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Restoration House


Restoration House is a grade I listed mansion of medieval origin with an enclosed, interconnecting, walled and terraced garden which forms an integral part of the mansion’s historic architecture. Significant surviving features, supported by archaeological evidence, pay testament to the garden’s historic integrity, and these include the remains of rare, late medieval to early Tudor stone walls, and a late Tudor diaper-brick wall. There are five distinct areas of the garden: a small front garden to the west of the house; two interlinked walled areas immediately to the east of the house which together form the immediate rear garden; a walled area to the south of this, currently (2014) being laid out as an enclosed, late Renaissance-style water garden; a further walled area to the far east currently (2014) planned as a new orchard.

The following text is taken from the Kent Compendium of Historic Parks and Gardens for Medway:


Restoration House is a grade I listed mansion of medieval origin with an enclosed, interconnecting, walled and terraced garden which forms an integral part of the mansion's historic architecture. Significant surviving features, supported by archaeological evidence, pay testament to the garden's historic integrity, and these include the remains of rare, late medieval to early Tudor stone walls, and a late Tudor diaper-brick wall. Importantly, the presence of Kentish ragstone, knapped flint and the use of galleting in the construction of the earlier walls, is considered analogous to the build character of the C15 to C16 Prior's, Deanery and Chertsey Gates of Rochester Cathedral, and the early Tudor Shurland Hall on the Isle of Sheppey. Other walls which border and divide the garden survive intact, some of which date in part from the C17, C18 and C19. Documentary and cartographic evidence also supports many of these findings, but the potential exists for further archaeological investigations to add to the evidential value. The value of historic associations with royal and nationally-important figures is also significant, and these include King Charles II, Samuel Pepys and Charles Dickens.

Since the end of the C20, the garden has undergone considerable restoration with appropriate planting designs reflecting various phases of its history. In 2009, historic boundaries were returned to Restoration House with the acquisition of land that includes a former Tudor garden. Major restoration work to this area is in progress including the recreation of a Renaissance-style water garden: in particular, the reinstatement of the medieval and Tudor walls will restore architectural unity between house and garden, adding even greater significance. Both the house and the garden have long been valued by the community as landmark sites within the city of Rochester, attracting large numbers of visitors from around the world each year.



Restoration House and its garden lie towards the southern end of Crow Lane, 0.45km south-east of Rochester Castle and 0.32km south-east of the cathedral, in an urban area mainly defined by Victorian buildings with some earlier, late C16, C17 and C18 buildings. The river Medway forms a boundary to the city to the east and to the north.

To the south, the c3.2ha garden boundary walls abut East Row and near the street's western end, skirt around the gardens of two detached, late-C20 houses (Pretty Seat Mews), the north garden fences of which sit immediately above the Tudor wall; to the east, the walls abut Victoria Street at its southern extremity and further north The Terrace; to the north, the walls border The Vines Church(United Reform) and its grounds and, further east, the back gardens of The Terrace. The garden's western boundary wall borders Crow Lane, on the opposite of which is The Vines public park. The ground rises to the south, and falls away to the east and to the north towards Rochester High Street and the River Medway beyond.


Restoration House (listed grade I) is built of red and brown brick, mainly in English bond (and variants), with Kent tile roofs. The central front part of the house has 5 bays with three of them, including the porch, breaking forward. Of medieval origin and described as a mansion house, it was formerly the political seat of the Clerke family. It was originally two buildings, at the north and south of the present site and which form the present north wing and part of the south wing (the remaining part of the south wing becoming part of Vines House next door). The south building has been dated to 1454, whereas the two-storey north building has been dated slightly later, between 1502 and 1522. In the late C16 and early C17, the south wing was extended to four storeys and a stair tower added. Further substantial changes were made between 1640 and 1660 when the two buildings were joined together, with the addition of the Great Hall, and first floor rooms above it, together with further building in the north wing. By 1670, the building was very much as it is now (2014), with the re-facing of the west facade, the provision of a porch and new stairs (at each end of the facade) to the upper rooms.


There are five distinct areas of the garden: a small front garden to the west of the house; two interlinked walled areas immediately to the east of the house which together form the immediate rear garden; a walled area to the south of this, currently (2014) being laid out as an enclosed, late Renaissance-style water garden; a further walled area to the far east currently (2014) planned as a new orchard.

The enclosed c60 sq.m front garden is laid out with a central flagstone path, flanked by lawns, low box hedging and yew topiary. It leads to four ascending stone steps, and the main entrance of the house through to the gardens at the rear. A mature wisteria frames the front gate.

