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The Secret Garden: Introduction

The Secret Garden originally belonged to no 32 Sussex Square which was bought by its first owner, Lawrence Peel, younger brother of the Prime Minister, in 1830. Several of the grand houses in the square had extensive gardens, each of which was accessed through a tunnel leading from the appropriate house. The Secret Garden is now the only remaining one of these. It is ‘secret’ because it is an oasis, a delightful walled garden hidden from view, in the midst of suburban Kemp Town. Originally a  'pleasure garden', it led to a kitchen garden beyond.

The Secret Garden was purchased by the family of Antony Dale, founder of the Regency Society, in 1950. It was cared for by Antony and his wife (later widow), Yvonne Dale. Yvonne gave great consideration to the future of this valuable piece of land in central Brighton. Rather than sell it for development, it was her wish that this very special garden should remain as a haven for the use of the community and others, and for artistic purposes.

Yvonne was a staunch supporter of the Regency Society, and she approached Gavin Henderson CBE, a notable Brighton resident and former Artistic Director of Brighton Festival, who was at that time Chair of the Society. Gavin had the inspired idea of creating a sculpture park within a beautifully planted English garden, run by a board of carefully selected Trustees. Under Gavin’s chairmanship, the Trustees have been raising funds for the project. They have installed double gates and a landscaped slope for the delivery and removal of major pieces of sculpture – and for disabled access. The garden has been imaginatively redesigned by the experienced plantsman Nick Dwyer to make it the perfect setting for works of art and peaceful relaxation.

Black Blackbird and other sculptures by Hamish Black was the first exhibition in the Secret Garden, followed by William Pye 'Sculpting with Water' Both exhibitions were sponsored by the Foyle Foundation. In 2022, the Secret Garden will stage another major show, 'In Nature: A Celebration in Sculpture of Trees and Plant Forms'.

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