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.

1 Looking towards the terrace

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…

2 Long Barn from Lutyens' bedsLutyens, 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.

3 One can sense the spirit of the Nicholsons

The rather formal structure combined with carefree cottagey planting is typical of the way Harold and Vita worked together.

4 A newer feature extended from one in Vita's day and no doubt influenced by the Yew Walk 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.

5 The White  garden at Long Barn is a modern development and tribute 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.

6 An immaculate garden in its own right before any historical associations 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!


  1. How lucky to get the tour from Ms. Gough, Jack! It looks splendid. Gardens are timeless, the shots look as though they could have been taken yesterday. 🙂

  2. Nice to get the history as well as the photos. I do like the play between the designerly geometric structure and the cottagy plantings. The one thing that strikes a little discord in me is the large yew hedge surrounding the garden, that is seen from the seating area in the last photo. I know that the yew makes a great backdrop for seeing and photographing the plants and gives a comforting sense of enclosure. To me it’s a little too far toward the domination of nature end of the continuum. It’s certainly one way to set the garden off from the more natural surroundings, but I don’t find it particularly artful. Nonetheless it is visually striking, so viva la difference!

    • I enjoy a little domination, Mark 😉
      I think a well-clipped hedge has the most wonderful way of accentuating the form and growth of other plants through the contrast.

  3. Jack, I knew nothing about this garden, so thanks for enlightening me. Your images are lovely, and the history is both interesting and informative.

  4. Hello Jean – the book I mention is a really worthwhile read as well; it made me understand the concept of gardening as therapy for a restless soul, and it is one of the most beautifully written biographies I’ve ever read.

  5. Pingback: SISSINGHURST VISITS « Sequoia Gardens Blog

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