The c0.25ha rear garden, immediately east of the house, is defined mainly by fully enclosing and dividing red brick walls, clipped yew hedges, and terracing both west to east and south to north; a formal lily pond and box parterres provide focal points. It is divided into two on a west-east axis by a partly mid-C18 brick wall which runs the full length of the garden for c70 metres; each side is compartmentalised in a series of separate and distinct garden areas.

North of the dividing wall and closest to the house is the area known as Yew Court Garden. It is situated on two levels, mainly laid to lawn, and defined by specimen yew topiary. On its north side lies a narrow 3m-wide Mediterranean Garden enclosed by part of the north boundary wall and by a c0.3m-high flint wall, with c2m-high clipped yew hedging above. Approached through a gap in the hedge and two stone steps, the garden comprises paving and a meandering pathway with seating and a variety of potted plants. The north boundary wall runs for c85m down the full length of both the garden and courtyard area to the north. In 1994, the present owners doubled the height of this wall to c4m along c73m of its length. Yew Court and the Mediterranean Garden are intersected by a 1.2m-wide York stone path which runs parallel to the north boundary wall for 25 metres.

Immediately to the east of Yew Court, a sunken path of geometric-patterned brick, 1.2 m-wide, runs on a north-south axis for c14m, separating Yew Court from the formal c11m-long lily pond. Reflecting a Queen Anne style, the pond is edged with Portland stone and surrounded by lawn. Decorative elements are provided by stone urns, antique statuary and interlaced gothic arches set into the dividing brick wall, which spans the pond to the south. Clipped yew hedging, c2.5m-high by c12m-long, forms an enclosure to the east. To the north of, and overlooking the pond, a c10 sq.m, York stone, sunken courtyard provides a seating area. It is bordered by a section of the north boundary wall, into which is set an ornamental panel (constructed by the present owners) decorated with mid-C18 Delft tiles. A bench stands immediately below and, on either side, lie raised herbaceous borders punctuated with lollipop-shaped bay trees.

Further east, beyond the sunken courtyard, a descending stone ramp leads to a c1.2m-wide, herringbone-patterned, brick path, which runs parallel to the north boundary wall for c15m. The wall here is dressed by espaliered fruit trees which are protected by a frost gulley of granite setts running beneath; the wall also runs parallel to a 2m-wide herbaceous border. Towards the north-east corner and set into the wall stands a summer house (listed grade II) of C17 origin, although it was substantially re-built in the early C20 using contemporary materials.

Immediately beyond the summer house stands a greenhouse, constructed since 1994 by the present owners from a mid-C19 cast-iron frame found locally and timber-framed glazing. Further east, beyond the greenhouse, an arched oak door set into the wall once led to another garden to the north, which belonged to Restoration House until the mid-C19 and is now (2014) the site of The Vines Church and a car park. Two robinias and a mature field maple form the backdrop to this area of the garden.

On the south side of the herringbone-patterned brick path, on a raised, lawned terrace, lie the c0.3ha Cutting and Mulberry Gardens. The c60 sq.m Cutting Garden is divided into four by narrow brick paths and enclosed by c2m-high wooden trellising supported by wooden poles, linked together by rope swags. The Mulberry Garden lies immediately east of the Cutting Garden, its oval-shaped c100 square metres containing a Mulberry tree under-planted with seasonal bulbs, including muscari and cyclamen: immediately to the south, and flanking the Mulberry Garden, lie two L-shaped salad beds.

South of the Mulberry and Cutting Garden lies the partly-C18, c2.8m-high, brick dividing wall. At its eastern and western extremities, there are sections constructed mainly of ragstone and flint, possibly indicating the former site of two gazebos (personal communication). The wall has been restored by the present owners, incorporating a recess for a second green house and three separate archways, allowing access to the southern area of the rear garden at intermittent intervals along the wall. Each archway provides unexpected vistas of the garden beyond. The first archway, found between the Cutting Garden and the Mulberry Garden, provides access via four c1m-wide rising brick steps supported on each side by 1m-high brick walls; the second, located between the Cutting Garden and the lily pond, provides access via a gently-rising stone ramp and the third, located between the pond and Yew Court, via 1.2m-wide brick steps.

