1920s Herstmonceux: The Colonel & The Party Palace

“We crossed the drawbridge over a grassy moat and passed through the great archway of a double gate-house to be greeted by Claude Lowther dressed in black knee-breeches, black silk stockings and buckled shoes as though for a court ball!”

Violet Bonham-Carter.



The decade known as the ‘roaring twenties’ is synonymous with glamour, exuberance and partying. As the world emerged from one of the greatest conflicts in our history, survivors looked to the new decade with hope and excitement. The 1920s was a decade which brought about several novel and highly visible changes which altered the course of the 20th century. These new trends in everything from politics to art, music to fashion, architecture, science and technology were made possible by sustained economic prosperity and they were most visible in major cities including New York, Chicago, Paris, Berlin and London. However, their influence and impact can also be seen out in the countryside too, such as at the rural idyll of Herstmonceux Castle.

We know that by the turn of the 20th century Herstmonceux Castle was little more than an ivy clad ruin but a new owner in 1911 was about to change all that. Colonel Claude Lowther purchased the castle with a view to creating his own country retreat and as the grandson of an illegitimate union between an English lord and an Italian opera singer, he certainly felt he had plenty to prove. This digital exhibition is the result of a year-long project led by Dr Claire Kennan and Dr Christian Lloyd at the Bader international Study Centre. It brings together new academic research and student contributions including short articles, images from our archives and performances.. Through this exhibition we hope to bring to life once more the ‘remarkable and brilliant personality’ that was Colonel Claude Lowther and shed light on those who were living and working on the estate during this transformative period in its history.[1]

Dr Claire Kennan, History Lecturer and Research Coordinator at the BISC.

[1] R. P, ‘Obituary: Colonel Claud Lowther, Soldier, Politician and Wit’, The Times, 18 June 1929, p. 18.