THE WOMEN OF WISTON HOUSE, SUSSEX

Wiston House, to the west of Steyning, is a handsome manor house, built c.1575 by Sir Thomas Sherley, an Elizabethan courtier and Member of Parliament. This is the story of some of the women who lived at Wiston over the next two centuries. Dame Anne Sherley, his widow, left a fascinating will, full of delights, in 1623.

The house had been sold to Lionel Cranfield, the Lord Treasurer of England, the year before that, when Dame Anne had to leave her home of 63 years. His tenant and friend, newly widowed Frances, Countess of Exeter, wrote excitable letters about the garden and the new water supply.

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A later owner, Robert Fagg, married Christian Bisshoppe of Parham in 1696 and they had seven children in nine years, during which time Robert set up home with another woman. The story of his ‘other family’ and Christian’s fight to save her marriage are the stuff of romantic fiction. In 1743 widower Sir Charles Goring of Highden, Washington, from a neighbouring estate, married the then heiress, Elizabeth Fagge, a 40 year old spinster. Their son Charles planted the trees on Chanctonbury Ring in 1760 when he was just sixteen. The Goring family still own the Wiston Estate today.

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