South of the dividing wall, the c0.2ha lawned and terraced Upper Garden lies immediately to the east of the south wing of the house. A c100 sq.m area of lawn is flanked by a 1.2m-wide brick path to the north, which runs for c17m parallel to a 3m herbaceous border adjacent to the dividing wall. The path terminates with four steep ragstone steps with supporting bronze railings, flanked at the top by yew topiary, which descend to a courtyard below. To the south of the lawn, a curved box hedge encloses a timber, open-framed wood store set against the southern wall and a shrubbery beyond. A mature magnolia grows in the south-west corner, and on the eastern edge of the terrace, a raised grassy mound is crowned by a holly tree.

Towards the south-east corner of the Upper Garden, five ragstone steps descend in a spiral and lead to the lawned area of a sunken garden, known as Time Court: a stone-columned sun dial stands at the centre. The garden is enclosed on three sides: to the south and east by c1.5m-high, terraced, ragstone retaining walls and to the west, by a further ragstone retaining wall which runs on a north-south axis, curving and rising to c2m, and flanked by both sets of steps. South of Time Court, above the south stone terrace, an area of lawn slopes steeply upwards to the southern wall, against which a mature fig tree stands.

On its north side, Time Court merges into the c32 sq.m, stone-paved courtyard, where the southern tip of the lily pond emerges through the interlacing arches of the dividing wall. A Renaissance-style balustrade with Portland stone coping surrounds this area of the pond. Further east, a stone ramp leads to the principal visual focus of this section of the garden, the c200 sq.m Parterre Garden. The design of the two c1m-high box parterres replicates the Jacobean design of the front and rear doors of the house. The parterres are interspersed with lawn and flanked to north and south by 1.2m-wide grass paths; a decorative, stone pedestal-vase stands centrally between the parterres. To the north of the parterres, c1m-high box hedging encloses a 3m-wide mixed herbaceous border, adjacent to the dividing wall. The border planting includes jasmine, hibiscus, salvia, delphiniums and euphorbia. To the south of the parterres, at the base of the southern wall and also enclosed by box hedging, lies a c3m-wide mixed shrubbery, including hydrangeas and holly, under-planted with spring-flowering hellebores and aquilegia.

Beyond the parterres, at the summit of a steeply sloping bank, the eastern boundary of the garden is formed by a c3m-high and c2m-wide lawned terrace, known as the Eminence. The terrace is approached, in the north-east corner of the Parterre Garden, by nine ascending brick steps; to the south of the steps, a timber- framed arbour, clad with ivy, leads down to the entrance door of an underground tunnel dug into the bank. During the First World War, the tunnel was used as an air-raid shelter. Further south, a mature Catalpa grows out of the bank.

The Eminence terrace extends southwards on the same level into the walled fourth and fifth areas of the garden which are approached through the wall from the Eminence terrace via a recently-installed (2014) wrought-iron gate hung on c3m-high brick piers hand-sculpted by local C21 craftsmen to reflect a late-Renaissance, Mannerist style.

The extended c2m-wide and c3m-high east terrace lies at the eastern end of the fourth garden. It is laid to lawn, and is enclosed on its eastern side by a c1.5m-high newly-constructed (2014) brick wall, which runs on a north-south axis and divides the fourth and fifth areas of the garden. The fifth garden area, lying to the east of the new wall and extending some 103m south to Victoria Street, is the derelict c0.3ha site of the former early C18 orchard, waterworks and Troy Town Brewery. The remaining Victorian brewery building stands in the far south-eastern corner. The whole of this site will become the new orchard, largely cherry, intended to reflect the garden's historic association with Samuel Pepys.The extended east terrace overlooks the fourth area of the garden giving commanding views of the former Tudor garden below to the west, currently (2014) undergoing major restoration. This c0.1ha area is defined by inner and outer terraced walls in various states of survival, repair and reinstatement. Since 2009, the garden has undergone extensive investigative and scientific analysis of its archaeology, concluding, in 2014, that the physical remains of stone walls, brick walls and flights of steps are evidence of the existence of a walled and terraced garden begun during the late C15 or early C16, with phased additions up to the C18. There appears to be no surviving evidence of the planting design for this period, though the existence of a formal, terraced garden is clearly shown on the 1866 OS map which reflects both the Rumley and Keevil archaeological survey data.

Work in progress (2014) to re-create the Tudor garden includes the repair of the surrounding walls, the reinstatement of the two-tier terracing and the creation of an enclosed Renaissance-style water garden, complete with parterre de broderie. The southern enclosing wall of the former Tudor garden comprises the surviving 26 metres of the chalk, flint and diaper wall - the Tudor wall - and a newly-constructed (2014) matching section to replace the 12 metres demolished in 2007. This wall, standing c3m high (from the foundation course), is the retaining wall for the upper terrace and forms a distinctive backdrop to the garden. During the garden's early history, this upper terrace, c4.5m-high from the ground, would have afforded extensive views of the castle and the cathedral to the west, and the river Medway to the north. This exemplifies an important principle in Tudor garden design, whereby a raised walkway provides a viewing platform, both to the garden below as well as the surrounding landscape.

