I’m updating my 2019 review of Restoration House in Rochester, Kent as a lot more work has been done in the gardens since that time and most of my photos have been lost in the updating of the website.
Restoration House is so named because Charles II visited in 1660 on his way from Dover to London for his restoration as king after 15 years in exile. To its owners it’s a home and obviously a passion – to those who visit, it’s an amazing pictorial history lesson, art gallery, education in conservation, showcase for craftsmanship, a huge cabinet of curiosities but chiefly a wonderful experience. The original early house has undergone change over five centuries but my favourite parts are the Tapestry Room and upstairs, the Oriel Room and Great Chamber; I sense the 17th century most strongly in these rooms and get quite emotional. Photos are not allowed inside the building except between 10.00 and 11.00 am on Fridays (see the website).
But on our latest visit in June we bought Garden Only tickets. It’s hard to believe that Restoration House is only 100 yards away from the busy High Street. The beautiful walled garden of about threequarters of an acre is an oasis of peace and includes colourful borders, small orchard, potting shed, log store, meadow, cutting garden and parterre, all leading through to the latest project – a jaw-dropping Renaissance water garden with a brick gazebo, terraces, statues, rills and fountains. We sat inside the gazebo on classical stone seats and looked up through the round structure to an open light high above, then climbed the circular stairs to the large terrace where a Roman style? pagoda now sits atop a large brick terrace from which we looked down to a lower terrace and over the beautifully maintained lawns, huge terracotta pots of citrus trees, towering echiums, statues and water features: the parterre in the original garden can be glimpsed through an interesting feature in the old, recycled wall. The brickwork has yet to weather but the craftsmanship and attention to detail are undeniable. This latest project came about when the owners managed to purchase an adjacent site that had been destined for development. But the story is too long and complicated and I’m no expert on the different styles of architecture restored and/or introduced – Tudor?, Italianate?, Renaissance?, Mannerist? – I can’t pretend to know, so please read the website for more about the garden restoration on www.restorationhouse.co.uk.
As you can tell, I love this garden, whatever its style, everthing about it has been considered carefully and carried out artistically; even the outside taps are hidden in bespoke boxes. It can only get better with time. Unfortunately five photographs cannot do justice to this unique, privately owned garden.
Restoration House and gardens are open Thursdays and Fridays only (and Saturdays 26 May and 30 September 2022) from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm (last entry 4.30 pm). Pre-booking was in place when we went in June but Historic Houses members do not need to pre-book. Neither the house nor the garden are suitable for wheelchair users. Current prices for the house and garden are £11 for adults, £9 for seniors, £7.50 for students and Art Fund and £5 for children. Garden entry only is £6 for adults and £3 for children. There is a tea room which is run by volunteers in aid of the Wisdom Hospice and we took our tea and cake out into the garden to enjoy.