In Safe Alms
by Caroline Metcalfe
Since 1619 Sackville College in East Grinstead has been providing homes and inspiration to the community; now it’s our turn to help this important historic building save its heraldic snow leopard.
Sackville College is not a school but an almshouse, founded in 1609 by the will of Robert Sackville, 2nd Earl of Dorset. Institutions like this were sometimes called ‘College’ or ‘Hospital’, in the sense of a gathering of people for a common purpose. Robert Sackville died a few days after making his will without seeing a single stone laid. His son, Richard Sackville, 3rd Earl of Dorset, had the almshouse built by 1619. He included a grand wing, the Dorset Lodgings, for his own use.
The purpose of the College was to provide a room and £10 a year to 21 poor men and 10 poor women. Today, Sackville College is still an almshouse, offering affordable accommodation for independent living to elderly local people of limited means. Instead of 31 rooms with communal privies, the building has been divided into 14 lovely flats. It has survived through the efforts of the Patrons, who have all been descendants of the Founder, and the various Wardens over time, and all the volunteer Guides, Helpers and Friends of Sackville College.
Visitors are welcome to this Grade 1 listed building, where you can see inside the beautiful quadrangle, hear about the Sackville family, and The Rev’d Dr John Mason Neale, who wrote many hymns and carols there, including ‘Good King Wenceslas’, and founded the Society of St Margaret, one of the first Anglican sisterhoods of nuns after the Reformation.
This year there is great need for funding as the heraldic leopard, a snow leopard or ‘ounce’, which should stand on top of the bell tower, was found to be leaning at a dangerous angle. It has been brought down by crane for inspection and for repairs to the mountings and surrounding roof. This will be very expensive. This leopard has been on the roof since 1986, and replaced an older one which was up there for 130 years and can still be seen inside. It would be a shame if this local landmark could not be restored for lack of funds.
There will be a Grand Book Sale during the Summer and in December there are Carol Evenings in the Chapel. These evenings are always popular and booking is essential! Sackville College is open to the public over the summer until mid September, between 2.00 and 5.00pm, last admission 4.15pm, Wednesday to Sunday. We look forward to seeing you there.
Sackville College, High Street, East Grinstead, West Sussex RH19 3BX
Parties can be shown round at other times, by prior arrangement with the Almoner.
Telephone: 01342 323414