Approximately 1.5m south of the Tudor wall, at its eastern end, archaeological excavations (Rumley) have revealed the nib of a further c1590 retaining ragstone wall, which once stood above the Tudor wall and formed the southern boundary of the upper terrace. This part of the wall is currently (2014) being reinstated to form a viewing platform. To the north of the Tudor wall, in further excavations, archaeologists also discovered the 16.1m-long remains of the south, inner terrace brick wall, dated to c1600. This wall, which would have extended for a further 20 metres, but was destroyed by the developers, is also currently (2014) being reinstated.

The c30m-long, west, retaining, terraced wall was built in several phases; the lower surviving course, dating to the late medieval or early Tudor period, once stood at least 1.25m above ground. This part of the wall is built mainly of Kentish ragstone and dressed flint nodules with occasional brick pieces. According to Keevill, galleting (the use of small pieces of flint or stone in the joints between the blocks) is much in evidence. Keevill compares the materials used, and the structural form of the lower part of the west wall, to various gates at Rochester Cathedral, and the early Tudor Shurland Hall on the Isle of Sheppey. The remaining parts of the wall, were built on top of the lower course, in four phases, from the C17 to the C21, using a variety of materials including brick and concrete. In 2014, the instability of the wall led to the removal of a 1990s oak carport (formerly belonging to The Vines) that stood above it. The entire wall is undergoing (2014) repair and restoration.

The north wall of the garden, which also forms the southern boundary of the rear garden, stands c4m high; it extends the length of the garden for c70m, and remains intact. The lower course is considered by Keevil to be contemporaneous with the lower course of the west wall (late C15 or early C16) and consists of Kentish ragstone and knapped flint nodules, with galleting; the brick wall, built on top of the lower course, dates from the C17 to the C18. Importantly, the measurements of all four walls correlate with the dimensions of the garden specified in the 1858 memorandum to the 1847 conveyance.

Within the walls are various flights of steps which once led to and from the upper and lower terraces, all in varying states of repair. The 1866 OS map clearly depicts steps in the north-west, south-west, and north-east corners. Archaeological investigations (Keevil) revealed the base of the steps in the north-west corner to have a stone plinth, with brick steps above, both likely to date from the early C19. The steps in the south-west corner recently (2014) uncovered and not dated, would have led to the upper, south terrace. The 1.7m-wide, brick-base remains of the steps in the north-east corner are of c1600 origin (and protruded into the garden, not ‘raking back' as shown on OS map of 1866); these have recently (2014) been reinstated, together with supporting brick piers and an inner, c1m-high retaining east wall.


Books and articles

Nicholas Morgan, Perfection of Horsemanship drawing from Nature, Arte and Practise etc E. White, London 1609 (held by British Library)

Peter T J Rumley, Archaeological Evaluation Report, Terraced Garden, Restoration House, December 2013

Graham Keevill, Archaeological Recording of a Garden Wall at 21, Crow Lane (The Vines), Rochester, 4 February 2014

William B Rye, Restoration House, Rochester, Archaeologia Cantiana, Volume XV, page 111, Kent Archaeological Society 1883

Samuel Pepys, The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 30th June 1667, website version Phil Gyford

Stephen T Aveling, History of Restoration House, Rochester, Archaeologia Cantiana, Volume XV, page 117, Kent Archaeological Society 1883

John Burke, A genealogical and heraldic history of the commoners of Great Britain, Volume 1, Henry Colburn, London, 1826

Elizabeth Hall, Restoration House Gardens: Some Historical Notes, 1994

Compass Archaeology, Century Buildings: Land to the rear of 22/26 Victoria Street, Rochester, Kent - An Archaeological Evaluation, December 2008

Edward Hasted, The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume IV (1797-1801)

F.F. Smith, A History of Rochester, Hallewell 1928

Robert Tucker Restoration House, Guide Book (5th Edition 2012)

Robert Tucker, Restoration House website, 2014


Rochester, John Speed, 1608-12 (private collection)

Map of the River Medway at Rochester and Chatham, drawn by Richard Smith for the Lords of the Admiralty, May 1633 (original held by the Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle, copy at Guildhall Museum, Rochester)

