There are a lot of stunning old properties still in existence in the UK and Ightham Mote has to be up there with the best.
Ightham Mote (pronounced ‘Item Moat’) is a wonderful medieval and Tudor manor house set in a sunken valley near Sevenoaks, in Kent. It’s a fantastic example of period architecture, with its old, tall chimneys, black and white timber framed walls, interesting brick work and nicely shaped windows. But what adds to its charm even more is that the building is surrounded by a moat (hence the Mote in its name).
The property dates back to 1320 and it’s been added to in various ways over the years, which you can see as you walk around the building. The home was owned by several families and then in 1985 the last owner, Charles Henry Robinson, left Ightham Mote to the National Trust. This was no doubt a good move on his behalf, as the organisation has been able to complete a long restoration and conservation project, designed to preserve the original features of the house and grounds, and subsequently open it up to share its beauty with the public.
The restoration project was one of the largest the National Trust has ever been involved in and took from 1989 to 2004 to complete; you can find out more details about exactly what was involved in a special exhibition at Ightham Mote, which is located in the visitor reception area.
Exploring the Manor
The moat runs around the entire property, which provides a novel experience of looking across to the walls and the quaint windows. On our visit, the water was filled with beautiful lilies in full bloom and a mother duck was herding her ducklings along through the water and through the arches of the small bridges.
The property is reached by crossing a small bridge and from there you enter the inner courtyard. There are benches dotted around here, so you can stop for a while and admire the building; there’s also an entrance to the tower, which is accessible via specially booked tours. Another unusual object in the courtyard is the dog kennel – not just any dog kennel, but a Grade I listed dog kennel!
As with any National Trust property, there are laminated sheets with details about the route to follow around the rooms of the house, plus plenty of informative guides on hand to tell you about the artifacts, furniture and decoration on show, and offer insight into what restoration was carried out in each room.
There are lots of rooms to explore, with highlights being the Great Hall, Crypt and Tudor Chapel, with a very ornate painted ceiling and stained glass window. To get the best impression of the ceiling, and save craning your neck, mirrors are available. Although Henry VIII never did visit Ightham Mote, it was suspected he might, so various icons were painted on the ceiling to denote their allegiance to him and his first wife, Katherine of Aragon.
The house spans many eras and in other rooms, like the Drawing Room, there’s a Jacobean fireplace and lovely examples of 18th century wallpaper, plus you get to see the more recently styled rooms which the last owner used.
Outside there are some additional buildings which are now private cottages (although one is apparently available for holiday lets – what a lovely place to stay) and gardens, orchard and a woodland walk to explore. Some of the grounds are still being worked on, but it’s well worth walking through the gardens, as there are lovely planted borders and a very well manicured lawn. The view of the manor from the north lawn and lake area offers a different perspective and shows just how stunning and unique the building really is.
If you like Tudor buildings and architecture in particular, then you really must add Ightham Mote to your itinerary.
Kent TN15 0NT