The Historic Homes of England
Chiddingstone Castle, Kent
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.