A Plan of the River Medway from Rochester Bridge to Sharpness Point, together with the Marshes and up lands adjacent, surveyed in 1724, J.P. Desmaretz (MALSC, National Archives MPHH 1/50)

A Plan of Part of River Medway from Hooness Battery - Rochester Bridge Surveyed in 1724 with further changes in 1756 and 1768 (MALSC)

A Plan of the City of Rochester in the County of Kent, F. Baker, 1772 (MALSC)

A Plan of the City of Rochester in the County of Kent, R. Sale, 1816 (MALSC)

Tithe map and apportionment, Parish of St Nicholas, Rochester 1841 (MALSC)

Tithe map and apportionment, Parish of St Margaret, Rochester 1845 (MALSC)

City of Rochester, 1:6 large-scale OS map, 1866, (County of Kent, Sheet XIX 6.10 MALSC)

City of Rochester Plan, showing city estates 1897, William Banks, city surveyor (MALSC, RCA C53 01/02)

Ordnance Survey map: 25" to 1 mile:

1st edition (1862-75)

2nd edition (1897-1900)

3rd edition (1907-1923)

4th edition (1929- 1952)


Couchman Collection (MALSC ref. DE402/9)

Medway images, (MALSC)

Site survey photographs (May and August 2014)

Archival items

Petition laid before Sir Thomas Egerton ‘Lord keeper of the great seale of England' on 18th. June 1598 against Nicholas Morgan and Richard Lea (National Archives: C2/Eliz/R1/57)

Historic Environment Record - Kent County Council website

Title deeds to Restoration House and site plans, 1799-1930s (MALSC ref. 06a - DE series 1001 1200/DE1078):

i. Walter Prentis, Redemption of land tax, September 1799

ii. Conveyances to John Vinson and from John Vinson to Richard Berridge, with site plan, 26th June 1847

iii. Conveyance, John Vinson to Richard Shirley, 8th July 1847

iv. Indenture, 30th October 1847 and site plan

v. Memorandum to 26th June 1847 conveyance, dated 23rd July 1858

vi. Conveyance, with site plan, to Stephen Thomas Aveling, dated 21st March 1877 and Declaration dated 24th March 1877

vii. Lease and indenture dated 24th March 1877 between S T Aveling and the Misses Maclean

viii.Conveyance, R C Pope to F C Boucher, 21st April 1902

ix. Conveyance, Trustees of Stephen Aveling to Canon and Mrs Robins, with site plan, 6th July 1921

x. Conveyance, Mrs Robins to Claude William Mackey and Ernest Gordon Paterson, with site plan, 28th September 1932xi. Letter from Col. and Mrs P Norcock to Rod Hull (undated - 1990s)

Sales particulars, Hampton and Sons, Tuesday 26th April 1921

Papers concerning the executorship of Charles Tompkins and the estate of Richard Berridge of Bloomsbury, 1847-1923 (London Metropolitan Archives ref. ACC/1406)

Letter from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to the County Planning Department, County Hall, Maidstone, conveying instructions to be followed when considering future planning applications relating to Restoration House and its surroundings. 4th July 1969 (KHLC C/PL-2/AH1 21/41)

Medway Council, Planning Committee, Century Buildings Site Rochester - Planning Position, 31st March 2010, includes findings of the judicial review hearing in the High Court on 15th March 2010.

Beverley and Paul Howarth

Virginia Hinze (Editor)

Detailed description added 09/09/2015

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The following text is taken from the Kent Compendium of Historic Parks and Gardens for Medway:


The earliest recorded date of origin for Restoration House is 1454, but it was built substantially in several phases between the late C16 and the late C17 and during this time was known variously as Crolane, Crowland and Whites Place (Morgan, 1598 petition, 1847 conveyance).

Cumulative archaeological evidence (Rumley, Keevill) verifies that a late C15 or early C16 terraced garden, enclosed by inner and outer walls, once existed at Restoration House. Although its extent and design are not fully understood, significant remains of brick-base steps and Kentish ragstone terraced walling, built on two levels, have been dated to this period. During extensive archaeological excavations between April 2009 and April 2010, the remnants of a brick culvert, scientifically dated to between c1590 and c1647, were found trapped below a grade II listed, diaper-patterned wall, known as the Tudor wall. Previously, in 2008, following a limited archaeological survey, Compass Archaeology asserted that the Tudor wall was ‘probably' of C18 origin; these findings have since been superseded. The remains of the Tudor wall have now been scientifically dated by OSL, Oxford University, as c1590, together with the nib of a ragstone wall located immediately above and behind it. Late C16 to C18 brick retaining walls have also been discovered, built in phases on top of the earlier stone walls and increasing their height over a period of time.

