Bailiffscourt is one of the strangest hotels you’ll find in Sussex. It looks like a medieval village by the seashore but is actually a number of historic buildings that were taken apart and reassembled on Climping Beach. Only the thirteenth-century chapel is in its original place.
The eccentric couple who created Bailiffscourt were Walter Edward Guinness, 1st Baron Moyne and his wife Lady Evelyn. This hugely wealthy pair built Bailiffscourt as a place for country parties during the Roaring Twenties. She had her bedroom in Bailiffscourt Manor (above what is now the hotel’s reception) while he had his in the Thatched House, a dismantled and reconstructed medieval building that he shared with their children. An underground passageway linked the two houses - and still does today - so that Lady Evelyn could visit her family when she wasn’t entertaining an admirer or two.
Over the years, more buildings were added to the estate by the amateur architect Amyas Phillips, whom the Moynes had met and befriended when he was running a Sussex antique shop. After World War II, and following Lord Moyne’s assassination in Palestine, the Guinness family sold the estate to a German refugee, Emmy Birrer who with her husband, Hans turned it into a 39-room hotel. Frau Birrer was still running the hotel well into the 1970s.
The fact that Lord Moyne bought up all the surrounding shoreline to make sure modern building did not undermine the integrity of his historical folly means that Bailiffscourt today represents a merciful gap in the overdeveloped English coastline between Brighton and Bognor Regis.
In 1993 Sandy Goodman, owner of two Sussex hotels, The Spread-Eagle in Midhurst and Ockenden Manor in Cuckfield, bought Bailiffscourt to create his small private portfolio called Historic Sussex Hotels. This family chain is now run by Sandy’s daughter Miranda and her husband Pontus Carminger.
Staying at Bailiffscourt can be a very romantic experience, especially in winter, as seven of the 39 bedrooms have open hearths and real log fires.
There is also a modern spa, with heated swimming pools indoor and out, that has been cleverly built to resemble a wooden Sussex barn.
WHAT TO SEE NEARBY:
Petworth House is a late seventeenth-century country house 17 miles north of Bailiffscourt. It contains intricate wood-carvings by Grinling Gibbons and many paintings by J.M.W. Turner, who was a friend of George Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont (1751-1837). Anyone who had seen Mike Leigh’s film will remember Turner spending some time at Petworth with his benefactor. Since 1947 the house has been owned by the National Trust who opened it to the public. As well as a substantial art collection, Petworth has an extensive deer park, landscaped by Capability Brown.