The His­toric Homes of Eng­land

Chid­ding­stone Cas­tle, Kent

This England - - Contents -

Chid­ding­stone and its sis­ter vil­lage, Chid­ding­stone Cause­way, lie on op­po­site sides of the River Eden mid­way be­tween Eden­bridge and Ton­bridge in the Weald of Kent. The cas­tle lies on the site of a 16th-cen­tury tim­ber build­ing which was re­placed in 1679 by a sub­stan­tial red brick con­struc­tion fronting the High Street. When the cur­rent castel­lated build­ing was be­gun in the early 19th cen­tury, how­ever, it was re­named Chid­ding­stone Cas­tle and the road had to be di­verted to make room for it.

From its 16th-cen­tury ori­gins right up un­til 1900 the es­tate was home to the Streat­feild fam­ily, whose most fa­mous mem­ber was chil­dren’s au­thor, Noel Streat­feild (1895-1986). In 1938 it was sold to Lord As­tor and dur­ing the war it played host to Cana­dian troops be­fore hous­ing Long Dene com­mu­nity school from 1944 to 1954. It was then sold to Lon­don an­tiques dealer, Denys Eyre Bower, who wished to show off his col­lec­tion to the pub­lic. Un­for­tu­nately, in 1957 he was con­victed of mur­der, a ver­dict which was quashed five years later as a mis­car­riage of jus­tice, af­ter which he re­turned to Chid­ding­stone and his love of an­tiques.

Af­ter his death in 1977, he left the cas­tle and pos­ses­sions to the state and to­day vis­i­tors can en­joy a wide va­ri­ety of ex­hibits in­clud­ing Ja­panese ob­jet d’art and an An­cient Egyp­tian col­lec­tion. Bower also amassed por­traits, manuscripts and other associated para­pher­na­lia from the Stu­art and Ja­co­bite pe­riod while a Vic­to­rian up­stairs-down­stairs theme is com­plete with kitchen, ser­vants’ hall and a se­cret back stairs. Out­side, the 35 acres of in­for­mal gar­dens in­clude a lake, wa­ter­fall, rose gar­den and wood­land.

JOHN BLAKE

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