About the Secret Garden

The Secret Garden originally belonged to 32 Sussex Square which was bought by its first owner, Laurence 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 one of these remaining. It is ‘secret’ because it is an oasis, a delightful walled garden hidden from view, in the midst of suburban Kemp Town. 


In 1950, the Secret Garden was purchased by Antony Dale, founder of the Regency Society, and founding officer for the listing of historic buildings nationwide by the then-Department of the Environment. The garden was cared for by Antony and his wife (later widow) Yvonne, who gave great consideration to the future of this valuable piece of land. Rather than sell it for development, it was their wish that this very special garden should be a haven for the use of the community and others.


Gavin Henderson CBE, a Brighton resident and former Artistic Director of Brighton Festival had the inspired idea of creating a garden for temporary exhibitions of sculpture within a beautifully planted setting, run by a board of Trustees. Before Yvonne Dale died, she gave a small stipend to the Secret Garden, to kickstart this enterprise. 


Under Gavin’s chairmanship, the Trustees have begun raising the necessary 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. The Trustees presented Black Blackbird by the sculptor Hamish Black, as a prelude to future exhibitions.  They have commissioned Landivar Architects, who have drawn up plans to extend and modernise the visitor and catering facilities in a style in keeping with the heritage of Kemp Town. The Trustees will be approaching the Heritage Lottery Fund, and they have developed links with the Kemp Town Society. 


THE SCULPTURE OF WILLIAM PYE: a major exhibition for Brighton Festival 2019

William Pye, an internationally acclaimed sculptor, will exhibit eleven important pieces in the Secret Garden next May. He has worked closely with the Trustees to create a very special show, which promises to enthuse a wide audience, from art lovers to those new to sculpture and also children. His fascinating pieces are made principally from stainless steel and cast bronze; a nd water is integral to most of his work. William Pye is inspired by the extraordinary qualities of water and the natural laws of hydrostatics, and how these can be manipulated.


He has held exhibitions at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, Venice; in Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro; in the USA, Hong Kong and Japan; and many in the UK. His work is found in private gardens and public places. These include a major commission on London’s South Bank; sculpture in the Mariinsky Concert Hall, St Petersburg; in the Serpent Garden, Alnwick Castle; in Drammen town centre, Norway; and in Muscat, Oman. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors, an Honorary Fellow of the RIBA and President of the Hampshire Sculpture Trust.



The Trustees are currently fundraising for the ongoing exhibitions programme. They are planning to stage a major exhibition during Brighton Festival each year, complemented by a programme of events, and a late summer show. There will also be other opportunities for members of the public to enjoy the garden.


The Trustees are also raising funds for renovating and improving the current buildings, to include a fully equipped kitchen and a modern washroom with an accessible toilet, so that the garden will be available for hires. There are plans to create a study centre on the history of Kemp Town within the facilities of the Secret Garden, as well as a related education programme with talks and tours of the surrounding area.


All donations will be gratefully received.

The Secret Garden is run by Antony Dale Trust, a registered UK charity (no: 1124822), governed by Trustees: Gavin Henderson CBE (Chair), The Lady Campbell of Alloway, Jo Cottrell, Caroline Cowley, Jackie FitzGerald, Stephen Neiman and Talia Rodgers.

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