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As long ago as 1216 Robert of Hemsted occupied a house on the site. The first plantings in the park appear to have been made in the early-19th century by the then-owner Sir John Norris, Admiral of the Fleet and Vice Admiral of England.

Later in the century it became the property of the Earl of Cranbrook who extended the gardens and woodlands and planted many rare conifers. He also replaced the old Elizabethan house with a more elaborate edifice in the French style designed by David Brandon. There are later lodge gates and cottages by George Devey. Much of the village of Benenden was also created by Lord Cranbrook in the 1860s. Elaborate formal gardens were designed following the high Victorian love of bedding, pools and statuary.

During Lord Cranbrook's era the woods and plantations covered about 2,000 acres, being mainly of ash, oak, beech and sweet chestnut for timber and for game. Carefully-planned vistas led the visitor through a series of different gardens. There is also a shaded walk. What was one of the finest Japanese red cedar (Cryptomeria) avenues in the country was planted in the late-19th century by Lord Cranbrook.

In 1912 Lord Rothermere commissioned a major reconstruction of the house. In 1923 the estate was sold and broken up into lots. Benenden School leased the house in 1924 and a year later purchased the house, gardens and some parkland and woods.

The October 1987 storm was disastrous for much of the grounds here. Most of the important trees in the shelter belts around the gardens came down and also sadly the great cryptomenia avenue west of the rose garden. Other fine trees were also lost.

Site timeline

1850 to 1899: In the late-19th century the site became the property of the Earl of Cranbrook who extended the gardens and woodlands and planted many rare conifers. He also replaced the old Elizabethan house with a more elaborate edifice in the French style designed by David Brandon.

1912: In 1912 Lord Rothermere commissioned a major reconstruction of the house. In 1923 the estate was sold and broken up into lots.

1924 to 1925: Benenden School leased the house in 1924 and a year later purchased the house, gardens and some parkland and woods.

1987: The October 1987 storm was disastrous for much of the grounds here. Most of the important trees in the shelter belts around the gardens came down and also sadly the great cryptomenia avenue west of the rose garden. Other fine trees were also lost.

People associated with this site

Architect: David Brandon (born 1813 died 1897)

Architect: George Devey (born 23/02/1820 died 04/11/1886)

Features

kitchen garden

The kitchen garden once maintained for domestic production had been let to a herb specialist and nursery grower but is now derelict.