This exceptional Grade I-listed, five-bedroom house sits on the edge of the pretty village of Ditchling, East Sussex. The house has exceptional views over both the South Downs AONB and a striking listed church, which dates in part from the 11th century. Sometimes referred to as ‘Anne of Cleves House’, several historians believe the house forms part of the manor complex granted to Anne after her separation from Henry VIII. This striking Tudor house extends over 4,200 sq ft, spread over numerous and characterful living spaces, a useful triple garage, and a tranquil garden with a stream meandering along the bottom.
Setting the Scene
Wings Place, believed to have been constructed in the mid-16th century, has a rich history spanning almost a millennium. The site has been inhabited for centuries and was first recorded by name in 1095 as part of the Priory of St Pancras at Lewes. For a significant period, the manor served as a copyhold to the Manor of Ditchling, which had ties to the royal domain.
Wings Place is an incredible example of Tudor architecture, with an exemplary range of original features both on its exterior and interior. The timber-framed structure is defined by a distinctive gable at the northern end, which overhangs the first floor, along with intricate ornamental bargeboards. Inside, 16th-century inglenooks, tall brick chimneys, mullioned and lead windows, and two magnificent oak staircases are a testament to the history of the building. Renowned architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner aptly described the house as “eminently picturesque in a watercolourist’s way”. For more information, please see the History section.
The Grand Tour
The most commonly used entrance to Wings Place is set at the back of the house, accessed through Crittall doors that lead directly into the voluminous contemporary kitchen. The kitchen has vaulted ceilings and a wall of glazing, acting as a modern interpretation of mullioned windows while framing pretty views of the south-facing terrace and garden. The space is flooded with natural light, creating a bright and airy atmosphere. Bespoke green-painted cabinetry by DeVol is complemented by their marble countertops, set against patterned tiles from Bert and May.
From the kitchen, stairs lead to the central formal dining room, with an inviting inglenook fireplace. Next to the dining room is a cosy sitting room, also with an inglenook fireplace fitted with a wood-burning stove. A staircase in this room ascends to a guest bedroom. The original floorboards run underfoot throughout these spaces, and period timber beams run overhead.
On the west side of the house is a capacious drawing room with stone mullioned and leaded windows that span its length, filling the room with light. Behind, the current owner has hung curtains to create a wonderful play area for children. A third inglenook fireplace has a carved oak surround and warms the room in winter. Adjacent to the drawing room is a beautiful, panelled library with a carved Tudor Rose above the doorway. The library opens onto the sun-drenched south-facing terrace through a stone porch.
The original entrance hall is located on the other side of the house, accessed through two tall solid oak carved doors from the street. Currently used as a double-height study, this area has an incredible flagstone floor. It is believed that the former first floor of this room served as a public lending library, accessed via the remaining brick steps on the eastern side of the house.
On this floor, there is also a guest WC and steps leading down to the cellar, which consists of two rooms: a storage room housing a utility area, boilers, and a hot water tank, as well as an excellent wine cellar.
A turned oak staircase leads from the inner hall to the first-floor landing. Here, a study/fifth bedroom here has views of the extensive gardens. The study connects to the principal bedroom, a spacious room with an oak mullioned bay window overlooking the church. The main bedroom also has a fireplace with a carved oak bressummer, a dressing room, and an en suite bathroom with modern fittings, including a stone basin and a roll-top bath.
On the other side of the landing are two additional bedrooms. One bedroom has a vaulted ceiling and a fireplace that conceals an original priest hole. The second bedroom, accessible via the staircase in the dining room, includes a freestanding roll-top bath. A separate WC is discreetly tucked behind a door.
The second floor of Wings Place is home to a guest suite consisting of a bedroom with a length of wardrobes and a separate bathroom equipped with a bath and a fantastic walk-in shower.
