E is for Edward James and Edward VII

Edward F.W. James was born in 1907 in Gullane, Scotland. The son of William Dodge James, a wealthy landowner with wealth derived from the American lumber and mining industries, and his wife Evelyn, the eldest daughter of Helen Moncreiffe and Sir Charles Forbes, 4th Baronet of Newe, whose estate, Castle Newe was in the vicinity of Balmoral, the Scottish residence of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The youngest of five children and the only boy, Edward James birth was a cause for great celebration. Edward James inherited West Dean Estate at four years old on the untimely death of his father in 1912.

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King Edward VII

King Edward VII, then HRH The Prince of Wales, was Edward's godfather. It has been rumoured, his father, or even his grandfather.James believed his godfather was, in fact, his grandfather. The Prince was a frequent visitor to the shooting parties at West Dean Estate.

The Edward James Foundation

On 21 October 1909 West Dean House was chosen as the location in which HRH Edward VII opened, by remote control, the Royal Edward Institute for Tuberculosis in Montreal, Canada. As reported in the newspapers of the day, the King walked out of the Dining Room and pressed what looked like a bell-push. This sent an 'electric spark' transmitted from West Dean to Montreal where the opening ceremony was being held. When the current reached the Institute the doors of the building flew open. As the crowd entered the building all of the electric lights were switched on and the Union Jack was run up the flag pole. There is an alabaster plaque at the top of the marble stairs at West Dean House commemorating this event. The earliest reference to West Dean is in the Domesday Book (1086).

In 1964 Edward James conveyed his family mansion and 6,400 acre estate to the charitable trust The Edward James Foundation. The Grade II* Listed house is now home to the college internationally renowned for conservation and creative arts.

Further Research

The Secret Life of Edward James (1978) presented by George Melly The Bones of My Hand by Edward James (Ocford University Press, 1938)

West Dean College is part of the Edward James Foundation (established in 1964), a Charity Trust No. 6689362.

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West Dean is part of a registered charity and relies on the support of generous donors, friends, legacies to help us deliver world-class education in conservation and the creative arts and maintain our award-winning gardens.

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