- Sterns and guests, 1954, West Sussex Record Office
A Wonderful Partnership
The buyer was Mr. F.C. Stern a member of one of the richest families of foreign extraction in the country.
* Shipley Times and Express, 16 July, 1909
The Playboy and the Artist
In 1909, Fredrick Stern was a millionaire playboy. He was obsessed with big game hunting. Inside Highdown Tower hung many animal heads from Africa and North America. Stern decided that Highdown was to be the site of his other obsession: horse racing. He shocked the Establishment in 1909 by spending over a £1 million on a superb horse called ‘Flair’ at Newmarket. Sybil Lucas was training to be an artist in Belgium. She loved books and was interested in women’s politics. They both came from large wealthy Jewish families. He inherited his wealth from his father, one of the founders of Stern Brothers merchant bank in London. She was part of the Lucas family who were artists and poets. Sybil was also related to the influential Montefiore and Henriques families.
The Knight and the Magistrate
The First World War transformed their lives. He earned a Military Cross, fighting in Palestine (now Israel). She worked in the War Pensions Office in London. They married in 1919 and they became obsessed with horticulture and politics. From 1936, Sybil was a Worthing magistrate and the founder of the Goring Women’s Institute. In World War Two, Frederick was a Colonel of the West Sussex Home Guard. Sybil led the Women’s Voluntary Service in Worthing. In 1956, Stern was knighted for his services to horticulture. He also grew a special wedding anniversary gift for Sybil: Rosa ‘wedding day’, see photograph on this page. This first flowered on the day of their 31st anniversary on 26 June 1950.
Sources: ‘Highdown’ by James Stern, ‘London Magazine’ 1981; Jewish Chronicle 1918 to 1967; The Times June 28, 1919; Worthing Gazette 19 July 1972.