Ightham Mote in Kent is typical of the joys which are managed by the National Trust (NT information here). Having visited two in this area last year, we decided to add this house to our list of visited treasures and just as last time, the weather was superb. The house dates from 1320 (yes ! that is not a typo) and a reasonably accurate potted history can be found here.
The House and a number of items around it are Listed Grade 1 such is their heritage value. The List Entry by English Heritage summarises the house as:
Ightham Mote includes an exceptionally well preserved moated manor house, a nearly-square moat some 50m long by 7-10m wide, an infilled fishpond and an outer courtyard of buildings. The evolution of the building from a hall-house with adjoining solars and chapel in the mid-14th century to a grand Jacobean mansion set around a quadrangle in the 17th century is documented both historically and archaeologically. Such moated sites are generally seen as prestigious residences of the Lords of the manor, the moat not only marking the high status of the occupier but also serving to deter casual raiders and wild animals. In the mid-16th century an outer courtyard to the west of the house was enclosed by ranges of half-timbered stables, staff quarters and a gatehouse. Only the western end of this courtyard survives, a fire having destroyed the remainder. The central area is now a lawn. To the north of the house the lawn occupies the area of a former fish-pond which would have provided fish for the table. The date of its construction is unknown, but it was infilled between 1789 and 1849 as part of a change in fashion towards lawns and landscaped gardens. The standing remains include Listed Buildings: Manor House, Grade I, The West Range (Moat Cottages) and eastward projecting walls of the West Range, Grade II*. All standing remains, with the exception of the two lengths of walling on the north and south of the western courtyard, are excluded from the scheduling. The ground beneath all these structures is included in the scheduling.
This and other interesting information can be found here. The detailed listing details for the house can be found here. An interesting (but strangely laid out text-wise) account of Ightham Mote with numerous old photographs can be found here.
The Grounds and the House
The approach to the house is on a road through an ancient pollarded wood
which whilst it does not have the grandeur of an ancient forrest
does tell you that you are approaching a place where they knew how to live off the land and to keep it sustainable. In season the woods are full of Bluebells.
The first view one gets of the house is typical of that which you get throughout a visit - of a very old
building overtly showing a number of building styles.
The Moat (Mote) in the name runs around the whole of the house and appears almost as soon as you can see the house. There are a couple of solid bridges giving entry,
this one leads to the back door
and this one leads to the
which has a lovely old front door bell - pull on the handle which is connected to a wire which runs along the passage way and eventually gets to a bell.
Continuing around the outside, there is the old mounting block
used to help ladies mount their horse rather more gracefully than by using the stirrups
the old stables which have been converted into flats, and in the gardens
a superbly positioned tree
a kitchen garden laid out in a traditional way
and behind the garden
is a daffodil orchard
with Mistletoe growing on the apple trees.
Crossing the bridge and going through the front door
leads into an inner Courtyard
with a Grade 1 listed Dog Kennel
which has to be the grandest we have ever seen.
The maps which are available are supplemented
by more detailed guides in each of the main rooms.
The joy of the house (apart from the enthusiastic guides in most of the room who are only too pleased to answer questions and tell you more than you asked) is that it displays a variety of styles, each of which are portrayed just as if the occupant had stepped out of the room a few seconds before you arrived.
Although converted from a log store a number of years ago, the Billiard Room is as grand as you would find in any country house
and the snug area almost requires us to sit down with a good book
and had the fire been lit we certainly would have. The mix of styles - very old carvings and a relatively recent (in terms of the age of the house) fireplace seems to work perfectly.
The Great Hall is one of the oldest parts of the house
If you visit, ask about the history of this carving which is at the base of one of the arches supporting the roof (high in the corner on your right as you enter the hall).
Immediately off the Great Hall is the House Keepers Room which has been furnished to indicate how it may have looked in the 1880’s.
Adjacent is now what is called The Butler’s Pantry although part of it dates from around 1330 with an extension in 1470, the fireplace was added in 1530 and the original old floor was dug out in 1890. This range of chronology constantly pops up as you go around the house
as it does in The Oriel Room on the First Floor. Dendrochronology shows that the room dates from around 1330 but in 1532 the floor was raised to increase the height of the room below and a ceiling was put in as were the oriel and side windows.
Adjacent is another Orial type room )overhangs the courtyard) which leads into The Chapel, hence it is known as The Chapel Corridor. The left hand wall in the picture above (the one with the window and stained glass) dates from 1530s and the wall on the left dates from the 1330s.
The adjacent Chapel started life as Guest Accommodation in the 1470s and was not originally connected to the rest of the house. The ceilings were painted in the early 1520s.
and show the arms of Henry and Catherine of Aragon. Once can assume that these were painted before 1525 because it is known that Henry VIII was in pursuit of Anne Boleyn by then.
The stained glass is German (around 1525) but was
not installed into the chapel until it was brought over in the 1800s.
The drawing room dates from 1480 although the fire place was added in 1612.
The Chinese Wallpaper is original and dates from about 1800
and has been beautifully restored.
Further along the corridor is the bedroom of Charles Henry Robinson who purchased the house in 1953 and later gave it to the National Trust. It shows its period - the 1980s and is decorated in Maine Grey which is a colour one can still buy today. Of particular interest is the carpet on the floor - this is not so much a carpet
as an offset of a larger carpet. The larger carpet was used to cover the floor of Westminster Abbey during the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Most visitors simply walk over it without realising the significance of what is under their feet.
We enjoyed our visit to Ightham Mote very much and can recommend it to others. We noticed that most of the children there had worksheets in their hands and were excitedly looking for answers - an indication that this is a good place to go.