A Mote, Cromwell, The Black Prince and An American: part five of my ‘Jolly.’
Welcome to part five of my birthday ‘jolly.’
I hope you’ve enjoyed the first four posts since early March giving you an idea what I got up to on my birthday ‘jolly.’
On the last Saturday of my week away I was taken to see a wonderful medieval manor house in the care of The National Trust, situated in Kent.
Ightham Mote is a delightful 14th century manor house nestled at the bottom of a path, hidden so well from view by dense trees, that even Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers failed to find it during the English Civil War, thus saving it from pillage and destruction; a secluded survivor hidden at the foot of a wooded cleft of the Greensand Ridge in the Kentish Weald, it is hard to find even today.
Picture-perfect it is a timber-framed house on its own little island surrounded by water. A sense of magic surrounds this romantic moated manor house. Spanning centuries it has undergone many, many, changes from a small manor house in the 14th century to the grand yet cosy building today, each family living there having reflected changing fashions and the needs of their family when altering it.
There is plenty to see; gardens with Bluebells in April/May, Springtime daffodils and wonderful Autumn colours reflecting in the North lake and a cobbled courtyard from where the different phases of the house can be seen, and also the only Grade 1 listed Dog kennel in England! In summer there is a Sweet pea walk.
There’s also the New Chapel ceiling – the paintings on this unique barrel-vaulted roof date to the 16th century and commemorate the marriage of Henry V111 and Catherine of Aragon.
There is also a drawing-room decorated in late 18th century Chinese wallpaper which has elaborate images of birds and flowers. I thought it stunning.
We’d arrived late morning and headed straight for the restaurant and a huge glass of local cider and home-made scones, though cooked food and a large and very inviting menu was on offer, we had been looking forward to the cider.
A lovely gentleman volunteer provided a 15 minute talk about the house, its history, and the various families who had lived there and the alterations, extensions, and major building work they had all undertaken at the time of their occupancy. The original owner is unknown but was obviously someone of wealth, other owners were Squires, Sheriffs, Members Of Parliament, even Courtiers. They expanded the house to meet their needs but they retained the original buildings and any alterations were always sympathetic to its medieval origins. When necessary they built outside the moat making accommodation for servants and horses, leaving the cobbled courtyard clear of obstruction.
For those of you who love dates:
Owners of Ightham Mote include Isolde Inge (c 1330-1360) later Seyntpere or St. Peter who may have even built the oldest visible parts of the house.
Others were: Sir Thomas Cawne (1360-74): Robert Cawne (1374-99): Sir Nicolas Haute (1399-1416): William Haute (1416-62)
Richard Haute (1462-87): His estates were confiscated after supporting Buckingham’s rebellion in 1483, but were returned to him by Richard 111 in 1485.
Edward Haute (1487-1519): Thomas Welles (1519-21)
Sir Richard Clement (1521-83) – a courtier to Henry V11 and Henry V111.
John Clement (1538-44): Hugh Pakenham (1544-??)
Sir John Allen (1544-6) – a rich Lord Mayor of London.
Also, Sir Christopher Allen (1546-85): Charles Allen (1585-91) – he sold the House for £4,000 to Sir William Selby 1 (1592-1612)
Sir William Selby 11 (1612-38): Dame Dorothy Selby (1638-41): George Selby (1641-67): William Selby (1667-90): John Selby (1690-1727): William Selby (1772-7): John Browne (Selby) (1777-97): Thomas Selby (1797-1820): Elizabeth Selby (1820-45)
Prideaux John Selby (1845-67) – renovated the Mote for his daughter, Marianne (Mrs Lewis Mariaane Bigge 1867-89). the changes to he garden and lake during the 19th century can mostly be ascribed to Prideaux John Selby, the distinguished field naturalist and author of he successful British Forest Trees and Illustrations of British Ornithology, also carried out extensive new planting on his other estate at Twizell, Co. Durham.
In 1887-90 the Mote was let to General William Jackson Palmer of the United States. He was the founder of Colorado Springs in the Rocky Mountains and when in England entertained many painters and writers including Edward Burn-Jones, John Singers Sargent (who painted his daughter’s portrait) and Ellen Terry, Henry James, William Morris and George Meredith.
Sir Thomas Colyer-Fergusson, Bt. purchased the Mote from the executors of Charles Selby-Bigge.
1951 Sir James Colyer-Fergusson Bt. put the house and most of the contents up for sale.
1951-53: a consortium of Kentish businessmen bought the house, with the intention of saving it from destruction as it was about to be sold to developers.
Charles Henry Robinson of Portland, Maine, USA (1953-85) bought the house and upon his death donated it to the National Trust.
Which is why I and several dozen others were able to wander around the house and grounds on a lovely March day.
A wall tablet in the Crypt commemorates Charles Henry Robinson and his donation of Ightham to the National Trust. His ancestors had been among the Pilgrim Fathers who sailed to America on the Mayflower in 1620.
The gilt plaster equestrian figure of The Black Prince by Edward Lanteri (1848-1917) , a French sculptor who settled in Britain, was purchased by Mr Robinson in the 1950’s. The Black Prince fought in France with Sir Thomas Cawne around the time the early parts of Ightham Mote, including the crypt, were being built.
Inside the house, just inside the main entrance looking through to the Great Hall.
Wandering around the house was fascinating. Each era of occupation with additions and renovations is quite evident – each new occupant making their own mark upon the manor house. Even Charles Henry Robinson had a room done in the style of the 1950’s.
Luckily there weren’t any steep stairs to climb – we didn’t manage to get to the tower on time to look around – but the main staircase we did manage to ascend was built by Sir Thomas Colyer-Fergusson in the 1980’s to replace an earlier one by which servants and visitors could attend Chapel services without disturbing the family who had their own chapel inside the house.
The nature of the previous staircase is suggested by the painted tromp-l’oeil balustrade of 1612 that survives in part behind the Victorian panelling.
In 1889 a large area of the old parkland had been sold to Fairlawn Estate and when Sir Thomas Colyer-Fergusson’s heir, James, sold the estate in 1951 including two farms of 658 acres it was broken into smaller lots.
Charles H Robinson purchased the house and a small area of the garden around the house and the original setting and surrounding garden was lost and almost forgotten as much of the garden was put to agricultural use. Mr Robinson was only resident at Ightham 14 weeks a year as he lived mainly in America but he set to changing the garden to suit his tastes.
He donated the house and garden to the National Trust in 1985. The house was reunited with the woods, upper walled gardens, fields and meadows along with the farm bestowed by Mr Goodwin in 1974.
The Trust is now able to present the house in its original setting and work is underway to restore the neglected areas of estate and gardens. Traditional woodland management methods such as coppicing, are also being used to create varied habitats for wildlife.
As with other National Trust houses and gardens there wasn’t enough time to see it all, inside and out, and I hope I get to return soon. I know that people usually visit more than once and Ightham Mote is definitely somewhere I’d love to spend longer. Luckily it was a warm, sunny day and not too dark inside the house.
I do hope you enjoyed seeing my photos and reading about the house and its history and a little about the families living there over almost 700 years.
If you’d like to know more or arrange a visit then follow the link:
Ightham Mote, Mote Road, Ivy Hatch, Sevenoaks, Kent TN15 ONT
Please let me have your thoughts about Ightham Mote. I am sure those loving history, as I do, will find this of interest – such a romantic little manor house, cosy and comfortable and easily a family home for today.
As always, all photos are (c) Jane Risdon – All Rights Reserved.
Part 6 will be next……I hope you will be back then. Don’t forget there are 4 previous posts about my birthday ‘jolly,’ so do take a look at them if you have not already done so.