Located near to Lamberhurst in Kent this is an excellent example of a British fortified house – although it looks very much like a castle and this is reflected in the name of a building.
It was once used as a weekend retreat by one of Britain’s best known prime minister’s and in the garden there is a unexpected but truly historic footprint. It is not known exactly when Roger Ashburnham built Scotney Castle but it is believed to have been sometime between 1358 and 1378, at a time when tensions between the English and French were particularly high. Therefore, his design most likely reflected the need for fortification.
No licence to crenellate has ever been found for Scotney Castle. The word ‘crenellate’ means to ‘fortify’ and such licences were granted by the King or hereditary noblemen, possessing special authority. The lack of a licence could mean that the fortification was done in the face of a perceived emergency and so formalities were ‘overlooked.’
In the 13th century, Walter de Scoteni was the owner of the earlier Scotney Castle. He was accused and found guilty of poisoning Richard, Earl of Gloucester, and his brother, William de Clare, and was hanged.
The estate remained in the family until the 1350’s, when it passed to the Ashburnham family. The original building may have been a manor house well before the time of fortification.
During the 15th century it became the home of Henry Chicheley, Archbishop of Canterbury who gave it to his niece when she married John Darrell.
Over the centuries there have been many changes to the original manor house that stood on the land before the fortification. In 1837, the then owner, Edward Hussey built a new house.
The only substantial remains of the original castle are the circular tower in the southern corner and the four piers of the Gatehouse entrance.
No one knows if the castle was ever completed. A will found in 1558, belonging to one of the families that had lived there, gave precise details about the building and the information written suggests that at that time only the south tower survived.
In 1970 the estate was left to the National Trust and some of the apartments were rented out. Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, rented the Belfry flat during the 1970s and 1980s, as a weekend escape from Westminster.
The grounds at Scotney Castle are beautifully landscaped with mature planting throughout. Visitors can see the wonderful bluebell woodland and highly coloured hydrangeas and rhododendrons in an estate that covers 770 acres comprised of mixed woodland, park and meadows.
Inside the castle there are hidden secrets that will delight and surprise. In the library a secret door exists that looks like a bookcase and in the old castle there are hidden priest holes.
Outside in the quarry there is something that no one would expect to see at such a location. This is the footprint of a prehistoric, plant eating, Iguanodon. The presence of this dinosaur’s footprint adds to the thrill of visiting a location that has something for people of all ages.
Scotney Castle and garden are open throughout the year. It is a popular attraction and tours of the house are available. Visitors can buy local produce from the shop including, honey from hives on the estate. On the whole, access is good but might be restricted for some visitors in parts due to the age of the buildings.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Goldsmith Recreation Ground, Eridge Road, Crowborough
East Sussex, England, TN6 2TN
+44 (0)1892 664 827
- Address: B2619, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England, UK, TN3 8JN
- GPS: 51.092875,-0.408186111
- Phone: 0044 (0)1892 893 820
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: TN3 8JN
- Entrance Fees: Yes
- Disabled Access: Moderate: Steps & ramps
- Visibility from Road: None
- Image Credits: Header Image: Hannah Denski