The Basil Ionides Trust land, along Framfield Road, was donated by the Ionides’ family in 1953 under trust to Buxted for social and recreational use by the community.
The three acre site is bounded by Framfield Road to the East, Buxted High Street to the North, the recreation ground to the South and the railway line to the West, in a prime position at the heart of the village. It has three buildings: the Rifle Club, the Scout Hut and the Old Boys Club. Previously part of Lower Totease Farm, the land is administered by the Basil Ionides Memorial Centre Management Committee.
The committee was set up in 1953 and comprises members of the local community: representatives of the Scouts, the Rifle Club, the Horticultural Society, the Parish Council, the Church and elected members from the village. The main issue facing the committee has been the lack of any income or ability to generate funds to make the best use of the site for these social and recreational purposes. Village fetes and other community events have been very successful at raising funds for various activities and the Parish Council has given grants.
The idea to make some of the Ionides land available to build a much-needed new medical centre and a community hall was first discussed at least two years ago. The need for a new medical centre is particularly urgent. We all know the surgery in April Cottage is no longer fit for purpose being too small with poor access and inadequate parking facilities. The need for a community hall was identified by most respondents to the Parish Council survey over three years ago, which resulted in the Parish Plan.
As a Charitable Trust, the Ionides Committee is constrained by its Terms of Reference as to how it deals with the land. After many months of discussion, the Committee succeeded in negotiating Heads of Terms with the developers, Ryhurst. These are not in conflict with its Charitable Trust status and, indeed, will provide a very welcome long term income which will be used for significant social and recreational purposes for the community.
A modern purpose-built surgery will replace the Boys Club. The playground and basketball area will be relocated nearby within the site. In addition, a new Community Hall will be constructed alongside the surgery, sharing facilities such as parking and access. As part of the Committee’s Terms of Reference, the committee was obliged to consult with the public on these matters. The public meeting in May 2009 was attended by over 120 residents and at least 85% voted in favour of building a new surgery and community hall on the site.
Basil Ionides, a celebrated well known half Greek, half English architect, owned Buxted Park for nearly 20 years in the 1930s and 1940s, living in what is now the hotel. He is best known for his interior design of the refurbished Savoy Theatre in London in 1929 and for the Art Deco style of Claridges. He also wrote two popular books on design. He and his wife, the Honourable Nellie Samuel, the Shell Oil heiress, bought Buxted Park in 1931. With his discerning architect’s eye and her immense fortune and knowledge about art, they restored the park and became important art collectors.
A fire destroyed much of the house in 1940, including most of the art. Ionides rebuilt the house during World War II, scavenging for architectural pieces from bombed-out buildings across Britain. Ionides died in 1950 aged 66. He is buried in St Margaret’s Church.