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Allington Castle

Introduction

Allington Castle is one of the most secretive and romantically beautiful castles in Kent. It is sadly now almost engulfed by housing and industrial development. Such is the character of its location, however, and the ingenuity of the landscaping of the mere 6 hectares or so now left as is an oasis.

Allington Castle is one of the most secretive and romantically beautiful castles in Kent. It is sadly now almost engulfed by housing and industrial development. Such is the character of its location, however, and the ingenuity of the landscaping of the mere 6 hectares or so now left as an oasis, that from the castle itself there is a scene of tranquil repose, and green coolness of the River Medway Valley as it must have been in the last century. Like ‘The Friars' at Aylesford, this protected historic landscape in such a highly developed area is of considerable importance.

The castle today is a fine piece of restoration undertaken by Sir Martin Conway when he purchased the freehold of the ruined 13th century castle from Lord Romney for £48,000.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

Directions

The site is in the Maidstone Borough. It is 2 miles north-west of Maidstone, north of the A20. It is on the south bank of the River Medway.

Owners

Sir Robert Worcester

History

To quote Lord Conway as he first saw itthe site in 1905 'its walls and fine visible towers were buried in ivy ... most of its moat had been filled in ... there were neither floors nor roofs ...'

Restoration continued for the next 25 years using skilled local craftsmen to carefully rebuild and renovate the castle. Philip Tilden (see Chilham Castle/Port Lympne) was asked to landscape the grounds, which at the time of purchase were 'like a rural slum with ramshackle buildings all along the river'. Trees, and screenery were planted, including poplars (some fine Populus nigra) and a tulip tree.

Tilden presumably was responsible for a most interesting and evocative Italian garden on the only level site, as a sort of terrace above the castle. It consists of a 200 yard long yew walk running north-west south-east with a circular basin pool (pool now rather choked with weeds) at the north-west end. It is enclosed by a circular hedge and massive stone pergola piers at the south end (cross members all missing).

At the extreme end are two vertical cypresses and a back drop of ‘Italica' Lombardy poplars. The cross axis has a small mysterious roundel with pool and glimpses of the castle below through the hedge. Its rather neglected state at present makes it seem even more authentically Italian and there is great atmosphere. There has been some storm damage, mainly affecting conifers.

The castle before restoration goes back to 1281 when Stephen de Penchester was granted a licence to embattle the manor house at Allington. It subsequently passed to the Cobham family (Cobhams seem to be everywhere in Kent) and thence to the Wyatt family in the 15th century. The Wyatts enlarged the castle. Their most illustrious member, Sir Thomas Wyatt, received a whole batch of properties in the area at the dissolution in 1538 (Boxley/Malling Abbeys, Aylesford Priory) but he then lost his head for his part in the anti-catholic Kent Rebellion (1554).

Successive owners in the 18th and 19th centuries never seem to have loved the castle, which sank further and further into dilapidation. It was threatened with demolition in the late-19th century before being rescued by Lord Conway.

However, the restoration programme was halted when funds became exhausted (unlike Hever where they did not). In 1936, the castle was loaned to the MP for Maidstone, Alfred (later Lord) Bossom. Then, in 1949, the Carmelites bought the castle and carried out further renovation and repair work, adding workshops and reception centres. The future of Allington now seems assured. Traffic noise however does mar the peace of the place.

Period

Early 20th Century (1901-1932)

Associated People
Features & Designations

Features

  • Castle (featured building)
  • Description: The castle was constructed in 1281 after being granted a license to add crenellations (battlements) to an existing manor house. The castle is currently used as a private residence and as a conference facility.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Planting
  • Description: The Italian garden.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
Key Information

Type

Garden

Purpose

Ornamental

Principal Building

Castle

Period

Early 20th Century (1901-1932)

Survival

Part: standing remains

Hectares

6

Electoral Ward

Allington

References

References