Sequestered in a sylvan cleft, unusually deep and narrow for the gentle landscape of the Kentish Weald, sits one of the loveliest and most interesting of the medieval and Tudor manor houses to survive in England.
Turning off the A227, seven kilometers (4.3 miles) south east of Sevenoaks, visitors will see the trees suddenly part to reveal a low-lying house wholly in keeping with the privacy of its approach. Down the valley, known as Dinas Dene, flows a stream that was dammed to form small lakes above and below the house and the moat that surrounds it.
The manor house, Ightham Mote, dates originally from the 14th– century. At first sight the Mote appears to be all of one date, but it is the result of six centuries of building and rebuilding, although the house still boasts its original great hall, chapel and crypt.
The name is derived from Ightham, the village three kilometers (1.8 miles) north of the house, and “Mote” has been variously interpreted as an earlier spelling of “moat” or, less obviously, as “moot” or the Anglo-Saxon “mot”, meaning a meeting place of local dignitaries. As early as 1370 the house appears as “La Mote” in the will of Sir Thomas Cawne, one of its first owners.
The moat itself is not regular in proportion, but varies in width from three to 11 meters (10 to 36 feet) and in depth from one to three meters. It is fed by the stream that descends from the upper lake by a waterfall, running through culverts under the big lawn, known as the Bowling Green, draining on the south side into the lower lake.
After a chequered ownership over six hundred years, the house was bequeathed in 1985 to the National Trust. The current conservation of Ightham Mote is the largest project ever undertaken by the National Trust on such a fragile and ancient house.
Says Gervase Jackson-Stops, Architectural Advisor to the National Trust, “There is nowhere else like Ightham Mote …. It is a house that has been shaped through many centuries, by successive owners adding their own embellishments, and contributing to the character of what is one of the most picturesque of all English houses. Today we are faced with a formidable conservation project; a program of essential work that can proceed only with the help of voluntary contributions.”
The garden at Ightham Mote has flourished in recent years and had emerged as the ideal “olde English” garden. This is how it was described in 1900 by Country Life magazine:
“The gardens themselves are simply delightful, with many a sunny walk and shady retreat, with grassy paths and edgings of saxifrage, gorgeous borders in which lilies and many other splendid denizens of the garden flourish … Ightham is a place where the sweetness of the country reigns.”
Woodland walks, footpaths and bridle paths also surround the garden. One has been specially designed to accommodate visitors in wheelchairs.
For more information please visit the Ightham Mote website: