Contributed by Carole Hayward

“One of the country’s truly great gardens”, Country Life Magazine.

In 1892 Colonel Stephenson Robert Clarke, a keen naturalist, purchased the 200 acre estate, together with the house which dates back to 1598 when it was built by Sir Stephen Borde whose family lived in Cuckfield for generations.  So began the most important era in the evolution of these wonderful gardens.  The soil type particularly favoured rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and trees of the Far East which were of considerable interest to Colonel Clarke. He sponsored many expeditions of the great plant collectors who returned with new species to be planted in the Garden and surrounding woodland.  For more details of the developments of the Garden visit

Italian Garden 1980s
Italian Garden 2013

Borde Hill House and Garden is surrounded by farmland. The land closest was farmed by the Stephenson Clarke family and the farms further afield were let to tenants.

Colonel Sir Ralph Stephenson Clarke inherited the estate on the death of his father in 1948. He was particularly interested in the herd of Sussex cattle which grazed the parkland and in 1951 he joined the partnership of Sussex Breeders who developed a race of Polled Sussex cattle.In addition, at nearby Naldred Farm, Sir Ralph founded a milking herd of Ayrshire cows which records show to have been producing high yields and excellent quality milk. When Sir Ralph died in 1970 his son Robert decided to give up the farming enterprises on the home farm and both the herds of Sussex cattle and the Ayshire cows were sold together with the farm machinery. The sales were conducted at Naldred Farm by T Bannister and Co of Market Place, Haywards Heath.

Borde Hill House ca 1870
Borde Hill House 2013

If you are interested in this or any other Cuckfield topics, why not visit us in the museum.