Most people in Eastbourne have no idea that Compton Place exists, hidden by flint walls and encircled by the Royal Eastbourne Golf Club (also leased from the Devonshires). The house was originally Bourne Place, a Jacobean manor, a few bits of which survive (a staircase and some panelling), and some form of house may have existed there since Tudor times. In 1726 it was remodelled in the Palladian style to the design of Colen Campbell the celebrated architect. The man who commissioned this was Spencer Compton, Britain's second prime minister, elbowed out of the chance to be the first by Walpole. When he finally got his turn 20 years later he died after six months - supposedly due to the stress of the job.
The house was acquired by the Devonshire family by marriage in 1763 when Lady Elizabeth Compton married Lord George Cavendish and in 1858 it was added to the estates of the 7th Duke, William Cavendish.
Our tour started in the stable blocks. Alongside stabling for horses and carriages, the block in the photo was dedicated to cows and sheep below and grooms above. Today the building houses classrooms.
The cyclamen were blooming in a wooded glade behind the house.
Queen Victoria's granddaughter, Alexandra of Hess, who later became the last Tsarina of Russia, left her mark in 1892 by carving her name in the bedroom window pane with her diamond ring (something she apparently also did in St Petersburg, Moscow and tragically at Ekateringburg. You can see the evidence in the picture. (Alix 1892)
To be alerted to special offers and the release of new books please sign up here. You'll receive a free short story based on my great great grandparents' visit to The Great Exhibition in 1851 - it's not available anywhere else.