Ightham Mote

The American and the Dog House

Ightham MoteWe visited Ightham (pronounced “item”) Mote near Sevenoaks during a tour of Churchill and Kiplings Kent, an excellent escorted holiday organised by Just Go! Holidays.  

Ightham Mote is a moated Manor House dating from 1320 owned by The National Trust.  Described as the best example of a small medieval Manor House in the country it has been owned by Medieval Knights, courtiers to Henry VIII and high society Victorians in its 700-year history.

The Great Hall - Ightham MoteAs with many National Trust properties it owes much to the support of over 400 volunteers who provide the continual care required by a property of this age, enabling it to be enjoyed by 100,000 visitors a year.  They meet visitors of all ages with a friendly smile, volunteering some anecdote or snippet of information that enhances the well-preserved artefacts you can see.  They talk with a passion for Ightham Mote, none more so than Brian Davison who gave an excellent introductory talk.  These 15 minute talks are available every day, and its an excellent way to start learning about the history of the house and grounds.

As well as the volunteers we have to thank American Charles Henry Robinson for Ightham Mote being available to the public today.  After purchasing the house and undertaking urgent repairs and refurbishment, he donated the estate to The National Trust.

Courtyard Dog House - Ightham MoteWalking around the courtyard provides a great opportunity to spot the changes that have happened to the building The Haute family remodelled the single range with outbuilding structure into a fashionable courtyard house during the 15th and 16th centuries.  It also contains a Grade I listed dog house which, not for the first time, is where I find myself (picture).

There was so much to see within the building.  We admired The Great Hall which has a timbered roof an impressive 11.3 meters high, plus the Cromwellian armour which was found in the moat when it was drained in the 1890s.  We also explored with the guides in each room which family had been responsible for the changes, such as the symbols throughout the house added by Richard Clement to bring attention to his links with Henry VIII.  The New Chapel ceiling with its barrel vaulted roof dating to the 16th century is a place we lingered over, as is the magnificent Chinese wallpaper.  I cringed as we were told of conservationists carefully stripping the irreplaceable sheets off the walls and re-applying it, I would have ripped it for sure. 

Revised roof (left) - Ightham MoteIm not sure the fireplace in the drawing room was entirely to our taste, but it certainly appealed to Dame Dorothy Selby in 1612.  So much so that the entire roof on one side of the house had to be raised to accommodate it (picture).

Outside we explored a fraction of the 14 acres of peaceful gardens with an orchard, water features, lakes and woodland walks.  Its position nestled low in a valley on the edge of the Kentish Weald, also provided excellent defence from potential assailants, as it cannot be seen from much of the surrounding countryside.

The bag and the deckchairWe were also impressed by the amount of things there were to do for children, with activity sheets for them to complete to give them interest in the house, to a natural play area in the grounds, with a discovery den and plenty of places to enjoy a family picnic. Indeed, anyone can enjoy the beautiful surroundings and cheeky Silver Travel Bag took two deck chairs as he relaxed in the grounds (picture).

To explore the estate there are steps, uneven floors and some hills in the grounds to negotiate. Download National Trust’s full access statement.

All that was left to do was enjoy a much-needed cup of tea in the Mote Cafe and our most enjoyable visit was at an end.  Come soon, its well worth it.

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Just Go! Holidays

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Steve Aldridge

Award-winning travel writer

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