Huntsland House is an imposing unlisted period property which has recently been sympathetically rebuilt internally to modern standards with underfloor heating throughout, insulated floors, walls, and roof, doubled glazed windows, pneumatic lift, three phase electricity, fire detector system, and CCTV. Original features include wooden shutters, high ceilings, and a Regency cantilevered spiral stone staircase with dome.
This amazing property is located in the rural setting and very conveniently located - only 10 minutes from Gatwick Airport, but without aircraft noise as it is not on a flight path. The train from Gatwick to London Victoria only takes 30 minutes, or alternatively trains to London Bridge, Victoria, and Brighton are also available from the nearby Three Bridges station.
Internal accommodation extends to approximately 10,000 square feet with six bedroom, seven bathrooms, and eight reception rooms including snooker table. The house is set within three acres of garden which include a four-bay garage, tractor shed, recently dredged lake, and indoor heated swimming pool.
Huntsland House was built for entertaining. With a ballroom, snooker room, cinema room, gym, wine cellar, pneumatic lift, covered swimming pool, garden party lawn, and recently dredged lake, this is a building designed to impress. With 6/9 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms, and a 4 bay garage, it provides ideal accommodation for family or for friends visiting over long weekends.
It is a fabulous example of Georgian and Victorian architecture with an imposing facade and distinct internal features such as symmetrical bay windows, original wooden shutters, and a cantilevered spiral stone staircase. The house has recently been renovated with new wiring, new plumbing, engineered oak floors, modern standards of insulation, and underfloor heating throughout.
The house is located high on a ridge with fantastic views across the unspoilt Sussex countryside, and is surrounded by approximately three acres of garden which include an enviable collection of mature copper beech, oak, and yew trees.
It is accessed via the private lane of the former Huntsland Estate, on the outskirts of Crawley Down village which has local amenities such as shops, post office, pharmacy, doctor, surgery, and a dentist. The larger town centres of Crawley and East Grinstead are approximately 6 miles away, and nearly private schools include Brambletye, Ardingly College and Worth School.
The local area includes a number of National Trust properties such as Standen, Nymans, and Sheffield Park, together with other significant gardens such as Wakehurst Place, High Beeches, Borde Hill, and Leonardslee. Dining out is available at a number of local country house hotels such as Alexander House and Gravetye Manor, there are also a number of local golf courses, polo and showjumping at Hickstead, and horse racing at nearby Lingfield Park.
Nearest Train station :
- Three Bridges
The origin of the Huntsland name appears to be lost in the mists of time. The mineral rights on the estate are still reserved for the ancient Saxon manor of South Malling Lindfield, which itself dates back to well before the Norman conquest, and so the land may once have been a hunting forest for this or another manor in centuries gone by. An alternative explanation could be that the land was once owned by someone by the name of Hunt. It is thought that a house may have been on the site since the 13th Century: Certainly Huntsland Barn, a remnant of the original farmstead, has parts dating back to the 16th century. The Huntsland Estate appears on the first Ordinance Survey map produced shortly after 1800, and by 1811 it is listed for sale as part of the break up of the larger neighbouring Tudor estate of Rowfant by the Bethune family. At that time it consisted of 240 acres, and was bought by a gentleman by the name of Peter Walker. The oldest parts of the existing house, namely the circular entrance hall and the majority of the basement, are believed to date from the Regency period, and so may have been constructed during Mr. Walker’s ownership. The Ordinance Survey map shows the driveway running in a straight line from Turners Hill Road to the front door, across the ancient stone bridge in Front Wood which still survives intact today.
On his death in 1835 the estate was sold again, and all of the electoral rolls from 1843-1877 show John Russell Reaves as the owner. His father, John Reaves, worked as the Chief Inspector of Tea for the East India Company in China. He was also a keen amateur naturalist and artist, and specimens from all over Asia appear in his collection. Reeves's work in the trading port of Canton, China, gave him access to exotic flora and fauna from all over the continent. He also developed a network of local contacts who supplied him with specimens from within China and other Asian countries. He later became a correspondent with the Horticultural Society of London, sending specimens and drawings back to England. John Russell Reeves later joined his father in Canton as a tea merchant. He shared his enthusiasm for natural history and eventually became a well-known naturalist in China for scientists in England in his own right. On Reeves's death in 1877, his widow presented the 2,000 or so drawings that he had inherited from his father to the British Museum's natural history department. John Russell Reeves was also responsible for the rebuilding of Huntsland House during this era, and the building and gardens that we see today are largely his creation. The ordinance survey map surveyed in 1873 shows Huntsland Lane following its present line, the original driveway presumable having been abandoned due to natural springs making it impassable in winter.