One of the first recorded owners of Restoration House was a Peter Rowle, who in the late C16 bequeathed the house and all associated lands to his wife Elizabeth during her lifetime, and thereafter to his son, George Rowle. On 18th June 1598, a petition was laid before the High Court of Chancery to subpoena a Nicholas Morgan, a member of the Inner Temple, who was accused of taking unlawful possession of the house, and some 220 acres of associated land, from Elizabeth Rowle some seven years earlier. According to the petition, Morgan committed ‘great wastes and spoiles' on the premises, removing amongst other things, soil from the garden in order to utilize the land for the manufacture of bricks. Archaeological investigations conclude that a brick making factory may well have existed on the site of the garden during its early history, thus providing a link between the two. Morgan was also accused of pulling down two barns and a pigeon house (1598 petition). It appears that the case against Morgan was not proven however, as in 1607 he bequeathed the house and "several pieces of land in St. Margaret's neare the citty of Rochester" (Rye p.112) to his daughter, Grace, as part of an endowment on her marriage to a Henry Clerke (or Clarke). Clerke, of the Middle Temple, later became MP for Rochester in 1621-2 and 1626, and Recorder of Rochester between 1621- 8 (HER, Rye).Cartographic evidence of 1608-12, also indicates an early C17 garden. Although not to scale, the John Speed map clearly depicts a substantial building, probably Restoration House, together with its walled enclosed garden, situated outside Rochester's city walls directly north of Deanery House (Speed). The ‘Alnwick map' of 1633 also identifies the house itself, annotated as ‘Mr. Clarke's house' (Alnwick Castle map).

In 1652, ownership succeeded to Henry Clerke's son, Sir Francis Clerke (c1624-1686), MP for Rochester from 1661-79 and 1681-5. During this time, in the mid-C17, a major re-modelling of the house and its facade was undertaken (HER). Notably, the facade incorporated fashionable, Mannerist-style brickwork, still extant (2014). In May 1660, an overnight visit was made by Charles II, during his restoration to the English throne (Rye). Restoration House owes its name to the commemoration of the King's visit, but it was probably not known as such until the C19. On 30th June 1667, reference to the house and potentially the garden was made by the diarist Samuel Pepys who recalls walking in the nearby fields: "...then saw Sir Francis Clerke's house, which is a pretty seat, and... into the cherry garden..." (Pepys' Diary). A further reference to the garden occurs in 1681 when a David Jones (physician) was a tenant of the house and, according to Aveling, a William Belcher rented the garden at the same time, until 1693 (Aveling).

By 1693, ownership had passed from the Clerke family to a Captain William Bokenham (or Bockenham, d. 1702), MP for Rochester from 1701-2, and probably the same part of the garden to which Pepys referred was rented to a Roger Pilcher, whose family almost certainly remained tenants until at least 1757. In a title deed of 26th February 1693, this part of the garden is described as "and all that Orchard or little piece of ground, planted with fruit trees, containing by estimacion (sic) half an acre more or less lying by St Margaret aforesaid and adjoining or lying near to the yard and gardens belonging the said capital messuage and now or late in occupation of Roger Pilcher" (Rye, p.114).

Between 1702 and 1798, possession of Restoration House passed through several ownerships, namely: Henry and Anne Bokenham, Henry May, Thomas Knight MP (formerly known as Thomas Brodnax and Thomas May) of Godmersham (c 1701-1781) and Thomas Knight (the Younger) MP (1735-1794) the adoptive father of Edward Austen, brother of Jane Austen (Norcock, Burke). The extent of the gardens and grounds associated with Restoration House during this period is uncertain. However, C18 cartographic evidence, supported by later evidence from mid-C19 tithe maps and related apportionments, suggests that the gardens covered all of the area lying between Crow Lane (formerly Maidstone Road) to the west, Victoria Street (formerly Victoria Place) to the east, East Row to the south and the St Margaret parish boundary to the north, together with an adjacent c0.3ha area further north, in the parish of St Nicholas. The evidence includes plans of the River Medway by Desmaretz dating from 1724 and 1768 which show orchards and compartmentalised gardens dissected by axial pathways.

