The Bloomsbury group included some of the twentieth century’s most pioneering artists, writers and thinkers – people who believed in debate, creativity, beauty, innovation and truth and whose work was guided by a sense of fun, freedom and irreverence. At Charleston we aim to further the Bloomsbury group’s experimentalism, internationalism and anti-establishment approach, their new ideals for living and belief that the arts and freedom of expression are fundamental.
A visit to Charleston is a liberating experience. The presence of Charleston’s Bloomsbury group occupants is still palpable today, as is their art, and the ideas that, from the rural tranquillity of the South Downs, helped to shape our society.
The decorated interiors and artists’ garden are more than a museum. Charleston’s entire cultural programme remains true to its origins whilst encouraging contemporary creativity.
We offer a haven for curious minds to immerse themselves in new ideas and provide an open door to explore personal freedoms and engage in Charleston’s multi-faceted heritage. Our world-leading collection of Bloomsbury art and archives is a beacon of excellence in conservation and interpretation that is open to everyone. Today Charleston is both daring and accessible.
Our talented staff and volunteers use their own creativity and experience to make Charleston a living experience for all. We support community learning and engagement; we commission contemporary artists, writers and thinkers to share new ideas in the spirit of Charleston’s Bloomsbury group inhabitants; and we aim to provide a life-enhancing environment for debate, creativity and excitement.
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 to help them learn about Charleston and Bloomsbury. The house opens every year between March 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, The Charleston Festival in May and Small Wonder – a short story festival in September.
The Charleston Trust does not receive any public funding and relies on the support it receives through the Friends of Charleston, Omega Group, and through continuous fundraising.
HRH The Duchess of Cornwall became the Trust’s first Patron in May 2013. Find out more about The Charleston Trust.
Charleston became an Arts Council England Accredited Museum in December 2013.
Direct line: 01323 815149
Direct line: 01323 815150
Direct line: 01323 815146
direct Line: 01323 815159
Sarah Dennis, Director of Development
Direct line: 01323 815161
Direct Line: 01323 815151
Direct line: 01323 815164
Direct line: 01323 815165
Direct line: 01323 815157
Direct line: 01323 815157
Direct line: 07512624557 (mobile) or 01323 811626 (main office)
Direct line: 01323 815164
Hilary Masters, Assistant Visitor Manager
Direct Line: 01323 815148
A message from our Patron
“As a supporter of the arts and a native of East Sussex, I discovered in Charleston a unique atmosphere of rural peace and creativity. For thirty years the Charleston Trust has worked to restore and maintain this special, fragile place, preserving the inspiring inheritance of Bloomsbury in Sussex.
Today, the Trust plans to restore the historic farm buildings, construct exciting new spaces in a hidden courtyard and safeguard the tranquil agricultural setting. These buildings will be used for a range of inclusive creative and educational initiatives, keeping the house alive and inspiring the next generation. The survival of Charleston depends on the success of this project. As Patron of The Charleston Trust I am delighted to support the Charleston Centenary Project.”
HRH The Duchess of Cornwall became the Trust’s first Patron in May 2013
Virginia Nicholson is a writer and the daughter of Quentin and Anne Olivier Bell. She has chronicled the family in Charleston: A Bloomsbury House and Garden. Her books include Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living 1900-1939, Singled Out: How Two Million Women Survived Without Men after the First World War and Millions Like Us: Women’s Lives in War and Peace 1939-1949
Professor Farthing was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex up until August 2016. He was formerly Principal and Professor of Medicine at St George’s, University of London, and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Glasgow. He is former President of the British Society of Gastroenterology. He is an academic gastroenterologist whose major research interest is intestinal infection.
Michael Farthing was Editor of Gut from 1996–2002 and is founding Chairman of COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics). He is Chair of the Universities UK Health and Social Care Policy Committee and Vice-Chair of the UK Panel for Health and Biomedical Research Integrity.
Jolyon Brewis is currently a Partner with Grimshaw Architects LLP, an architectural practice of more than 450 staff working from 5 international offices. Jolyon has broad experience of leading large teams of people (architects and other professionals) in the delivery of high-profile major projects across multiple sectors, including education, infrastructure, the cultural and energy sectors. He has held Managing Partner and Chief Executive positions within the practice, and led Grimshaw through significant organisational change and rapid growth.
Jolyon was the Lead Architect from 1998 for Eden Project, Cornwall, through four phases of construction including visitor centre, Biomes, internal and external landscaping, office building and education centre.
