DiCamillo Companion
England

Lewes House

  • House & Family History: Lewes House is an early 18th century house of five bays with red dressings and gray headers. The modern history of the House begins in April 1890, when the American Edward (Ned) Perry Warren let the House for £150 per year as his primary residence (he purchased the freehold for £3,750 in March 1913). Ned was the third son (one of six children) of Samuel Dennis Warren of Boston, Massachusetts, founder of Cumberland Paper Mills (later S.D. Warren Company) in Maine. By 1889 the Warren company operated the largest paper mill in the world, which accrued great wealth to the Warren family. Ned was born on June 8, 1860, grew up in Boston and was educated at Harvard (Class of 1883) and New College, Oxford, where he received an MA in classics. Ned later established the Classical Fund at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, to help pay the salaries of those who taught Greek and Latin at the college (he was made an Honorary Fellow of Corpus Christi in 1915). Ned described himself early in life as destined to lead a "grand but blighted life." He had bitter experiences as a boy in Boston (he was nicknamed "Tassels" by his schoolmates and carried in his pocket three photographs of Venus statues) and as a result hated Boston for the rest of his life. Ned was unusual for his time in being openly gay, even promoting a homosexual lifestyle; he chose to live in England because he felt he could more freely pursue the ancient ideals of pedagogy and love between men. In his own words, he was "yearning for the renewal of Greek life and on the look out for affections – real affections – between my own sex." At Oxford Ned met John Marshall, with whom he formed a close and long-lasting relationship, both as lover and fellow collector of antiquities (John later left Ned and married). Ned and John setup house together at Lewes House, surrounding themselves with like-minded people in the arts (there were bedrooms and studies for eight, where young men worked on Ned's art: collecting, cleaning, and photographing his collection). Lewes House became a center for the study of classical art and a museum for all kinds of art, with an atmosphere described by contemporaries as being like the court of a small German principality. Ned was friendly with many of the major art figures of his day (in 1894 Bernard Berenson dedicated "Lorenzo Lotto" to Ned) and was one of the leaders of the Aesthetic movement (in spite of his hatred of Boston, the city obviously influenced him, as it was, according to Martin Green, "the city of culture, the world capital of the Aesthetic movement"). Oscar Wilde, another key figure in the Aesthetic movement, was a frequent visitor at Lewes (after Wilde's death in 1900 Lewes House became a mecca for his friends), as were members of the Bloomsbury Group, one of whom, the artist Roger Fry, painted a watercolor of the House and garden in 1910 (this was presented to the local council and is now on display in Lewes House). Ned is particularly noted for his work as a writer of works proposing an idealized view of homosexual relationships. He published a collection of his own homoerotic poetry, as well as a three-volume treatise entitled "In Defence of Uranian Love," which proposes a type of same-sex relationship similar to that prevalent in ancient Greece, in which an older man acts as a guide and lover to younger men (the word "Uranian" was first used by Karl Heinrich Ulrichs to describe adult homosexual love). Ned Warren died on December 28, 1928, after which Lewes House went through a number of owners until, in May 1945, Chailey Rural District Council purchased the House for use as offices. In April of 1974, following the reorganization of local government, the House came into the ownership of the current occupant, Lewes District Council, whose principal offices are located here today.

