Nymans, one of the most fashionable and romantic gardens of the Edwardian and interwar years, was the creation of a family of German emigres of Jewish descent. The Messels arrived in Britain in 1870 at a time when both anti-semitism and anti-German sentiment were rife. Nevertheless, Ludwig Messel succeeded in establishing a successful stockbroking firm and creating at Nymans the quintessential English garden with rare plants and a theatrical herbaceous border inspired by William Robinson.
His children and grandchildren would continue to develop the garden and the family's spectacular social trajectory reached its apogee with Ludwig's great-grandson Antony Armstrong-Jones's marriage to Princess Margaret. However, Nymans was to repeatedly face disaster as a fire devastated the house leaving just a romantic ruin to dominate the garden, while the garden itself came close to total destruction in the Great Storm of 1987.