He was also the Lead Architect for The Laboratory at Dulwich College, a new science building with facades designed in collaboration with Peter Randall-Page RA. There was extensive involvement in a fund-raising campaign alongside the Development Office and Board of Governors.
Jolyon is currently leading design teams on the expansion of Heathrow Airport, new Eden Project destinations in China and a technology innovation centre in London.
Jolyon is a Trustee of Wac Arts, a Hampstead-based charity providing access to performing arts training for young people. He chairs the Buildings and Operations Sub-committee.
Mark Burch is Managing Partner of ARCIS Group, a private equity investment management firm, which he joined in 2002. His previous roles have been in lending and investment banking over more than 20 years. He has a MA from Oxford University and a MBA from Columbia University, New York. He is also a Director of The FSE Group, Chair of the Board of Trustees at The Arts Educational Schools and was a Director of the Hackney Empire theatre from 2002-2010.
Marion Gibbs has taught in a variety of state maintained and independent schools, has tutored for the Open University, taught in two prisons and lectured on extra-mural university courses. She served as an HMI (Schools) immediately before becoming Headmistress of James Allen’s Girls’ School, London, which she led for 21 years. She also co-founded the innovative Southwark Schools’ Learning Partnership in 2003 and directed it until her retirement. She served on the DfE Independent-State School Partnership Forum for many years. Marion is the author of a book on Greek Tragedy, has contributed chapters to books on Classics, inspection, education and headship and wrote a fortnightly column in an education paper. She was awarded a CBE for her services to education in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2012. She has served as a school governor and has completed terms of office as a trustee of Dulwich Picture Gallery, the Arvon Foundation and the Hellenic Society. Her passions are community action and the arts. She has now returned to Sussex, where she previously lived for many years.
Pippa Harris is a film and television producer. She established Neal Street Productions in 2003, alongside Sam Mendes and Caro Newling, and has produced the films Starter for Ten, Stuart A Life Backwards, and co-produced Jarhead. She also executive produced Things We Lost in the Fire, and the Oscar-nominated Revolutionary Road, as well as the feature documentary We Are Many.
Pippa is the Executive Producer of Call the Midwife, – the most successful new BBC drama series in over ten years, as well as the multi award winning, Penny Dreadful for Sky Atlantic, and BBC Two’s BAFTA winning, The Hollow Crown, a filmed series of Shakespeare’s History plays.
Previously, Pippa was the Head of Drama Commissioning for the BBC where her commissions included The Lost Prince, State of Play and Daniel Deronda and her production credits include the BAFTA winning dramas The Way We Live Now, Care and Warriors.
Pippa sits on the board of BAFTA and is the Chair of their film committee. She is also a Governor of Central School of Speech and Drama, and a Trustee of The Creative Society. In 2015 Pippa was made a Dame in the Dissolution Honours.
Anne Morrison is the chair of BAFTA, the leading charity in the UK supporting, developing and promoting the art forms of the moving image. It celebrates excellence through its awards ceremonies and stages over 250 events a year, sharing insights from the best practitioners in film, television and games. She is the second woman to chair the Academy in its 67 year history.
Until 2014 she was Director of the BBC Academy, the BBC’s centre for training, which she launched in 2009. Its portfolio includes journalism, production, leadership and technology training as well as new talent schemes for graduate trainees and apprentices. Previously she was responsible for planning and overseeing the dramatic growth of BBC network television from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Anne’s background is principally in television production, working as a producer/director and rising to become Controller, Documentaries and Contemporary Factual at the BBC, responsible for award winning programmes such as Dunkirk, The Secret Policeman, The Queen’s Golden Jubilee, One Life, What Not To Wear and Top Gear.
She is a frequent speaker on issues in the arts and education such as diversity, employability, talent development, creativity and interdisciplinarity. Anne was educated in Belfast and Churchill College, Cambridge.
Simon Martin is a curator, writer and art historian. He is Director of Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, West Sussex, where he is responsible for one of the most important public collections of British art from 1900 to now, as well as temporary exhibitions and award-winning public programmes. In addition to being a Trustee of the Charleston Trust, he serves on the Courtauld Association Committee; the Chichester Cathedral Fabric Advisory Committee; and Apollo Magazine advisory board. He has previously served on the Board of House Biennial, the Churches Conservation Trust art advisory committee and the University of Chichester Special Collections Committee. He was previously Pallant House Gallery’s Artistic Director and Head of Collections and Exhibitions, and has edited and contributed to numerous books and catalogues of Modern British and contemporary art, including on the artists Edward Burra, John Minton, Eduardo Paolozzi, John Piper, Colin Self, Stanley Spencer, John Tunnard, Leon Underwood, and Clare Woods, and the thematic Conflict and Conscience: British Artists and the Spanish Civil War and The Mythic Method: Classicism in British Art 1920-1950. He is based in Brighton.
