Chiddingstone Castle (also known as High Street House)787

Royal Tunbridge Wells, England, Kent, Sevenoaks

Brief Description

Chiddingstone Castle has early-18th-century formal gardens laid out around and associated with the principal building. The gardens were re-landscaped during the early-19th century, possibly by William Atkinson, to include pleasure grounds.

History

There had been a house on the site since at least the 16th century. In 1670 the house was rebuilt in brick in the Carolean style and was surrounded by a formal landscape which had been extensively remodelled by the mid-18th century. The house was completely remodelled in 1803. At the same time the remains of the formal landscape were removed and replaced, probably by William Atkinson, with a landscape park including a lake, cascade, and grotto.

Visitor Facilities

The site is open on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays between 11 and 5. Please see: http://www.chiddingstonecastle.org.uk/whats-on-visit-us/

Terrain

The ground falls very gently from south to north, and also to the east from the Castle, which sits in the centre of the site on the highest ground, towards the lake on the eastern boundary.

Detailed Description

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

A country house, built in the late 17th century and remodelled in 1803-08 by William Atkinson, surrounded by an early 19th-century park, also probably by Atkinson, which replaced an early 18th-century formal layout.

DESCRIPTION

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING

Chiddingstone Castle lies in a rural setting in the valley of the River Eden c 10km west of Tonbridge, on the western edge of the village of Chiddingstone. The c 14ha site is bounded to the north-east and north by a minor country road, to the west by Hill Hoath Road, and to the south by farmland. The ground falls very gently from south to north, and also to the east from the Castle, which sits in the centre of the site on the highest ground, towards the lake on the eastern boundary. The fall to the north allows extensive views out of the site across the surrounding countryside.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES

The main approach to Chiddingstone Castle enters the site c 100m to the north-west of the Castle, via a drive which branches off Hill Hoath Road, passing through a pair of stone pillars and wrought-iron gates placed there by Denys Bower and running south-east to arrive at the north front. The gates came from Benskin's Brewery and the pillars were moved from the entrance to the coach yard. A second entrance lies c 200m to the south-east of the Castle. The beginning of this drive (now a track, 2001), which was created by Henry Streatfield in c 1800 as the main entrance, was marked by a lodge (demolished in the 1950s) on Penshurst Road. It crosses farmland before entering the park on the eastern boundary and running north-west to arrive at the north front. In Chiddingstone village, a further gateway (listed grade II) stands c 200m east of the Castle, marking a footpath entrance also laid out by Henry Streatfield in c 1800. The wrought-iron gates which hang here may have come from the earlier formal garden scheme. The path runs west, crossing the lake via a footbridge before joining the south-east drive at the north-east corner of the Castle. The footpath from the village and the north-west drive mark the line of the main road which ran right past the Castle until it was diverted by Henry Steatfield when the landscape park was laid out at the beginning of the C19 (Eldridge 1990).

PRINCIPAL BUILDING

Chiddingstone Castle (listed grade II*) is a large country house built of coursed freestone with corbelled battlements. The main, north front is of three storeys with octagonal towers flanking the central bay and a square tower to the east. It was erected in the C17 for the Streatfield family, at which time it was called High Street House, the main street from Chiddingstone village running past the north front. The house was altered during the C18 and was extensively rebuilt in the Gothic style between 1803 and 1808 by the architect William Atkinson for Sir Henry Streatfield, at which time the south front contained the main entrance. Further gothic details were added by Henry Kendall, architect, in the 1830s, whose extensive alterations for the house were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1838 but were not carried out. Sometime in the mid C19 High Street House became known as Chiddingstone Castle and in c 1890 the South Hall was converted into a Billiard Room.

A wall of brick and coursed freestone leads from the north-west angle of the Castle to the stable wing, built of red brick with blue header diapers under a hipped tiled roof. The stables (listed grade II) were added during the C18 alterations to the house.

