"Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so."

"Don't think, feel....it is like a finger pointing towards the moon. Don't concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory!" -Bruce Lee

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Strange comings and goings in Stanmer Park, and dinner at Frankie & Benny's..

So, on Sunday evening we decided to go for a walk in Stanmer Park. It's this place just outside Brighton, in Falmer (I first found this place with my housemates at Sussex in my first year: we were going for a walk trying to find a pub, and somehow ended up ducking under barbed wire fences, walking through some woods, and finally running through a few fields full of cows before coming across this really cool place! I won't mention that we later found out that there is a direct path there from behind the Gardner Arts Centre on campus, lol.. we thought we'd found somewhere so hidden away!)

Anyway, this place is really surreal, its like a kind of ghost town. There's this big old mansion there that's all boarded up, when I first went there you could walk around the gardens and everything, there was a really ornate fountain in the back garden that was falling to bits, and other grand features left to ruin. It was so intriguing, we just wanted to know the circumstances surrounding this, how what was obviously a very grand house at one time had come to be deserted like this! We came to the conclusion that it must be some kind of top-secret government bunker, there could be no other explanation!

Surrounding the house is the small village of Stanmer, consisting of a small church on a pond, a few deserted farm buildings, what looks like a deserted mill, a rarely open cafe, and a terrace of old houses. Other than that, there are just fields and fields of parkland that must've once been part of the Stanmer House estate. It's a really cool place, kinda eerie when there's noone else about, I remember the first time I went there I thought what an excellent place it would be to set a film or something.

Well, on Sunday night I was thinking about Stanmer Park because I'd seen a few wierd things going on over there when I was on my way to hand in my dissertation the other day. Horses and carts everywhere! I still have no idea.. but anyway, I did a quick search in an attempt to find out, and inadvertantly found out that they're restoring the old house at the moment! I'm glad! I was so surprised to see a website up advertising the place for wedding reception/conference use. I thought they had to be taking the mick, I mean really, a conference, where would they sit?! Oh, just climb in the window there, mind the broken glass..

What's also interesting is that the website has a history of the house on it, it turns out it was built in 1727, and was lived in by the Earl of Chichester, Thomas Pelham, and the Pelham family had continued to live there until the 8th Earl was killed in WW2 and the family was badly hit by inheritance tax. So, in 1942 Stanmer was requisitioned by the War Office for the Canadian Tank Regiment, to provide billets and live firing ranges. Until then, the buildings and grounds were in good condition, but the military occupation changed this, with extensive damage being caused to the main house and woodland areas.

So there you go, mystery solved!

Anyway, we went over there on Sunday evening out of curiousity, to see how the restoration was coming along, and to see if we could shed any light on what I'd seen the other day, and were greeted by a strange scene..

There were tonnes of proper film set style lights and props scattered all over the place, and not all from a restricted time period/genre either..

a jeep half covered in turf; some kind of construction for sitting in: a kind of poncy umpire chair
some lighting set up in someone's front garden; Stanmer House with a couple of lights on o.O and in the foreground, a bunch of guys painting a kind of garden ornament/bandstand/purgula thing;
deserted mill building; recently deserted farm buildings, with speaker systems attached to a lamp post in the foreground;
Stanmer church (surrounded by lighting rigs); Stanmer Tea Rooms

So after a little investigation, and a nosy peek into a barn at the end of the village filled with people and sound, we found out what this was all about, the world premiere of the promenade production 'Souterrain' by the WildWorks theatre company, inspired by the ancient myth of 'Orpheus in the Underworld' (for the Brighton Festival!). I bet it'll be good, so long as it's not raining!
Oh, as a side note, I found out the other day that the place has been used by quite a few film crews, including a few costume dramas and Cliff Richard filming his Christmas video, lol! You learn something every day.

For dinner, we went to the Brighton Marina, and decided to try out Frankie & Benny's! I definitely approve. Not only do they do those really nice crushed ice smoothies ala 'Planet Hollywood', they also did me aubergine Napoli style, with mozerella cheese and tomato, my favourite dish from Sorrento! =)

1 comment:

¨°º©[ Fink ]©º°¨ said...

Looking forward to the pics! We had a good meal in frankie and bennies also -