David Pickard studied Music at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge before starting his career at the Royal Opera House. In his early career, David worked at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park and was the Assistant Director for the Japan Festival before becoming Sir John Drummond’s deputy at the European Arts Festival. In 1993 he was appointed Chief Executive of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment where he significantly increased the orchestra’s artistic reputation and international profile, helping to establish the OAE as the pre-eminent period instrument orchestra in the world.
In 2001 he was made General Director of Glyndebourne Festival where throughout his tenure he created an extensive digital programme including online streaming, big screen and cinema relays and broadened the company’s audience base through specially priced performances for young people and a pioneering education programme.
In November 2015, David took up the role of Director of the BBC Proms. New initiatives for his first Proms season included an innovative series called Proms at … exploring music in new spaces around London including the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe and the Bold Tendencies Multi-Storey Car Park in Peckham. Passionate about bringing new audiences to classical music and identifying and nurturing emerging talent, David also made youth music-making and youth audiences a major focus at the 2016 Proms. Initiatives included two Proms devoted to the BBC’s Ten Pieces II project, a series of weekend matinee concerts aimed at family audiences, and a Last Night of the Proms where young musicians were put centre stage.
Alex Stitt joined the V&A in April 2014 to lead the newly formed Commercial & Digital Development Department. He has a track record as a successful entrepreneur in the publishing and digital industries. In 2007 he founded iAnnounce, which went on to lead a digital revolution in family notices throughout the European local and regional press. He sold this business in 2013. Prior to that he held senior management positions at Telegraph Media Group, News UK Ltd and Bertelsmann. He has an MBA from INSEAD, an English Literature degree from Oxford University and an Arsenal season ticket.
Caroline Price is a finance professional with extensive experience of working with arts and heritage organisations. Currently Caroline serves on the audit committee of the Courtauld, and also as a director of the Courtauld’s trading business. She is a treasurer and trustee of the acclaimed Shobana Jeyasingh Dance and is a governor of a London primary school. Caroline has a broad and extensive business experience. She has sat on the boards of public companies, including ten years as finance director of TBI plc, a FTSE 250 business. She is a chartered accountant and trained with PwC.
Sarah is currently Group Financial Controller of Compass Group PLC, the world’s leading foodservice company, which she joined in 2007. She has significant risk management, audit and financial control expertise gained from senior finance leadership roles in the UK and in Asia Pacific, as well as strategic and operational experience across the foodservice industry. She qualified as a Chartered Accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers and has an MA in History from the University of Edinburgh.
Charleston Ambassadors continue to be involved in the life of the Charleston Trust with many sitting on Charleston committees.
Nigel Newton is the founder and Chief Executive of Bloomsbury Publishing. He was born and raised in San Francisco. He read English at Selwyn College,Cambridge. After working at Macmillan Publishers, he joined Sidgwick & Jackson. He left Sidgwick in 1986 to start Bloomsbury. Bloomsbury floated on The London Stock Exchange in 1994. Bloomsbury publishes 2,000 books a year and employs 500 people. Bloomsbury authors include JK Rowling, David Guterson, Margaret Atwood, William Boyd, Daniel Goleman, Ben McIntyre, Kate Summerscale, Elizabeth Gilbert, Heston Blumenthal, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and Khaled Hosseini.
Nigel Newton serves as Chairman of The British Library Trust, President of Book Aid International, Chairman of The Charleston Trust, Member of the Man Booker Prize Advisory Committee, Trustee of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Member of the Executive Committee of The Churchill Centre (UK) and Chair of Rescue The Cuckmere Valley.
Rupert is an author, journalist and critic. He has published a dozen books, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and is currently opera critic of The Daily Telegraph and the dance critic for The Mail on Sunday. He is a regular contributor to many publications including The Spectator, TLS, Harpers & Queen, the Los Angeles Times and Vanity Fair.