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS

A gravel terrace surrounds the Castle to the north, east, and south beside a strip of lawn enclosed by a brick ha-ha. From the south-west corner of the Castle a high garden wall of coursed ashlar sandstone (c 1797, listed grade II*) runs south-west for c 80m and then turns west for c 30m, enclosing the walled kitchen garden. At the north-east corner of the wall is an octagonal sandstone pump-house; at the south-east angle stands a gothic gazebo and at the south-west corner stands the remains of the former orangery, to the west of which stands a yew hedge of C17 origin. The three garden buildings (all listed grade II*) were added by William Atkinson at the beginning of the C19. The area beyond the ha-ha below the south front is laid to grass and in the C19 was used as a hay meadow which was mown after the hay was cleared to make a cricket pitch. Later in the C19 it became a grass tennis court. It is bounded to the south by a second ha-ha, beyond which lies the park.

PARK

The park at Chiddingstone Castle is currently (2001) a mix of grassland to the north and arable land to the south, with a few mature parkland trees. The land beyond the ha-ha on the east side of the Castle leads down to the c 1.5ha lake which is located c 75m east of the Castle and runs along part of the eastern boundary. It was formed in the early C19 by the damming of a small stream. A grass track, following the line of the early C19 main drive, leads from the Castle to the southern end of the lake where the head is marked by a cascade, fed from a small pool c 200m further to the south in the park. Some 100m to the north of the cascade is the footbridge over the lake which leads to the village gates out of the park (as described above). On the eastern bank of the lake is a series of stone caves and grottoes cut into the natural rock when the lake was dug. Until the late C20 the entrance to the caves was marked by the roots of an ancient oak, fashioned into a gothic archway. An ornamental plantation between the east bank and the eastern boundary of the park, originally planted in the early C19 to screen the Castle from the village, suffered severe storm damage in the late C20. The northern end of the lake is terminated at the boundary of the park by an early C19 sham stone bridge which masks the dam embanking the foot of the lake.

KITCHEN GARDEN

The walled kitchen garden (listed grade II*) lies immediately to the south-west of the Castle, linked to it by the garden wall containing the pump-house, gazebo, and orangery. It is now (2001) the garden to the Gardener's Cottage which is in separate private ownership.

REFERENCES

P Amsinck, Tunbridge Wells and its neighbourhood (1810)

T D W Dearn, An historical and descriptive account of the Weald of Kent (1814)

C Greenwood, An epitome of county history Volume 1, County of Kent (1838)

M Eldridge, The architectural history of Chiddingstone Castle (1984)

Inspector's Report: Chiddingstone Castle, (English Heritage 1988)

M Eldridge, A guide to Chiddingstone Castle, guidebook, (1990)

Maps

J Beecher, Estate plan of High Street House, 1702 (U908 P1), (Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone)

J Bowra, An exact plan of the Chesnut Wilderness, early 18th century (U908 P33), (Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone)

J Bowra, An estate plan of High Street House, 1753 (U908 P38), (Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone)

T Goodhugh, estate plan, 1762 (U908 P87), (Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone)

T Goodhugh, estate plan, 1763 (U908 P108), (Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone)

OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1872; 2nd edition 1897; 1947 edition

Illustrations

T Badeslade, engraving of the 17th-century house and gardens, early 18th century (Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone)

R Cornish, watercolour of the east and north front, 1810 (private collection)

Description rewritten: March 2001

Amended: March 2001

Edited: November 2003

Features

Style

  • Formal
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: In 1680 Henry Streatfield pulled down the old manor and built a very fine, red brick Carolean mansion. This was Gothicised between 1805 and 1808.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Ha-ha
  • Description: There is a double ha-ha, now filled in or neglected.
  • Gate
  • Description: Fine wrought iron gates mark the entrance to the park from the High Street, and as these are 17th-century gates which do not fit the gate piers, it is possible that they originally belonged to the formal garden scheme near the house.
Lake
Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

The site is open on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays between 11 and 5. Please see: http://www.chiddingstonecastle.org.uk/whats-on-visit-us/

Directions

The site entrance is near the village of Chiddingstone, 6 miles west of Tonbridge.
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Chiddingstone
History

Detailed History

This property has been owned by a flourishing Kentish family, the Streatfeilds, since 1500. In Tudor times they were ironmasters. In 1680 Henry Streatfeild pulled down the old manor and built a very fine, red brick Carolean mansion which is depicted on a Badeslade engraving (published 1719), complete with formal, contemporary gardens.