This period also saw the gradual encroachment on the extent of the garden of Restoration House as it was then. Between 1700 and 1732, part of the garden immediately to the south became the site of Vines House. Vines House itself was formed from part of the south wing of Restoration House and was later divided to become ‘Vines Croft' (formerly 23 Maidstone Road and much renewed in the C19) and ‘The Vines' (formerly 21 Maidstone Road), now (2014) listed grade II and grade II*. Evidence also suggests that part of the garden, in the south-east corner, formerly orchards, became the site of the Rochester Waterworks, providing piped water to the city from 1710. Later, in 1750, it also became the site of Troy Town Brewery (Desmaretz, HER, Smith).

In the mid-C18, Restoration House itself was divided into two to create two separate tenancies: in 1757 it is believed that the tenants (a Jane Baynard and a Mr Wilkes) "likewise divided Pilcher's garden" (Aveling p.121). This is substantiated by later, physical evidence which identifies a partially extant, central, C18 wall running east, immediately to the rear of the house and dividing the garden north to south (Hall).

In 1759, after protracted negotiations, Thomas Knight (the Younger) sold the house for £700 to a John Baynard who bequeathed it to Elizabeth Holworthy who, in 1793, sold to her son, the Rev. Charles Holworthy (Rye, Aveling, Norcock). In 1799, ownership passed to a Walter Prentis who paid land tax in respect of "a messuage or tenement divided into and used as two messuages one in the occupation of Sarah Balderson and the other late in the occupation of Elizabeth Baynard with the outbuilding, yards, gardens and appurtenances" (Redemption of land tax September 1799). The Baker map of 1772 and the Sale map of 1816 show little detail of the garden, but clearly identify the waterworks towards the far south-east corner, together with what may be compartmentalised gardens, but more likely to be three filtration beds. South of the house, the maps also show the Tudor wall running west to east, and beyond the wall to the south, a reservoir (Baker, Sale, Rumley).

By 1845, the Tithe map and related apportionment verify that Walter's heir, Stephen Prentis (b.1800), had taken possession of Restoration House together with at least 2ha of gardens and orchards extending to the boundaries of East Row, Victoria Street and Crow Lane, within the parish of St Margaret. Similar evidence shows that Prentis also owned c0.3ha of market gardens adjacent to and lying north of Restoration House within the parish of St. Nicholas (Tithe maps and apportionments, 1841, 1845).

Restoration House and its associated gardens and land remained in the possession of the Prentis family until 26th June 1847, when ownership was formerly transferred to the last surviving trustee of the Prentis estate, a John Vinson. The conveyance for this sale included a substantial area of land and outbuildings: "the capital messuage, together with the barns, stables, outhouses, buildings, courtyards, backsides, gardens, orchards, ponds, appurtenances...lying in the parish of St Margaret... formerly in the tenure of Roger Pilcher". On the same day, Vinson sold off the ‘capital messuage' and the first of two lots to a brewer and wealthy landowner, Richard Berridge (d.1887). This c0.65ha area of land lay to the east and south of the house and included "all buildings, ways, commons, waters, watercourses, sewers, drains, fences, trees, easements, rights, members and appurtenances" (Conveyances and site plan 26th June 1847). Archival evidence suggests that the ‘buildings' and ‘appurtenances' referred to included the "...building known as the Water Works, machinery, a cottage with an adjoining garden and a covered reservoir or tank" (Berridge estate papers).

On 8th July 1847, Vinson sold lot 2 to a Richard Shirley. This c0.25ha of land, situated to the north of the house and extending into St Nicholas parish included "all that piece of land formerly belonging to Restoration House including the foundations and pathways formerly the barn and that piece of land lying to the south-west formerly tenanted by Roger Pilcher and planted with fruit trees" (Conveyance, and site plan 8th July 1847).

In 1858, a subsequent memorandum to the 1847 indenture confirmed that the c0.1ha piece of land to the south of the house, adjacent to the Tudor wall, and now (2014) known as the Tudor Garden, did not in fact form part of the 1847 sale, as it was in the ‘rightful possession' of a George Bingham, the then owner of the neighbouring Vines House. The memorandum stated amongst other things: "a piece of Garden Ground situated in the parish of St Margarets (sic), Rochester aforesaid formerly belonging to Restoration House containing in width on the north-west side including walls 100 feet 6 inches, on the south-east side 103 feet, on the north-east side 156 feet 6 inches, and the south-west side 152 feet, part of the within mentioned hereditaments was conveyed and assured unto and to the use of George William Powlett Bingham, his heirs and assigns for ever; discharged from the within mortgage and all demands in respect thereof" (Memorandum 1858).

