raised through the National Art Pass goes straight back into their charitable programme. Find more about it at artfund.org/national-art-pass.

For more ideas and information on things to see and do during your stay at Laughton Place, take a look at our Pinterest page.

Please Note: The Landmark Trust does not take any responsibility and makes no warranties, representations or undertakings about the content of any website accessed by hypertext link. Links should not be taken as an endorsement of any kind. The Landmark Trust has no control over the availability of the linked pages.

Clear directions
FAQs

    What you need to know about this building

  • Does the property allow dogs?

    Yes.
  • How is the property accessed?

    Via a long unmade track.
  • What is the nearest railway station and how far away is it?

    Lewes – 5 miles.
  • Is there car parking specifically for Landmark guests?

    Yes – there are three parking spaces about 15m from the entrance.
  • What type of heating does the property have?

    There is oil-fired central heating and convector heaters in the bedrooms. There is also an electric fire in the sitting room.
  • What are the kitchen facilities?

    The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc. There is also an electric cooker and a microwave.
  • What are the bathroom facilities?

    There is one bathroom with a free-standing shower unit.
  • Does this Landmark have steep, narrow or spiral stairs?

    The stairs are steep, narrow and spiral.
  • Is there a garden or outside space?

    There is a moated garden (unfenced).
  • Can I access the roof?

    Yes,  but we would ask that care is taken in inclement weather and that children and dogs are supervised when on the roof.

    Booking and Payment

  • What happens if I can’t get to the Landmark due to bad weather?

    If the weather is bad, please contact our booking office who will be able to tell you whether the Landmark is accessible. If the housekeeper can safely get to the building to prepare it then we consider that it is open and available for guests. However if we cannot undertake a changeover then we will do our utmost to transfer your stay to another Landmark, depending on what we have available. It may not be of a similar size or in the same part of the country as your original booking. If the building is accessible but the customer cannot travel due to poor weather in his/her local area then please be aware that Landmark will not provide a refund. However the customer may be able to claim on his/her own travel insurance. We recommend that all guests take out travel insurance when they first secure a booking.
  • How can I pay?

    We accept Maestro (if issued in the UK), Visa, MasterCard, direct transfer and sterling cheques drawn on a UK bank. Cheques should be made payable to the Landmark Trust except for Lundy stays and boat/helicopter tickets which should be payable to The Lundy Company Ltd. All payments must be in sterling.
  • How do I create an account?

    If you have not used the Landmark online booking facility before and you wish to register in advance, you can set up an on-line account by following the instructions below:

    Go to the Landmark home page and click on Gift shop (located at the top of the home page in red).

    Select a gift (e.g. Landmark Handbook or Anniversary Mug) and complete the ‘Amount required’ box. There is no need to complete the purchase but this step is necessary in order to bring up the registration page.

    Click ‘Next Step’ at the bottom of the page.

    This will bring you to the ‘Your details’ page.

    Please complete all the fields (name, address, contact details and create an account). Click on the green ‘Create Account’ button once you have finished.

    At the top of the page headed ‘Your details’ there will be a grey box saying ‘Signed in’ and underneath this it will say ‘you are currently signed in as ….

    Here you will also have the option to ‘Sign out’. Please do so and that is your registration completed.

    Please return to the Landmark home page.

    To check your registration or update your account details at any time please ‘Sign in’ using the icon in the top right-hand corner of the home page.

    If you experience any problems in registering or setting up your on-line account please contact webmaster@landmarktrust.org.uk.
  • How do I pick up the key?

    There are various arrangements for picking up keys. To arrange to get into the Landmark, please contact the housekeeper at least two days before your stay
  • Can I pay a deposit?

    If your stay starts more than three months from the date you make the booking, you are required to pay a deposit of one third of the cost of your stay (or £100 per booking, if greater) at the time of booking. Camping on Lundy must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
  • How can I cancel or change my booking?

    If you wish to cancel or change your booking, please contact our Booking Office on 01628 825925
  • Do you accept payment in other currencies?

    At the moment we only accept payment in sterling.
  • What if I arrive late?

    Please let the housekeeper know if you are going to arrive late and s/he will leave a key for you in a suitable place.
  • How far in advance do I need to book?

    It depends. Some of our most popular Landmarks are booked up a long time in advance, but many can be booked at short notice. We will always have Landmarks free for the coming weekend so it’s always worth checking our availability list.
  • Do you have to be a member to book a Landmark?

    No, Landmarks are available to be booked for anyone.
  • Do I need a Handbook to be able to book?

    No, all the information you need can be found on our website, although we’d like you to buy one anyway as it will be a pleasure to own!

    Staying at a Landmark

  • Are Landmarks accessible for people with disabilities or limited mobility?

