Page last updated at 18:57 GMT, Thursday, 29 January 2009

Bloomsbury house history search

A girl walks through an entrance to the walled garden at Charleston
Visitors are taken by Charleston's colour and creativity, Mr McKenzie said

People's memories of a house in Sussex that became home to London's Bloomsbury Set are being sought in a bid to fill in gaps in its history.

Charleston, near Lewes, was home to artist Vanessa Bell - the sister of the writer Virginia Woolf.

The trust that owns it wants to hear from people who remember the house and its residents in the 1960s and 1970s.

Trust director Colin McKenzie said: "It could be someone who came up the garden path and talked to the housekeeper."

He said: "We want to get a flavour of what life was like, and there's very little evidence, apart from people's memories, of that period. There was very little written down."

Summer house

The Bell family rented the property from the Firle Estate, which was an "incredibly tolerant landlord", allowing them to decorate the walls, doors and furniture and design the garden.

"It's one of those places you come to as a child and you're taken by the colour and exuberance, by the creativity," Mr McKenzie said.

He added: "I think there's a lot that's been written and said about Bloomsbury in the past that has divided opinion, but in terms of the house itself it's a very positive experience that most people take away."

The history of the house from first half of the 20th century is well-documented

In 1916, Vanessa Bell moved to Charleston and lived there with her husband Clive Bell, two children, Quentin and Julian, their friend, Duncan Grant, and his partner, writer David Garnet.

Intellectuals who regularly stayed there included the economist John Maynard Keynes.

The group lived in the house through two world wars, and used it as a summer and weekend country house during the 20s and 30s.

Until the 1960s it was one of the few places where people could be open about their sexuality and feel free to express themselves, Mr McKenzie said.

People who want to share their memories of Charleston have been asked to contact the charity.

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