The Great Outdoors
Immediately behind the house is a large, south-facing flagstone terrace. Positioned at a higher level than the rest of the garden, it has wonderful views of the surrounding mature trees and vibrant flowers. Accessible via wide stone steps, the terrace leads to a formal garden area with a combination of paved pathways and herbaceous perennial borders, chock full of a variety of beautiful flowers such as roses, lavender, and peonies. A pillared pergola is at one side of the garden, rumoured to have originated from The Palace of Westminster after a 19th-century fire, now forming a charming covered walkway.
Beyond the formal garden lies a gently sloping lawn surrounded by trees, creating a tranquil and shaded environment during the hot summer months. A stream runs along the bottom of the lawn, creating a natural boundary between the garden and the fields beyond. From this vantage point, there are remarkable views of the South Downs. Additionally, a triple garage is conveniently situated in this area, providing ample space for parking and storage.
Out and About
Wings Place sits in a Conservation Area in Ditchling, a rustic historic village with a selection of local shops and cafes, a church, and two public houses, including The Bull, an award-winning gastro pub. Nestled within the South Downs National Park, the surrounding stunning countryside is home to a plethora of brilliant walks.
The larger village of Hassocks is a short drive away, with many amenities, whilst Hurstpierpoint, also nearby, is a charming village with various independent provisors, including a butcher, bakery, and bookshop. The surrounding villages also have a great choice of restaurants and pubs. Haywards Heath, Burgess Hill, Lewes & Brighton are nearby for wider amenities, as well as large stretches of beach and sea swims.
Sporting and recreational activities are extensive, with golf at The Mid Sussex in Ditchling, Haywards Heath, Lindfield, and Burgess Hill, sailing at Weir Wood and Ardingly reservoirs and along the South Coast, and walking and riding locally, including along the South Downs and on the Ashdown Forest.
There are several highly regarded schools in the local area, both state and private and for all ages, including Cumnor House Sussex prep school, Windlesham House prep school, Hurstpierpoint College, Brighton College and Ardingly College. Further excellent schools less than an hour’s drive away include Rodean School and Lancing College.
The train station at Hassocks runs services to London Bridge (59 minutes) and Victoria (56 minutes). Haywards Heath has more trains running throughout the hour, with a journey to London Victoria of 44 minutes and London Bridge of 47 minutes. The A23 also provides quick access to London, M25, Gatwick, and Heathrow airports.
Council Tax Band: H
Following the dissolution of the monasteries in 1537, Ditchling Garden Manor was surrendered to Henry VIII by the last prior, Robert. In the subsequent year, Henry granted the manor to Thomas Cromwell, his lieutenant and the architect of the dissolution. Interestingly, there have been reports suggesting that the upstairs rooms of Wings Place were used for secret Catholic services during this time. A priest hole, which still remains at the top of the stairs, further supports these claims.
There is some speculation regarding the ownership of Wings Place during the reign of Henry VIII. It is believed that when Henry annulled his marriage to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, he may have granted her Wings Place as part of their separation settlement. However, it is also possible that another manor under his ownership, Ditchling Garden Manor, was involved. After Anne’s death in 1557, the property seemingly reverted to the Crown under the reign of Elizabeth I. In the later part of the 16th century, Wings Place was said to be owned by Lord Abergavenny, who gifted it to Henry Poole as part of his daughter’s dowry upon her marriage to Poole in the 1570s.
In 1688, the Browne family acquired Wings Place, and James Browne, the grandson, established the first floor of the guard room as a public library. The entrance to the library was accessed through a set of external brick steps, which can still be seen attached to the eastern side of the house, despite appearing to lead nowhere.
The house itself is a complex structure that has undergone multiple phases of construction. Its core likely dates back to a pre-1500 open hall house consisting of four bays, including a two-bay hall. Over time, one of the bays was likely converted to confine smoke, and a floor was added at the western end. During this period, a brick porch was also added to the front of the house.
Ditchling itself is an ancient settlement, mentioned in one of the oldest written records, Alfred the Great’s will from 880. Some claims suggest that the settlement represented the center of the South Saxon kingdom, extending northward towards Surrey in a narrow strip. The Domesday survey of 1086 further records Ditchling as a “manor” already in the possession of the crown.
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