    Some of our Landmarks are suitable for people with disabilities or limited mobility. However, many Landmarks have steep or narrow staircases, uneven floors and thresholds, changes of level, low ceilings or beams, as well as indistinct colours on steps and in corridors. We recommend that you call Booking Enquiries on 01628 825925 if you would like to find out the suitability of a particular Landmark for anyone with a specific disability.
  • Are Landmarks only available as self-catering accommodation?

    Yes, Landmarks are only available as self-catering accommodation. We do not offer bed and breakfast.
  • Do you provide catering?

    Landmark does not provide catering, but we can recommend Greycoat Lumleys who can arrange for expert and well-trained staff to cater for one evening or for your entire holiday. Their cooks and chefs are able to work with you to meet your specific requirements
  • Do you allow dogs?

    You may bring up to two dogs to properties where dogs are allowed (please see specific property details for exemptions however dogs are not permitted on Lundy except assistance dogs). They must be kept off the furniture and under proper control.
  • Can I bring a pet?

    Apart from two dogs (see above) no other pets are permitted.
  • What time can I arrive and what time do I have to depart from the Landmark?

    Arrival is from 4pm and departure is by 10am.
  • Am I insured if I break something?

    We do not carry insurance for breakages. However we appreciate that accidents do sometimes happen. If you have a breakage during your stay, please let the housekeeper know and if appropriate we reserve the right to invoice you accordingly.
  • Are Landmarks suitable for children?

    Yes, most of our Landmarks are perfect for children, with gardens to play in and secret places to discover. Our furniture is surprisingly robust and we positively encourage families to stay. However, some of our buildings may not be suitable for small children; for example, some of them have steep or uneven spiral staircases. We recommend that you call the Booking Enquiries team if you would like to find out the suitability of any of our Landmarks for young children.
  • Can I get married in a Landmark?

    Unfortunately, most of our Landmarks are not licensed for weddings. However, you may get married on Lundy.
  • Can I hold a big party in a Landmark?

    All our larger Landmarks are perfect for gatherings of family or friends. You may invite an additional two guests to visit you during your stay, however they must not stay overnight. This is very important because our fire regulations specifically note the maximum number of people in any one building. In addition our properties are prepared, furnished and equipped for the number of people specified and greater numbers cause damage and excessive wear and tear to vulnerable buildings. Should this condition be ignored we shall make a retrospective charge per person per day (whether or not they stay overnight) for each guest over the permitted limit, the charge being pro-rated on the total cost of your booking.
  • Are there televisions in the buildings?

    We deliberately do not provide televisions and find that most people appreciate this.
  • Why are your access tracks sometimes difficult?

    One of the challenges of restoring unloved buildings is gaining access to them. We frequently have to negotiate rights with our neighbours and share tracks with them. In many cases tracks do not belong to us and we have no right to maintain them. Wherever possible we work with our neighbours to provide you with a good quality surface, but where this is a problem then you will be warned at the time of booking.
  • Will there be sockets for my electrical appliances?

    Yes, we have standard electricity sockets for UK appliances. If you are coming from outside the UK, you will need to bring your own adaptor plug(s). If you are visiting one of our European properties we have standard European electricity sockets. If you are visting from the UK, you will need to bring your own adapter plug (s).
History

All that survives of a house from the 13th century

The tower we see at Laughton today was built in 1534 by Sir William Pelham. It is all that survives of a house that existed from the 13th century until the 1950s, undergoing many alterations and rebuildings on the way. From 1401 until 1927 Laughton remained in the single ownership of the Pelham family, who owned great estates in Sussex. In the 15th and 16th centuries it was indeed their chief residence and it bears the emblem that they traditionally used to mark their property - the Pelham Buckle - claimed to have been won by military prowess at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356.

There is evidence that the Pelhams rebuilt the existing moated manor-house at Laughton in the early 15th century, but a century later Sir William Pelham, who had succeeded his father in 1517, clearly thought it in need of further improvement. How much work he actually carried out is now uncertain, but it is likely that his plans, at least, were extensive. And until recently there survived bricks bearing the inscription 'Ian de grace 1534 fut cest mayso faicte,' indicating that he was responsible for more than the addition of the tower and some internal redecoration.

William Pelham belonged to a generation bought up with some knowledge of Renaissance ideas, of which the keenest follower was the young prince himself, later Henry VIII, whose near contemporary William was. It was in Henry's Court circle that the influence of Italy made its first tentative appearance, partly in rivalry with the equally Renaissance monarch, Francois I of France. William Pelham was present at their meeting on the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. Through his two marriages he came into further contact with the Court, his second father-in-law being William Sandys, Knight of the Garter, Lord Chamberlain and patron of Italian craftsmen.

Besides the tower, William seems at least to have rebuilt the forecourt, with a gatehouse and corner building. 17th-century illustrations show a house still very much of medieval type, but with an upper floor over the central hall and this may have been inserted in 1534. Perhaps there was a porch as well, forming an elegant frontispiece, embellished like the tower with decoratively moulded terracotta, a new material which was itself something of an emblem for Renaissance enthusiasts.

