SCOTNEY CASTLE

LAMBERHURST, KENT

Scotney Castle across the moat

Few places in England could claim to be as picturesque and romantic as the quaint ruins and surrounding gardens of Scotney Castle.  The castle was built by Roger Ashburnham circa. 1378-80 in response to the threat of French invasion although the castle was never more than a fortified Manor House.

Situated in Lamberhurst, Kent, just off the A21, the Scotney estate covers 770 acres of mixed woodland and park and visitors are encouraged to use the network of paths that offer wonderful vistas and viewpoints around the estate.

The Darrell family lived in Scotney Castle for 350 years rebuilding the south wing which adjoins the Ashburnham tower circa. 1580.  In the 17th century, William Darrell demolished much of the castle, utilising the masonry to construct a new three-storey east wing, of which today, only the outer walls remain.

By the mid 18th century, financial difficulties forced the Darrell family to dispose of Scotney Castle and it was purchased in 1778 by Edward Hussey, who between the years 1783-92 pieced together the rest of the old Darrell estate.

Edward Hussey's son, Edward III, a talented watercolourist, decided to build a new house, approaching the subject with the eye of a picture maker.  His new home was sited on a terrace 25 metres above the old castle using mellow sandstone quarried from the slope below.  The old castle was retained as a focus of the scene and the new house offered spectacular views down to the moat.

View from the Bastion The new house built by Edward Hussey III The Ice House, Scotney Castle

By 1952, when his grandson Christopher inherited Scotney Castle, Edward's original design had become blurred by numerous losses and those plants that had survived had seen better days.  Christopher Hussey was an influential writer with Country Life for over 50 years and saw that more long term planning was essential if the gardens were to have a future.  During the last 18 years of his life he set about creating a design that would be enjoyed by others and upon his death in 1970 he left the estate to the care of the National Trust.

Strangely, the oldest part of the original castle, the Ashburnham tower, is the best preserved while the east wing, built some 250 years later is now roofless and ruined.  However, this does not detract from its appeal and careful planting with various climbing plants which cover the walls from early summer creates a picture of immense beauty.

The steps to Ashburnham Tower The Herb Garden and well head in front of the Old Castle Climbing plants adorn the ruined walls

From whichever viewpoint you take, the castle and grounds of Scotney are worthy of your exploration and like me you will undoubtedly feel the need to visit on more than one occasion.

A view of the Bastion

 

 


 

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