A message from Charleston’s Director Alistair Burtenshaw
I first visited Charleston in 1989, only three years after it had officially opened its doors to the public. What consumed me then was the beauty and history of the place, its unique decorative interiors, and the collection, but also the landscape and sense of place that had inspired Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant since their arrival in 1916. I returned many times over subsequent years, on every occasion hearing more about the artists, writers and thinkers known as the Bloomsbury group who occupied Charleston and had themselves been inspired by the surrounding downland scenery. Their values and ideals resonated with me, from the first books I read about the Bloomsbury group prior to visiting Charleston and I am very proud to be able to help Charleston to continue to inspire visitors to our house, gardens and year-round activities.
As an independent charity which relies on generating its own income, Charleston has continued to thrive, testament to the hard work of its staff and volunteers and with the encouragement of its many visitors, Friends, supporters and stakeholders. As we approach the centenary of Bell and Grant’s arrival at Charleston, in October 1916, it is ever more important that we secure Charleston’s future for new generations of visitors via the Charleston Centenary Project
Since becoming Charleston’s Director in early 2013, it has been wonderful to become fully involved in Charleston’s activities and meet many of those who visit, take part in workshops, listen to talks, and attend our two literary festivals. What is always particularly rewarding is to hear how Charleston has inspired them and found a place in their hearts.
We look forward to welcoming you to Charleston.
History of Charleston and what we do now
Charleston is a seventeenth century Sussex farmhouse that, from 1916, was the home of two of the most important, influential artists of the twentieth century – Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. It was the country retreat of the group of individuals known as Bloomsbury which included Vanessa Bell’s sister Virginia Woolf and husband Leonard Woolf, the economist John Maynard Keynes, the art critics Roger Fry and Clive Bell and the biographer Lytton Strachey.
After Duncan Grant’s death in 1978 the house fell into disrepair with many of its unique interior paintings and decorations deteriorating badly. The Charleston Trust, a registered charity formed in 1980, raised over £1,000,000 to restore the house and in 1986 it opened its doors to the public.
Today, The Charleston Trust continues to manage and conserve Charleston for the benefit of the public and opens every year between April and November to around 35,000 visitors.
Alongside this, Charleston runs a public programme of workshops, talks, walks and events as well as two literary Festivals, one in May and a short story festival in September.
HRH The Duchess of Cornwall became the Trust’s first Patron in May 2013.
Charleston became an Arts Council England Accredited Museum in December 2013.
The Future of Charleston
Charleston is aiming to secure its future through the Charleston Centenary Project providing its visitors with much needed additional facilities including an auditorium and extended café in the Grade II listed barns, a newly built Collections Store and Exhibition Gallery, a new road and car park taking traffic away from the heart of Charleston and a new Creative Learning Studio in the rebuilt Granary.
The Charleston Trust’s Plans for 2013-2017
Please download the Executive Summary of the Forward plan