Before Sissinghurst there was Long Barn. The Nicholsons (Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold) moved here soon after their marriage, made their first garden and called Long Barn home from 1915 to 1931. During my 1995 trip I was fortunate to be part of a private group who visited Long Barn. I believe the house still belongs to Mr and Mrs Brandon Gough, and Mrs Sarah Gough (with her dogs!) was our gracious hostess on the day. In scanning the slides I took then, I am pleased to see I managed to capture something of the beauty of the garden, still a loved private space, and still remarkably similar to what it was in the 1920s when the Nicholsons lived here.
Harold Nicholson extended the original building, dating from the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries by adding in 1915 the 16th century barn forming the wing to the right, brought from across the road. They then set about planning the garden…
Lutyens, who had added an old barn to Great Dixter a few years earlier, must have loved Long Barn. He was a friend of Lady Sackville, Vita’s mother, and in 1925 he and Harold planned six raised L shaped brick beds to give structure to the lower garden. This photo I took from amongst them.
The rather formal structure combined with carefree cottagey planting is typical of the way Harold and Vita worked together.
Although the alley existed in Vita’s days, it was shorter and not accented with a focal point at its far end; compare this to the Yew Walk at Sissinghurst which surely inspired this later development.
Without in the least imitating Sissinghurst, this garden, complete with sitting area that evokes the Erectheum overlooking Sissinghurst’s White Garden, pays tribute to the Long Barn’s historic connections – a clever, stylish move by the Goughs.
Even if I had known nothing of the Garden’s link with Vita and Harold, it would have been a great privilege to stand on this terrace and admire the prospect, the garden, the house and the solid oak furniture… For anyone who has read and loved Jane Brown’s remarkable book, Vita’s Other World it is doubly satisfying!