This house was known as High Street House, as it was literally on the main street, and it forms the core of the present house today. There is much documentation on the history of the grounds at Chiddingstone which is quite rare at a site. However, very little of the actual planting remains. Straight formal avenues once led north away from the house, bordered by vast orchards and there were once elaborate formal gardens close to the building.

The documentation begins with a survey of 1702, showing the house and formal gardens. Also shown are houses along the village street, part of which is now parkland. Soon after this the Badeslade engraving depicts a few changes with the introduction of avenues, a canal and a grander entrance. A wilderness garden is shown but this was actually planted well away from the house on a field to the north. (Henry probably asked the artist to record the wilderness - it was laid out in 1714.) There is a fine plan, on parchment, of this Wilderness, followed in 1737 by another drawing of a chestnut wilderness. This was planted at the end of the long avenue stretching away from the front of the house.

In 1762 to 1763 we have two excellent plans of the grounds, now shown to cover an area of 126 acres (50 hectares). The two plans were drawn by Thomas Goodhugh, the Streatfeild steward, and they seem identical except for the depiction of the gardens near to the house. On one map there are 7 small areas of closely-knit wildernesses with winding paths running through them all. On the other map only 3 areas of wilderness are shown, with large rectangles of lawn near to the building. On this plan, an unusual flower garden is recorded.

The next period of activity at Chiddingstone is in the early 19th century, when the house was Gothicised by the architect William Atkinson. This took place between 1805 and 1808, and a parkland, complete with lake, was made between the house and the village. The name Castle dates from this time as the house was embellished with battlements and towers.

The main road was diverted north to its present position, which involved the removal of a couple of village houses. Fine wrought iron gates mark the entrance to the park from the High Street. As these are 17th-century gates which do not fit the gate piers, it is possible that they originally belonged to the formal garden scheme near the house. It is probable that William Atkinson was responsible for the Gothic orangery, a gazebo and well house, all connected by a curving wall skirting the old kitchen garden.

In the park, the 3 acre lake was probably made by extending the large formal canal in the grounds. Near the water are some caves with a mock tomb, and there is a hollow tree trunk with a gothic arch cut into it. These are set in mature hornbeam and beech woodland and are an important example of the Picturesque period in gardening history. At the head of the lake, the water used to cascade down a fine, partly natural rock formation, but this is no longer the case as the supply pond is choked.

The grounds were well-planted in the early 19th century with many exotics such as monkey-puzzle and wellingtonias. There was once an ice-house which has now disappeared. There is a double ha-ha, now filled in or neglected.

There has been severe storm damage and scattered losses of significant trees, especially to the woodlands around the lake and village boundaries. The great beech where fantastic roots created the mysterious entrance to the lakeside cave, has been severely damaged.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT

The Streatfield family came to High Street House (as Chiddingstone Castle was called until the mid-19th century) in the 16th century. In 1670 the house was rebuilt in brick in the Carolean style and was surrounded by a formal landscape which had been extensively remodelled by the mid-18th century (Badeslade engraving). Although the house was partly modified around 1760 it was not until 1803 that Sir Henry Streatfield commissioned the architect William Atkinson to completely remodel the house in the Gothic style. At the same time the remains of the formal landscape were removed and replaced, probably also by Atkinson, with a landscape park including a lake, cascade, and grotto. The Chiddingstone estate remained in the hands of the Streatfield family until 1938, although it was let from around 1900 onwards. When Sir Henry Streatfield died in 1938 it was sold to Lord Astor. He divided up the estate and sold the Castle with its grounds to Longdene School. The Castle was requisitioned by the forces during the Second World War and in 1955 the school sold the property, which was divided into lots. The Castle and its grounds were purchased by the Hon Denys Eyre Bower, while the walled garden with the gardener's cottage, and the barn to the west of the house were sold as private dwellings. When he died in 1977, Denys Bower left Chiddingstone Castle to the nation, since when it has been run as a charitable trust. The site remains (2001) in divided ownership.

Associated People

People associated to Chiddingstone Castle

Contact
References

References

Contributors

  • Kent Gardens Trust