Front facade of Chilham Castle
|Type||Manor house and keep|
|Controlled by||English Heritage|
Chilham Castle is a manor house and keep in the village of Chilham, between Ashford and Canterbury in the county of Kent, England. The polygonal Norman keep of the Castle, the oldest building in the village, dates from 1174; still inhabited, it was said to have been built for King Henry II. But archaeological excavations carried out in the 1920s suggest that it stands on the foundations of a much older Anglo-Saxon fortification, possibly dating from the fifth century, and there is evidence of earlier Roman habitation in the vicinity.
The Jacobean building, within sight of the "Old Castle" (the keep), was completed in 1616 for Sir Dudley Digges on a hexagonal plan, with five angled ranges and the sixth left open. It has battlemented parapets, clustered facetted brick chimneys and corner towers with squared ogee cappings. The Victorian tradition that this bold but vernacular house was designed by Inigo Jones is not credited by architectural historians. Indeed Nicholas Stone, a master mason who had worked under Jones's direction at Holyrood Palace in 1616, and at the Whitehall Banqueting House, was commissioned to add a funerary chapel to Chilham church for Sir Dudley Digges, to contain Stone's funerary monument to Lady Digges, in 1631-32; if any traces of the manner of Jones were discernible at Chilham Castle, Nicholas Stone might be considered as a candidate. It is, nevertheless, one of the finer mansions in the south-east of England and commands exceptional views across the valley of the River Stour, Kent.
The gardens, said originally to have been laid out by John Tradescant the elder, were redesigned twice in the eighteenth century. First, under the London banker James Colebrooke (who bought the estate from the Digges family) fine vistas were created stretching to the river and then, under Thomas Heron (who acquired the estate from Colebrooke's son Robert), Capability Brown made further recommendations for change, some of which were implemented. Chilham Castle was purchased by James Wildman in 1794 and in 1816 was inherited by his son James Beckford Wildman, who sold it in 1861, because of falling income after emancipation of the slaves on the family estates in the West Indies. Plans of Chilham showing some of the substantial changes made to the building by David Brandon for Charles Stewart Hardy in 1862 and by Sir Herbert Baker for mining magnate Sir Edmund and Lady (Mary) Davis in the early nineteen twenties are conserved in the Victoria & Albert Museum.
The present terracing, altered in the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, leads down to a fishing lake dating from the time of Charles Stewart Hardy in the 1860s and 70s. The walls to the grounds date mostly from the eighteenth century, although the two gatehouses were only added in the early 1920s, again replacing a very different 19th century one.
From 1949 until his death in 1992 it was owned by the Hon. John Clotworthy Talbot Foster Whyte-Melville Skeffington Chilham Castle is currently owned by UKIP activist Stuart Wheeler, who lives there with his wife Tessa and his three daughters, Sarah, Jacquetta, and Charlotte.
The site now hosts the Chilham Park Equestrian Centre.
In 1965 it was used for part of the filming of The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders starring Kim Novak, Leo McKern and Angela Lansbury. In 1985 Chilham Castle featured in an episode of 1980s police drama Dempsey & Makepeace as Makepeace's family home (filmed summer 1984). The episode was titled 'Cry God For Harry' and most of the hour-long episode was filmed in the castle and its grounds. It also featured in the first episode in 1989 of the ITV adventure game show Interceptor produced by Chatsworth Television who were responsible for the earlier Treasure Hunt series. A medieval joust was being held there and a contestant was required to take part in order to progress further in the show. In 1994, the castle featured in an episode of Agatha Christie's Poirot (ITV), as Simeon Lee's manor house Gorston Hall. It was also used in the TV film, "The Moving Finger" (Miss Marple) as the magnificent home of Cardew Pye - a character. The entire village also features..
- Chilham Castle official site
- Chilham Park Equestrian Centre
- The Paul Bowles I Knew by Tessa Codrington
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- Sir Banister Fletcher, A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method (1901:407) listed Chilham among Jones's works, apparently the last historian to do so: "Many buildings have been attributed to Jones with very slight authority. They include Chilham Castle in Kent..." DNB reports (s.v. "Inigo Jones"); George Mabbit (Mabbitt, "Chilham: The Unique Village," 1999), alludes to original plans in the Royal Institute of British Architects; this is apparently an error, but there is one unsigned outline plan, apparently most ancient, now in the keeping of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
- Neither by Howard Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840 3rd ed. (Yale University Press) 1995, who makes no attribution of seventeenth-century Chilham, nor by Nicholas Cooper, Houses of the Gentry, 1480-1680 (Yale University Press) 1999, who discusses Chilham briefly (p. 33) and illustrates both new and old castles (p. 32, figs 19 and 20).
- Colvin 1995, s.v. "Stone, Nicholas"; Stone's chapel was demolished in 1863.
- John Newman, "Nicholas Stone's Goldsmiths' Hall: Design and Practice in the 1630s" Architectural History 14 (1971:30-39, 138-141) discusses Stone's role in the dissemination of Jones' architectural ideas in England.
- His son was Sir James Colebrooke, 1st Baronet.
- Sir Robert's domed mausoleum, designed by Sir Robert Taylor, 1755, attached to the chancel of the parish church, was demolished in 1862 (Colvin 1995, s.v. "Taylor, Sir Robert").
- Ireland, William Henry (1829) England's Topographer: Or A New and Complete History of the County of Kent page 526. G. Virtue.
- The Chilham Castle website (http://www.chilham-castle.co.uk/history.aspx?id=8) states:"In 1949 Chilham was offered for sale by auction with its remaining 400 acres and bought by “Jock“ Skeffington for £94,000. With his wife Annabelle McNamara née Lewis, he lived there until his death in 1992. In 1956 on the death of his father, Skeffington became 13th Viscount Massereene and Baron of Loughneagh, 6th Viscount Ferrard and Baron Oriel of Collon in Ireland and Baron Oriel of Ferrard in the United Kingdom."
- TV series, Season 2 Episode 2