Seaford Urban District Council granted building control permission for Florence House (aka Down Head) to be built on this site on 8 April 1929, for Mr Edmund J Byrne. It was designed by Underdown and Duke, local Seaford architects and built by J Bodle Limited from Eastbourne.
Alwyn Underdown designed many houses in Seaford and on the East Dean estate. Florence House was ‘unique in so far as it is the only house in the district constructed of Purbeck stone, the materials being specially brought from the famous Dorsetshire quarries: the roof is in complete harmony being of Cornish slate. The whole property therefore possesses a very dignified appearance, which is enhanced by leaded light windows set in oak frames”.
In 1938 the house was requisitioned by the Canadian Army as staff accommodation to support their troops in the area. It was released after the war and offered at public auction in 1946 – the auction notice stated that ‘the purchaser will have the benefit of the claim against the War Department in respect of dilapidations accrued during the period of requisitioning by the Military Authorities’.
The house was sold in 1976 for £40,000. In 1983 it was again offered for sale at £170,000 and operated as a children’s home from 1985 to 1998.
In 2004, Florence House was taken over by Mairin and Gordon Colleary who have developed it over the years and given it a very special ethos. Retreats, Weddings, conferences and B&B are the major activities.
In 2010, Florence House was developed even further with a complete overhaul of the interior, carried out by the dedication and love of the staff that work there. With newly painted walls throughout, and carpets laid in the hallways and bedrooms, Florence House was given a new lease of life. In 2011, the wooden floors were completely restored, and in 2012, a new log burner was introduced into the panelled room.
In 2010 an authentic Mongolian Yurt was entrusted to the estate by Andrew Wallas. With no real purpose, it just sat there, with only a local meditation group using it twice weekly. It was given its own piece of land and its own access gate in the hope it would evolve. Sure enough it slowly began to integrate itself into Florence House life. The Yurt today has a whole range of events from massage and yoga to monthly sound healing sessions.
In 2016, both the lounge and the dining area were extended. Complete with underfloor heating and a linking terrace in the walled garden, these extensions are a stunning addition to Florence House creating space and a feeling of luxury. With Florence House continuing to develop and flourish in this way under the guidance of the Colleary family, who knows where it will stop?.