Our Founder

Edward James thought of himself primarily as a poet yet his innovations in art, design and architecture mark him out as an unrecognised visionary of the twentieth century. Through his patronage and creative partnerships with prominent Surrealists such as Salvador Dalí and René Magritte, James was involved in the creation of some of the most enduring representations of the avant-garde, including the iconic Mae West Lips Sofa and Lobster Telephone.

James sought to escape the conventions of his Edwardian upbringing, using his inherited wealth to sponsor artistic expression and to explore the limits of the imagination. His circle of associates indicated a lifestyle as fantastical as the works of art he acquired. In his pursuit of beauty, James meticulously designed every aspect of his world, often seeking to bridge the gap between dream and reality.

James was a committed writer of poetry and prose, often using his own imprint, The James Press, to produce beautifully crafted editions of his work. 

Find out more

Who we are

West Dean College of Arts and Conservation is part of The Edward James Foundation, a registered charity which also comprises West Dean Gardens, West Dean Estate and West Dean Tapestry Studio.

Read more

Our Alumni

As an alumnus of West Dean you become a member of a community with international reach. You can develop professional links through networking, come to college events, and access benefits, including discounted short courses and library access.

Read more about our School of Arts, KLC School of Design, and School of Conservation alumni.


Find out more

Support us

West Dean College was founded thanks to the vision of an extraordinary man, Edward James, who was passionate about teaching traditional heritage and craft skills.

Today we run a world class education programme thanks to the continuing vision of many extraordinary and talented tutors, crafts people and supporters of our work.

If you share our passion for historic conservation and the arts, and for our tranquil and inspiring gardens and grounds, please become more involved.

Find out more

Work for us

Exciting and flexible employment opportunities, excellent employee benefits and a rich creative heritage make West Dean an inspiring place to work.  

Discover vacancies across our West Dean and London Campuses, and learn what it's like to work at West Dean.


Find out more