The purpose of the tower again we do not know for certain, but in such marshy surroundings the likelihood is that it was intended to serve as an outlook, both for practical purposes and for pleasure. A number of such outlook towers survive from the 16th century. Its top floor was accessible only from the ground floor by the stair turret. The two middle floors, with the grandest rooms, were reached from the main house, which surrounded it on two sides.

By the end of the 16th century, however, Laughton had ceased to be a house of any importance. In 1580 Sir Thomas Pelham built a new house on higher ground at Halland and the family turned its back on the marshes. During the 17th century, Laughton became a tenanted farmhouse, which it remained for the rest of its existence.

There was still one more chapter to come in Laughton's architectural history. In 1715, Thomas Pelham, Duke of Newcastle, gave Laughton Place Farm to his younger brother Henry. These two were among the great figures of the 18th century, both as politicians (each served as Prime Minister) and architectural patrons; Thomas at Claremont and Henry at Esher Place, where William Kent transformed what remained of the Bishop's Palace into a Gothick mansion. Towards the end of his life, Henry Pelham resolved to do likewise at Laughton. He employed for this a Mr White, a carpenter who had been in charge at Esher and so had worked under William Kent. He chose to remodel Laughton in a similar Gothick manner.

There is some evidence that Henry Pelham intended to have rooms for his own use at Laughton but he died, before the work was finished, in 1754.

The new house continued as the home of a tenant farmer until 1927 when the property was sold. The new owner made repeated attempts to demolish the house and eventually did so in the 1950s, leaving the tower standing on its own in the marsh.

For a short history of Laughton Place please click here.

To read the full history album for Laughton Place please click here.

Restoration

In a sadly battered condition

The demolition of the buildings around the tower in the 1950s and the removal of their support had caused structural problems, probably there from the beginning, to become much worse. Large cracks opened up in the north and south elevations as the stair turret started to move away from the main building, and the east front bulged in the opposite direction. The large number of openings in the walls did not help and collapse was probably only prevented by the steel joists of the concrete roof, inserted when the tower was used as an observation post in the Second World War.

It was in this sadly battered condition that Laughton was acquired by the Landmark Trust in 1978. The first work supervised by the architect, John Warren of APP, was therefore the urgent erection of a cradle of scaffolding to hold the tower, while methods of repair were considered. The movement that had caused the cracks had happened some time ago, so it seemed that the best course was to repair the building in its settled position, rather than try to force it back together. Steel ties were inserted at three levels, running in both directions and later, as part of the general work on the walls, the cracks were stitched up with a mixture new brick and lime mortar. The doors on the south and north elevations were blocked up to reinforce the walls.

When plaster had been stripped from the walls, inside and out, they were closely examined for evidence of the tower's original appearance. As a result, a number of doors, windows and fireplaces were discovered, including the terracotta windows in the south wall, the door leading into the present lavatory and the remaining half of that on the first floor. It was also discovered that the buttresses of the stair turret were 'flying', with an open archway at their base. At the top of the tower enough evidence was found in the parapet of the original crenellations for their reconstruction.

Work then began on the overhaul of the entire building. Decayed pointing was scraped out, worn bricks replaced with new handmade equivalents, new coping stones placed on the steps of the butresses where they were missing and the whole building repointed. The method and mix for this was copied from a small area of original pointing that had been found inside the blocked buttress arches. The bulge in the east front had caused the pediment to come away from the main wall, allowing the weather to penetrate and damage the brickwork. This was all rebuilt, with a new cornice, coping stones and lead flashing.

The roof and internal floors were renewed completely, and the two new additions, known as The Blisters, added at the back of the building, to provide a space for the bathroom, and to link the second floor to the stair turret. Access to the first floor was provided with a new oak stair rising from the ground floor room. The floorboards of the first floor are also oak.

While all this work was going on, the terracotta was also undergoing repair. In some places this had fractured into several large pieces; these were fixed back together by inserting glass fibre dowells and then any gaps filled with epoxy resin coloured with brick dust. Where the material had actually started to crumble, it was impregnated with epoxy, to bind it together. Missing sections, such as a sill or the head of a window, were renewed but left plain.

The window joinery on the east front was repaired, as was the door. All the windows were reglazed. New door and window latches were designed in the form of the Pelham Buckle, which also adorns the hand-printed curtains.

Round the exterior, the ground was lowered by several inches, to return it to its original level, and a new path formed. During this work, the footings of earlier houses were discovered. The bridge was also rebuilt and the moat excavated under the supervision of archaeologists. In 1981 Laughton was ready to receive its first visitors after three years work.

Availability & booking

Select a changeover day to start your booking...

What's a changeover day? and Why can't I select other dates?Explain MoreQuestion

A changeover day is a particular day of the week when holidays start and end at our properties. These tend to be on a Friday or a Monday but can sometimes vary. All stays run from one changeover day until another changeover day.