Life-long patron of the arts, Edward James (1907-1984) transformed his Estate of West Dean into an educational community devoted to techniques of craftsmanship. During his lifetime, he was particularly famous for being an early admirer and collector of Surrealist artists including Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte. In 1971, The Edward James Foundation established West Dean College, a centre for the study of conservation, arts, crafts, writing, gardening and music.
Originally built in 1603 as the home of Phillip, eldest son of the 4th Duke of Norfolk, West Dean House later passed into the hands of the Peachey family. Sir James Peachey, the 1st Lord Selsey, commissioned architect James Wyatt to rebuild the manor house, creating the core flint mansion seen at West Dean today.