G is for George, Ernest

Ernest George (1839 to 1922) was an English architect, landscape and architectural watercolour painter, and etcher.

West Dean Estate was originally the site of a three-gabled Jacobean E-Shaped building and the manor house was remodelled in 1805 - 1908 by James Wyatt.

English landowner, William James, purchased West Dean Estate in 1891. A further transformation took place in 1891 - 1893 under the architects Ernest George and Harold Peto, who three years later were responsible for building the new Claridges Hotel in London.

The Oak Hall

The architectural partnership transformed the late-Victorian/Edwardian living hall, the Oak Hall, by knocking two rooms into one, making a two-story space. This was achieved by removing a whole floor, inserting a tall Tudor-style window, and adding the Minstrels' Gallery. The monumental carved stone chimneypiece was added, surmounted by the arms of the James family with the date 1892, the year in which William James commissioned extensive alterations and improvements to the house.

At the time George and Peto created the Oak Hall, a staircase was put in with solid oak treads. This staircase led to the newly created Minstrels' Gallery which overlooks the Great Hall.

The oak panelling in this room was placed there in the late 19th century but was later embellished in the 1930s with elaborate decorative motifs designed by Rex Whistler (1905 - 1944) to a commission for Edward James. The estate passed to Edward, at only four years old, on the death of his father in 1912.

21st century

In 1939 Edward James wrote to Aldous Huxley expressing his fear that, after the war the techniques of craftsmen would be lost. As a solution, in 1964, he set up The Edward James Foundation and the internationally renowned college opened its doors in 1971. It is now internationally renowned for teaching in Conservation of historic objects and Creative Arts.