Charleston for Children: Special Kids Tours of a Special House this Half Term

P.L. Charleston Maynard Keyne's room photo. p.fewster-2
Detail from John Maynard Keyne’s room
Image copyright Penelope Fewster

I’m excited – but also gutted. Charleston contacted me earlier this week to tell me they’re doing special children’s tours of the house during half term week. I would love to do this with my son, but we are away or he’s in clubs while I work. Boo. If anyone goes, you must let me know what it was like.

P.L. Charleston Garden Room. photo. p.fewster-2
The Garden Room at Charleston
Image copyright Penelope Fewster

The house is the former home and country meeting place for the Bloomsbury Group of writers, painters and intellectuals (who were also rather naughty under it’s roof). Its interior was painted by two of the group – artists Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell – and this and the furniture and accessories within it form a perfectly preserved homage to their decorative style.

This place is an integral part of the identity of the area surrounding Lewes, and its creative history is, I’m sure, part of the reason why creative people are drawn in their droves to the town.

P.L. Charleston Dining room. photo. p.fewster
Detail from the Charleston dining room
Image copyright Penelope Fewster

Charleston is somewhere I’ve blogged about before. It’s so special. I particularly love its whimsical cottage garden, both as a picnic spot and just a place to hang out. But apart from my mortifying mute-fan dinner sat beside author Audrey Niffenegger in the kitchen at Charleston, I’ve never set foot inside the house. This is because I have, until now, always had very small children (and boys at that) and you can only see the interior as part of a tour. I couldn’t really imagine them being able to not fidget or run or touch things for that long, but I my older son is nearly six and would really ‘get’ and be interested in it, especially as his dad is an artist and he sees him drawing every day as his job.

P.L. Charleston Vanessa Bell's bedroom. photo. p.fewster
Vanessa Bell’s bedroom
Image copyright Penelope Fewster

This is why I’m really excited that there are special children’s tours running this half term – I hope if they’re a success, Charleston will run them again in half terms and holidays.

The tour will focus on the art in the house – the shapes, colours and textures, with lots of discussion about how it was done. Children on the tour will be encouraged to imagine how they would decorate they down house if they were given free rein. They’ll also be given a sense of the children who lived at Charleston over the years – and the little tell tale marks they left behind on the House.

Charleston. screen. v.B's room. photo. 10-12. original. p.fewster
Screen in Vanessa Bell’s room
Image copyright Penelope Fewster

Virginia Nicholson, the daughter of Quentin Bell and Anne Olivier Bell, granddaughter of Vanessa Bell, and author of books about Charleston and the Bloomsbury Group, spent her school holidays at the House. As she remembers: “It was always a heavenly place for children. It was a place where messy, creative play was a way of life. There was clay, paint, beads, wood, water, wool, endless paper and pencils, jam jars and sellotape, glue, sand, scissors and matches. The grown-ups were up to their elbows in it, and so were the children.”

P.L. Charleston studio paints. photo. p.fewster
Paints in the Charleston studio
Image copyright Penelope Fewster


Dates + times: Wed 29-Sat 31 Oct, 1pm

Run time: 30 minutes

No. of people per tour: Maximum 10 people – first come, first served (no booking)

Age: 6-16. Under 12s must be accompanied by a parent

Price: £6 per person (both for children and accompanying adults). You may stay on after the tour and enjoy the garden at no extra charge

There are other family/children’s events running during half term at Charleston. See the website for details.

P.L. Charleston Duncan Grant's dressing room photo. p.fewster
Detail from Duncan Grant’s dressing room
Image copyright Penelope Fewster


Drive: 11 minutes

Address: Firle, Lewes, East Sussex, BN8 6LL

Tel no.: 01323 811 265


Open: Wed-Sat, 1-6pm (last entry 5pm); Sun and Bank Holidays, 1-5.30pm (last entry 4.30pm). Regular tours are one hour long and start approximately every 20 minutes

Price: please see the Charleston website

Disclosure: No compensation financial or otherwise was offered or accepted for the writing of this post. Charleston contacted me about everything they are running over half term and, although I try not to publish posts about time-specific events because they date so quickly, I felt that as this is quite special and is a version of the way that Charleston usually operates, but for kids. It felt like a good fit for Little Lewes. 

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I’m Kate, a copywriter, brand consultant and editor who creates messages that are clear and clean. I create these for brands and agencies both big and boutique, in areas including design, homes and interiors, travel, fashion, lifestyle, beauty, food, and kids and families. I believe clear, clean messages bolster brands and businesses. They evoke emotion and ignite inspiration, and when written well, they’re easier to absorb – and respond to. I live in Copenhagen and am half-English, half-Danish. I write as comfortably in American English as in British, and behind the scenes I'm also studying Danish. Need help getting your message out? Contact me.

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