Charleston, photograph by Tony Tree copyright The Charleston Trust
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‘It is not so much a house as a phenomenon’ Quentin Bell once said of Charleston. It was in 1916 that the phenomenon came into being, as Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and David Garnett made the move from Suffolk to Charleston, where Clive Bell and Maynard Keynes were also to be regular visitors. As conscientious objectors Grant and Garnett were exempted from military service providing they continued to work on the land and both found employment on a nearby farm. It was Virginia and Leonard Woolf, who lived locally, who had originally spotted the late 17th century Sussex farmhouse situated at the foot of the South Downs and encouraged Vanessa to make the move. Over the next 60 years the house was decorated by Bell and Grant, they painted walls, doors and furniture and produced decorated ceramics and needlepoint designs for their home.

After the death of Duncan Grant The Charleston Trust was formed to preserve the house and its remarkable collection, it has been described as ‘One of the most difficult and imaginative feats of restoration current in Britain’.

Charleston now hosts an active range of other associated events . Amongst these are a summer school, an annual festival, the Charleston Gallery, the quarterly Canvas publication, the Crafts Council listed shop and the continuing activities of the Friends of Charleston (who are now 1,400 strong).

Venue Type:

Historic house or home, Museum, Heritage site, Festivals

Opening hours

Wed-Sun & Bank holidays

Wed - Sat 1300 - 1800 (1200 – 1800 July & August)

Sun & Bank holidays 1400-1800
Last entry 1700

Closed: Mon Tues

Admission charges

Adults £11.00
Children (6-16) £6.00
Accessible (Ground Floor only) £6.00
Family £31.00
Students/Green Traveller/Unemployed £10.00


  • National Art Pass

Charleston is the only surviving complete example of the decorative work of Bell and Grant, with walls, doors and furniture painted in their exuberant style. The house shows an evolution in decorative style throughout its different rooms. Initially only Vanessa’s bedroom (now the library), Clive Bell’s study door and window and Duncan’s bedroom were decorated. Later the designs spread throughout the house, including the spare room in 1936 and the garden room in 1945.

Charleston not only houses an impressive collection of art by its inhabitants but also a varied collection of other artist’s work including sculpture by Renoir and Gimond and paintings by Fry, Picasso, Sickert and Derain.

The collection is continually developing - recent acquisitions include Duncan Grant’s ‘Self-Portrait in a Turban’ 1909 purchased with support from The National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, The National Art Collections Fund and The Pilgrim Trust and Duncan Grant’s copy of Piero della Francesca’s ‘Portrait of Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino’ 1904/5 (this purchase was the first project to be supported by the Quentin Bell Commemoration Fund founded in 1997). Amongst recent loans are ‘Flowers against Chintz’ by Duncan Grant, 1956, from the Arts Council Collection and a bronze bust of Lytton Strachey by Stephen Tomlin, circa 1930, on loan from the Keatley Trust. The Tate Gallery have lent two pictures to the collection each season since 1993.

Collection details

Archives, Costume and Textiles, Decorative and Applied Art, Fine Art, Personalities

Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.

Christmas Wreaths

  • 7 December 2015 10am-4pm

The appearance of wreaths on doors at the beginning of December is a sign of a sign of welcome and a promise of festivities within. In the morning, tutor Georgia Miles of the Sussex Flower School will teach how to make a beautiful moss -based wreath, and the afternoon will be spent making a eucalyptus garland to grace mantelpiece, wall or stairway. Includes materials, tour and artisan lunch.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children




Silverclay Jewellery

  • 9 December 2015 10am-4pm

Discover the alchemy of silver clay. It can be textured, stamped and molded to create an infinity of beautiful shapes. Once the clay is fired, the organic binder burns off, leaving a perfect design in 99.5% pure, fine, silver. Take inspiration from the abstract, the organic or the celestial to create a unique piece of jewellery, for yourself or for a Christmas gift. With tutor Julie Sellars. Participants will leave with a pendant, charm or pair of earrings. Suitable for complete beginners, all materials included. Includes materials, tour and artisan lunch.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children




Anatomy in Oils

  • 29 February 2016 10am-4pm

From Michelangelo to Lucian Freud, artists have always been drawn to the luminosity and physicality oil paint brings to a painting. This masterclass is for painters with experience looking to take their work to a higher level. Working from a model, gain a more profound understanding of skeleton, muscle and skin to give your work substance and depth. Includes materials, tour and artisan lunch

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children




Near Firle
East Sussex


Charleston's intensely decorated interiors and overflowing gardens provide a truly individual experience. With the museum, cafe and shop also on site we recommend you allow half a day to enjoy all that Charleston has to offer.



Visitor Information

01323 811626

Group/ school bookings

01323 811626


01323 811628

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.