Scotney: Scotney Castle Information
The gardens, which are a celebrated example of the Picturesque style, are open to the public. The central feature are the ruins of a medieval, moated manor house, Scotney Old Castle, which is on an island on a small lake. The lake is surrounded by sloping, wooded gardens with fine collections of rhododendrons, azaleas and kalmia for spring colour, summer wisteria and roses, and spectacular autumn colour. We visited in the Springtime and there were hundreds of daffodils and bluebells all over the place.
|Scotney Castle. Kent. Don Davis Photography 2013.|
Up the hill at the top of the gardens stands a house which was built to replace the Old Castle between 1835 and 1843. This is known as Scotney New Castle, or simply Scotney Castle, and was designed by Anthony Salvin. It is an early, and unusually restrained, example of the revived influence of Tudor architecture in 19th century Britain. Following the death of the resident, Mrs Betty Hussey, in 2006, the house was then opened up to the public for the first time on 6th June 2007. So it was a real privilege for my wife and I to have a guided tour of the property.
The earliest record from 1137 gives the owner of the estate as Lambert de Scoteni. Roger Ashburnham is credited with building the castle c.1378-80.
Construction of the castle began as a roughly rectangular fortified house with towers in each corner. The original plan may never have been finished, and by 1558 it is likely only the southern tower remained. In 1580 the south wing was rebuilt in Elizabethan architecture style, and around 1630 the eastern range was rebuilt in three story Inigo Jones style. The Elizabethan wing remained a bailiff’s residence until 1905, but the eastern range was partly dismantled on the completion of the new house in 1843, leaving the ruin as an amazing and spectacular garden feature. We’ve seen many artists and photographers spending hours here painting and photographing the beautiful place. It’s got an other worldly feel and you can easily imagine knights and damsels in distress.
Catholic Recusant owner Thomas Darrell hid Jesuit Father Richard Blount, S.J. in the castle while he administered to Roman Catholics from 1591 to 1598. Catholicism was then illegal in England, and during the second raid by authorities to arrest the Father he fled over a wall into the moat and escaped.
The Darrell family owned the estate for some 350 years. In 1778 Edward Hussey bought the estate and his grandson, also Edward, built the ‘new’ Castle to the designs of Anthony Salvin, from sandstone quarried from the slope below. The hollow created was developed into a Quarry Garden and contains a 100 million year old impression of a dinosaur’s footprint. On the day we visited the ground was quite wet, so I made sure to leave my own footprint for posterity too:-)
On Christopher Hussey’s death in 1970 the estate was left to the National Trust.
The castle grounds have played host to Shakespeare productions, notably A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with the actors appearing from behind the bushes on cue.
You’d enjoy a visit to Scotney Castle and the wonderful gardens, which are most spectacular in the springtime when the daffodils and bluebells are in bloom.