    Collections: After the death of his father in 1888 Edward (Ned) Warren began receiving an annual income of £10,000 (approximately £4 million in 2016 inflation-adjusted values using the labour value commodity index), which enabled him to furnish Lewes House with fine examples of antique furniture, Oriental carpets, tapestries, vases, bronzes, ivories, paintings, and rare books. Art collecting ran in Ned's blood (his mother was a great collector and his older brother Sam was president of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, leading that institution in 1909 to its current building). Ned was interested in all art (Lewes House contained a Filippino Lippi tondo – now at the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio, where it is considered the artist's most important work in the United States – and a Titian landscape drawing), but he saved his passion for antiquities, particularly those of ancient Greece, which he started collecting early. He became what is generally considered the most important collector of classical antiquities in American history (90% of the classical holdings of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, [MFA] came from Ned, or through him, according to Martin Green, writing in "The Mount Vernon Street Warrens"; in addition, Green also writes that Ned's partner and lover, John Marshall, was doing the same work for the Metropolitan Museum in New York). During the first decades of the 20th century Ned Warren sold the MFA art of all kinds, including pieces from his own collection, as well as art in which he acted as the dealer. Ned gifted to the MFA his collection of "obscene" art, as well as selling the museum his collection of Greek coins (119 coins were sold for $6,400 in 1907-08), followed by the sale to the MFA in the 1920s of his collection of engraved gems (J.D. Beazley, the world's foremost authority on Greek vases, published "The Lewes House Collection of Ancient Gems" in 1920, a book still in print in the early 21st century). Ned also gave approximately 600 pieces of art to the Walker Art Museum, Baltimore, and the art museum of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine (Ned was given an honorary degree from Bowdoin). In the late 19th century an extraordinary artifact of male-to-male sexuality was discovered; later to be called the Warren Cup (Ned purchased it soon after its discovery), this silver drinking vessel from ancient Rome was considered too offensive for the public eye and remained in obscurity for nearly a century after it was discovered, shown only to a select few. That obscurity ended in 1999 when the cup shot to media stardom as a result of its purchase for £1.8 million by The British Museum, where it is one of the stars of the Greek and Roman galleries. One of Ned's most notable friends was the sculptor Auguste Rodin, who stayed at Lewes House in 1903, during which time he proposed to exchange some of his own works for a Greek Aphrodite Ned owned (Warren ended up buying five of Rodin's sculptures). Ned commissioned Rodin to design the best known version of the larger-than-life-size "The Kiss" ("Le Baiser"), today in the collection of Tate Modern, London. The huge Pentelican marble sculpture was executed between 1901 and 1904 and arrived at Lewes House in 1906. Ned paid Rodin £1,000 for the sculpture and insisted that his version of the statue have a complete male sex organ, unlike earlier versions. The sculpture entered the Tate Gallery's collection in 1953 and has since become one of the most famous and copied sculptures in the world. Ned offered "The Kiss" to the local council in Lewes as a gift; it was rejected as "too big and too nude." After Ned's death the famous and much-photographed Tudor table from Lewes House sold for £2,100 (approximately £339,600 in 2016 inflation-adjusted values). Charles Eliot Norton, the American scholar, man of letters, and professor of the history of art at Harvard, summed up Ned: "There is not and never has been in America or Europe a man with such capacities, will, and circumstances for collecting, and the Museum [MFA] must be entirely dependent upon him."

  • Garden & Outbuildings: During Ned's ownership Lewes House had a large kitchen garden, a greenhouse, stables, and a paddock.

  • Title: Mount Vernon Street Warrens: A Boston Story, 1860-1910, The
    Author: Green, Martin
    Year Published: 1989
    Reference: pgs. xiii, 4, 25, 41, 49, 112-116, 126, 136, 160
    Publisher: New York: Charles Scribner's Sons
    ISBN: 0684191091
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Mount Vernon Street Warrens: A Boston Story, 1860-1910, The
    Author: Green, Martin
    Year Published: 1989
    Reference: pgs. 165, 173, 179, 183, 204, 214, 216-217,226,234
    Publisher: New York: Charles Scribner's Sons
    ISBN: 0684191091
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Buildings of England: Sussex, The
    Author: Pevsner, Nikolaus; Nairn, Ian
    Year Published: 1973
    Reference: pgs. 598-599
    Publisher: London: Penguin Books
    ISBN: 0140710280
    Book Type: Hardback

  • House Listed: Grade II

    Park Listed: Not Listed

  • Past Seat of: Henry Humphrey, 18th century. Henry Jackson, 19th century. Edward Shewell, 19th century. Edward (Ned) Perry Warren, late 19th-early 20th centuries.

    Current Ownership Type: Government

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Offices

    Ownership Details: Owned by Lewes District Council, whose principal offices are located here.

  • House Open to Public: No

    Historic Houses Member: No