Hilary Newiss is qualified as a Solicitor and was Head of Intellectual Property at a city law firm. She now sits on boards in the fields of public policy, science, health, IP and the arts. She is currently a Non-Executive Director of the Francis Crick Institute.
Charles Saumarez Smith is an art historian and museum director. He was Director of the National Portrait Gallery, then the National Gallery, and is now Chief Executive of the Royal Academy. He is a former president of the Museums Association.
Frances Spalding is an art historian, biographer and critic. She is an authority on twentieth-century British art and has a broad knowledge of English social and cultural history. Her most recent books were John Piper, Myfanwy Piper: Lives in Art (2009) and Prunella Clough; regions unmapped (2011). She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Art, and was awarded a CBE in 2005. Books by Francis Spalding are available from The Charleston Shop.
Tom Stuart-Smith is a landscape designer who works in the UK and internationally. He made a garden for The Queen at Windsor Castle for the Golden Jubilee and has also designed 8 gardens for the Chelsea Flower Show over the years which were awarded gold medals.
David was formerly Chief Executive of EMI International and a member of the Executive Committee of Hachette Livre (Lagardere SCA) which involved him both in the music and the publishing industries. He also became closely involved the voluntary sector as a result of work he did with the late Lord Young of Dartington (founder of the Open University and the Consumers Association ). David collaborated with Lord Young in the forming of the School for Social Entrepreneurs and was its first Director.
David recently read Fine Art Painting at the University of the Arts in London and dedicates most of his time to oil painting. He is a trustee of Le Dispensaire Français (the French Clinic) in London and the ExtraSpecial Trust in Bristol.
Simon Watney is a published art historian, lecturer and writer on health. He is a former Senior Lecturer in the history and theory of photography at the Polytechnic of Central London and has published several books on art history. He left the academic world in 1986 to concentrate on practical efforts in fighting AIDS: he chaired the Policy Group and the Health Education Group of the Terrence Higgins Trust and is currently Director of the Red Hot AIDS Charitable Trust. In 1995, The Independent described him as one of the forty most influential gay men in Britain.
Gillian Wolfe CBE is Director of Learning and Public Affairs at Dulwich Picture Gallery. Gillian is the author of several art books for children. She is also a freelance education consultant and Specialist Adviser to the Clore Duffield Foundation Grants Programme and Historic House Association. She is Associate Director of The Georgian Theatre Royal, Trustee of Brighton Pavilion and Museums and Arts4Dementia.
Venetia Abergavenny is a successful artist (working under the name Venetia Nevill) with exhibitions in New York, London and Sussex. She is married to Christopher, the VI Marquess of Abergavenny and lives at Eridge Park where she is involved in running music festivals, decorative fairs and charity events.
Dinah Casson is an award winning designer and a director of the interior design practice Casson Mann. Established in 1984 in partnership with Roger Mann, this innovative consultancy has set about transforming the world of museums and galleries with its fresh, creative and innovative approach to design. Recent projects have involved the design for the V&A’s Hollywood Costume exhibition and the refurbishment of the V&A’s British Galleries. Currently the studio is working on the World War One galleries for the Imperial War Museum and a museum at Lascaux, Montignac. She has many years of experience as a teacher and was course director of Architecture & Interior Design at the Royal College of Art where she is now an external examiner. She divides her time between London and her home in Sussex.
The Charleston Trust (Bloomsbury in Sussex) is a non profit making company limited by guarantee. Registered charity number 1107313. Registered in England and Wales, company number 5212725.
Registered office Charleston, Firle, Lewes, East Sussex, BN8 6LL.
The Charleston Trust’s Vision:
The historic embodiment of creative innovation
The Charleston Trust’s Mission statement:
Charleston exists to please, inform and inspire the public about Charleston, Bloomsbury and the arts.
The Charleston Trust’s charitable objectives are:
Further information is available on the Charities Commission website
Please click on the links below for our summarised accounts (PDF download).
The Charleston Trust has one trading subsidiary, Charleston Enterprises Limited which operates the shop and café.
The Charleston Trust owns the share capital of Charleston Enterprises which makes charitable donations out of its taxable profits to the Trust. Charleston Enterprises Ltd. has a separate board of Directors made up of Jonathan Prichard, Dinah Casson and Michael Farthing
CRESSIDA BELL talks to her sister, Virginia Nicholson, about Charleston, her design work and curating ‘In Colour.’
Informal reading and discussion group, exploring Bloomsbury texts and themes. First Sunday of every month.