Notwithstanding changes of ownership, the house clearly had achieved and retained its landmark status when in 1861 it appeared as Satis House, the reclusive home of Miss Havisham in the Dickens novel Great Expectations.

In 1866, detailed cartographic evidence shows mature, formal, compartmentalised and terraced gardens lying to the east and south of the house, divided and enclosed by internal and external boundary walls. These gardens, although now separated and in different ownership, also indicate contemporary elements common to both, including raised, terraced walkways and flights of steps. The land sold to Richard Shirley to the north is also depicted, showing the Vines Congregational Chapel built in 1854, now (2014) divided and known as The Vines Church and King's Hall (1866 OS map, Rumley).

On 21st March 1877, ownership of Restoration House and its remaining associated gardens and land passed to an industrialist and antiquarian Stephen Thomas Aveling (c1837-1916) (Declaration, Indenture and site plan). Almost immediately, on 24th March 1877, Aveling leased part of the house for a period of ten years to the Misses Maclean, allowing them to use the premises as a day or boarding school (1877 lease and indenture).

On 21st April 1902, ownership of a property adjacent to the Vines Congregational Chapel, known as 13, Maidstone Road, formerly Vines Cottage, passed from R.C. Pope to F.C. Boucher: the indenture indicates that the land and gardens were also formerly in the possession of Stephen Aveling (conveyance, April 1902). On 29th February 1916, Aveling died and on 6th July 1921 the trustees of his estate conveyed the land and gardens associated with Restoration House (and Vines Cottage) to Canon and Mrs Robins (conveyance and site plan of 1921). The sales particulars state that: " At the back is an Old- World garden disposed in lawn with flower beds and borders, gravel walks and shrubberies, ancient summer house, apple, pear, fig, peach and cherry trees"(sales particulars 1921).On 28 September 1932, ownership of Restoration House passed from Mrs Annie Robins to a Claude William Mackey and an Ernest Gordon Paterson, and through various trusteeships remained in the possession of the Mackey family until 1972. The plan attached to the conveyance verifies that the gardens, including outbuildings were by this date limited to c0.25ha lying immediately to the east of the house (conveyance and site plan).

In 1969, the Mackey family were awarded a £3000 maintenance grant by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, because Restoration House was considered to be of outstanding historic and architectural interest. The Ministry stipulated to the county planning department that any "planning proposals which affect this building or its surroundings, including any proposals for roads, [should] take into account the fact that the Minister considers it to be in the public interest that the building and its setting should be preserved." (Letter 4th July 1969)

In 1994, the present owners took possession and began a programme of restoration to the c0.25ha neglected garden, resulting in two interlinked walled gardens on several levels, reflecting various phases of its history.

The land to the south and east, within the curtilage of Restoration House until the mid-C19, was subject to considerable change in the C20 and C21. Cartographic evidence shows that the water works to the east (still shown in 1866) had been demolished by c1909 though the reservoir to the west still remained, with a small building, possibly a pump house, added by 1938 (OS 2nd and 3rd editions). By the 1960s, a retaining wall between the water works and the reservoir was partially demolished, and a tarmac car park was built on the garden area north of the Tudor wall. By the 1980s, the reservoir was replaced by two detached houses, Pretty Seat Mews.

In 2007, the remainder of this land to the south and east suffered unauthorised intrusive house-building activity by the developers, Future Homes Limited, resulting in the demolition of c12m of the c38m listed Tudor wall, together with the destruction of 20m of a parallel c1600 lower, inner terrace wall (Rumley). The developers later went into receivership, and in October 2009, the current owners of Restoration House purchased the site; subsequently, the partially-built housing to the east (on the site of the former waterworks, Troy Town Brewery and walled garden, sold off in the C19) was demolished. The current owners of Restoration House are (2014) re-creating the walled garden to become a Renaissance-style water garden: the part of the former waterworks land further to the east, is planned as an orchard (Rumley, Tucker).

In 2014, the current owners further purchased the listed grade II* Vines House, together with its adjacent c60 sq.m of garden to the east. Restoration House and its associated gardens remain in private ownership.

Detailed history added 09/09/2015


Tudor (1485-1603)

Features & Designations


  • Mansion House (featured building)
  • Description: Restoration House (listed grade I) is built of red and brown brick, mainly in English bond (and variants), with Kent tile roofs. The central front part of the house has 5 bays with three of them, including the porch, breaking forward.
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential


Tudor (1485-1603)



Open to the public




  • Kent Gardens Trust

  • Beverley and Paul Howarth

  • Virginia Hinze