Awards Day at West Dean College

Last week was a very busy week at the University of Sussex (including the Graduation Ceremony for students in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences), and yesterday (Saturday) saw me attending another event on quasi-official business, this time at West Dean College, which is situated in West Sussex, a few miles North of Chichester.

The occasion for my visit there was Awards Day at the college, and I got the chance to go because one of our Pro-Vice Chancellors was unable to attend so I volunteered to go in her place. I didn’t know much about the College before yesterday, except that it is one of several institutions whose degree programmes are validated by the University of Sussex.

In fact, the College provides MA degrees, diplomas and short courses for students of all abilities, from the beginner to the advanced professional practitioner across a wide range of creative arts, design and conservation (including rare and old books, furniture, and clocks).  The various degree certificates, diplomas and other prizes were handed out to students of all ages, which was great to see. Before I go on I just like to congratulate them all again on their wonderful achievements, especially those creative arts students whose work we were able to view after the ceremony including prize-winning sculptures by Lotti V Closs. I even made a discreet inquiry about whether it was possible to buy some of the pieces…

Anyway, West Dean College is based in West Dean House, part of an ancient estate that was eventually inherited by the poet Edward James, a notable patron of the arts particularly famous for his support of the surrealist movement. The house was extensively modified during the late around about the turn of the twentieth century which presumably accounts for the distinctive arts-and-crafts look of some of the exterior.


The house is surrounded by an estate of 6000 acres in beautiful countryside. Ownership of the house, the estate and the art collection housed therein was transferred to the Edward James Foundation, a charitable educational trust, in 1964.

Many sheep were in attendance, although they didn’t come to the actual ceremony. To be honest, it was a much grander setting than I’d imagined it would be. In fact I think the last time I saw a place like West Dean House it was the site of a Country House Murder during an episode of Midsomer Murders or some such. The awards ceremony was held held in a Marquee on the lawns which, in the muggy weather, was a little uncomfortable though the programmes came in very useful as fans. Fortunately it all passed off peacefully without any murders although I did see a large group of crows in the fields, if that counts.


The manner of my arrival was much less grand than the location seemed to require. I took the train from Brighton to Chichester and then got a bus to West Dean. Being about half an hour early for the kickoff, I had time to walk around the grounds of the house. There’s a beautiful walled garden with many lovely flowers.


I recognized  Crocosmia Lucifer and Phlox among the following..


These curious but beautiful lantern-shaped flowers evidently belong to some type of lily, but I don’t know what kind. Any offers? (UPDATE: I am reliably informed that these are examples of Erythronium Pagoda


The walled garden is just one small part of the estate, which also comprises workshops and studios used by the students, a very nice dining room and bar area plus rooms for meetings and conferences. I enjoyed a quick tour of the facilities after the Awards Ceremony, but must go back some other time to have a proper look. The other gardens are fine too:


And this pergola would put most garden varieties to shame!


Anyway, since one of the Prizes presented yesterday was for blogging about conservation, I couldn’t resist advertising the West Dean College blogs. They have two, in fact, one for Conservation (here) and one for Visual Arts (here). These are both hosted on wordpress platforms, so if you’re following this blog on WordPress why not give them a follow too?

2 Responses to “Awards Day at West Dean College”

  1. “I even made a discrete inquiry about whether it was possible to buy some of the pieces…”

    Discrete or discreet? Or both?

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