Following his death in 1877 the estate was again sold, and was once again reunited with the Rowfant Estate, now owned by the Locker Lampson family. During the 1880’s Huntsland was let firstly to J Arbnuthot and then to Herman Rücker, a former colonial broker, until his death in 1893. It is possible that Huntsland was used as a dower house by Hannah Jane Locker Lampson following the death of her husband in 1895, but in 1899 the property was leased by Hannah to a solicitor by the name of Milton Bradford. The estate is described at this time as having three lodges, Entrance Lodge, Front Wood Lodge, and Avenue Lodge, which probably correspond to Huntsland Lodge, Arne Lodge, and Wallage Lodge today. Hannah was the only daughter of Sir Curtis Miranda Lampson, who had purchased Rowfant in 1848. She married the poet Frederick Locker, who had a renowned library at Rowfant and was acquainted with all of the major literary figures of the day such as Dickens, George Elliot, Ruskin, Tennyson, Thakeray, and Trollope. Hannah published several fictional books and had two daughters, Dorothy and Maud, and two sons, Oliver and Godfrey, both of whom became Conservative Members of Parliament. Oliver Locker Lampson was educated at Eton and Trinity College Cambridge, and during the first world war was given the naval rank of Lieutenant Commander following an agreement with Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, to personally fund an armoured car squadron. The squadron initially served in France, but once the front became bogged down in trench warfare it was moved to the Russian front. Here he became entangled in Russian politics and claimed that he was asked to participate in the assassination of Rasputin, and promised to smuggle the Czar out of
Russia, a promise that he was unable to keep when the Czar insisted on staying with his family. In 1903 Arthur George Brand and his family moved in. Brand was the third son of Henry Brand, 1st Viscount Hampden, and grandson of General Henry Trevor, 21st Baron Dacre. Educated at Rugby, he entered parliament as the Liberal member for Wisbech in an 1891 by-election, and served in the Liberal administration of the Earl of Rosebury as Treasurer of the Household. He lost his seat in the 1895 election, but was elected again from 1900 to 1906, during which time he lived at Huntsland. He was also a Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant for Sussex.
In 1906 the property was occupied by Ebenezer Cayford jp, who was a director and Chairman of the Houlder shipping line, but who died in 1909 leaving his estate to his only daughter, Nellie Maud Emma. She had married in the previous year to Henry Norman Spalding, who was educated Eastbourne College and New College Oxford, and was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn. Spalding was a civil servant in the Admiralty, 1901-1909, and served in the Admiralty and the Ministry of Munitions (Deputy Director, Welfare Department), 1915-1918. With his wife he co-founded a Chair of Eastern Religions and Ethics, a University Lectureship in Eastern Orthodox Culture, an Advisership in Eastern Art, and four temporary Senior Research Fellowships in Indian history and religion at Oriel and Brasenose Colleges, Oxford.
He co-founded the Association of British Orientalists, Museum of Eastern Art at Oxford, and published a number of books. The 1911 census shows the Spaldings in residence at Huntsland with a cousin by marriage and six domestic servants – a housekeeper, parlourmaid, two housemaids, a ladymaid, kitchen maid, and scullery maid. Spalding stood unsuccessfully as the Liberal candidate for East Grinstead in the 1910 general election and for Reading in the 1913 by-election, and the Huntsland gardens were used by the Spaldings to host Liberal party functions.
In 1915 the house was purchased by Percy Herbert Aggett Barrow who moved in with his family. The Barrow family business was Barrow Hepburn & Gale, which makes luxury leather goods such as the red dispatch boxes used by the government and Royal Maundy purses. The firm would have had considerable government contracts during the first world war for the production of goods such as saddles and bayonet scabbards. The Barrows had a son, John who was educated at Wellington College and University College Oxford.
From 1928-1933 the house was empty. It was then purchased by Mollie Eddington and Jean Slater from Australia and New Zealand respectively, who updated Huntsland with electricity and running water and operated it as a country house hotel. In 1937 the antique furniture collected by the hotel was auctioned, and the house which was described at that time as having 14 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, and 5 reception rooms, was sold to Alexander J McNeill Reid.
Reid was the son of Alexander Reid, an art dealer originating from Glasgow who was the joint founder of the Lefevre art gallery in Mayfair, London. Artists whose first British solo exhibitions were hosted by the gallery include Salvador Dali, Edgar Degas, Andre Derain, L S Lowry, Amedeo Modigliani, Henri Rousseau, and Georges Seurat. Alexander Reid was a close personal friend of James Whistler and Vincent Van Gogh, sharing lodgings in Paris with the latter. Van Gough and Reid were said to look so similar in appearance that many could not tell them apart until they spoke – indeed a book has eve been published suggesting that they traded places at one point in their lives. Van Gogh painted Reid’s portrait at least twice, and one of these portraits now hangs in the Glasgow Art Gallery.
Alexander J McNeill Reid took over the position of director of the Lefevre from his father, and he may have purchased Huntsland with a view to using it as a gallery as well as a home. The Lefevre continued to operate during the war years, and it would seem likely that he used the house to safeguard works of art when the London gallery in King Street was destroyed during the blitz.
In 1946 the Huntsland Estate was purchase by Captain Oscar Gross, a sea captain of Hungarian nationality who was born in the town of Nitra, Slovakia. In 1936 Donald McCowan and Oscar Gross had founded McCowan & Gross, apparently to take advantage of the British Government's 'Scrap & Build' scheme, where generous, cheap loans would be granted to build new tonnage equivalent to that of old ships sold for scrap. In all six tramps were built with names beginning 'Derry', eg "Derrymore". In 1946 the company took over Power Steamship Co, another small tramp company founded in 1906 and new ships were registered in its name with McCowan & Gross as managers. In 1951 Donald McCowan withdrew from the partnership and the company became O. Gross & Sons. A new naming scheme was adopted with the prefix 'Hunts' based on the Huntsland Estate and the letters mg on the funnel were changed to og. The ships in the fleet were the Huntsland, launched 1954, the
Huntsville, launched 1957, the Huntsfield, launched 1958, the Huntsmore, renamed 1951, and the Huntsbrook, renamed 1951. The ships were sold off in the late 1960’s, with the company's last ship, "Huntsland", being driven ashore at Hong Kong on 17 August 1971 by
typhoon 'Rose', refloated and sold to Hong Kong breakers.
Following the death of Captain Gross’s wife, Huntsland House was sold off by the Gross family, although the surrounding farmland was retained. The house then passed through a series of hands until reaching its current owners, the Daw family, who commissioned a major restoration of the building in 2020-2021.