The History of Scotney Castle
A true English country house, Scotney Castle can be found in Kent, England nestled in the valley of the River Bewl. The home stands as a testament of the wealthy society that existed during the times of kings and queens in England. Owned by the National Trust, this picturesque castle, or home, is open to the public today, and its history is just as breathtaking as the home itself. When researching the castle, the earliest records of the estate’s ownership leads us to Lambert de Scoteni. The records going back to this time are sparse, but there was a Lambert by the same name that was a Baron. There are also birth records of a person with the same name being born in 1124. If the birth records are true and the two people are one in the same, it’s plausible that the estate was handed down to Scoteni at a young age. One thing is for sure, the estate didn’t include the castle on the property.
The castle was constructed between 1378 and 1380, and the credit for the castle’s construction goes to Roger Ashburnham. We know that the family consisted of a small landowner, and the manor was passed to John following the treason and execution of Bartholomew Ashburnham in 1322.
Roger was the uncle of John, and he rose to prominence under King Richard II. John would eventually go on to inherit his uncle’s estates, which likely included the castle he had built in 1378.
The castle was a fortified home that had towers placed at each of the four corners of the home. What’s interesting, and maybe not surprising considering John’s past history, is that the plans may not have been originally completed. It is not clear why.
Rebuilding the Castle
Records from 1580 point to the southern portion of the fortified home being rebuilt. The castle was rebuilt in the Elizabethan style. The eastern part of the home was rebuilt some 50 years later in 1630 in the Jones style.
Thomas Darrell was born at the castle in 1510, according to some records, and he would be the husband of Mary Roydon Darrell. The two were married in Kent, and he would have three children: Mary Goche, Frances Greene and Ellen Pelham.
Records show he died around 1590, which conflicts with other records. We know that Thomas was alive until at least 1598, and since he didn’t have a son with the same name, we can assume it’s the same Thomas today. During the years 1591 to 1598, Darrell hid Jesuit Father Richard Blount in the home and he would minister Roman Catholics at this time.
This is a very important part of history because at the time, Catholicism was illegal in England under the reign of Elizabeth I. Queen Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII. Elizabeth was believed to be Protestant, but her advisers feared that Catholics would start a crusade against England. Elizabeth herself had her legitimacy as queen were questioned due to her being the daughter of Anne Boleyn.
Little history is either known or written from this time on to 1778. We know that the Darrell family owned the castle, or the property of the castle, for 350 years, putting their date of ownership back to sometime in the 1420s or 1430s.
This puts the family as owners of the castle within 40 – 50 years after it was erected.
Edward Hussey Purchases the Estate in 1778
The Hussey family would own the estate until the death of Christopher Hussey in 1970. He would leave the estate to the National Trust at this time.
Edward Hussey purchased the estate, and Edward Hussey, his grandson, would build the new castle on the property. This is the castle that people see and love today. The castle’s design is attributed to Anthony Salvin.
Sandstone was quarried nearby and would be used as the building material for the castle.
The former castle was still used, and the Elizabethan wing was the bailiff’s home until 1905. The eastern wing of the castle was mostly dismantled when the new home was completed by Edward (the grandson) in 1843.
The ruin of the old home can be seen as the garden feature that is still in place today.
When the National Trust inherited the home, they would go on to let out many of the rooms as apartments. During the 70s and 80s, Prime Ministry Margaret Thatcher rented one of the home’s flats as a weekend escape from the hustle and bustle of her life.
Elizabeth Hussey lived in the home until 2006. The Trust went on to open the home to the public in June 2007 after her death.