Situated in the beautiful Weald of Kent, Chiddingstone Castle was originally a medieval manor, but at the beginning of the 18th century, it was rebuilt as a Carolean mansion. Owned by Squire Henry Streatfield, the new mansion was designed in the style of a castle, with towers, arched windows and a gatehouse structure. Unfortunately, only the north and south wings had been completed when building work ceased, probably as a result of the enormous expense incurred in the planned renovations.
During the 1930s the whole estate was sold off and from this time Chiddingstone Castle suffered quite severely from a general lack of maintenance and sheer neglect. Moreover, it was occupied by the Army during World War II, and some later used as a school for a number of years.
The building continued to deteriorate until 1955 when Denys Eyre Bower bought the castle, and gave it a new lease of life. Eyre Bower was a passionate collector, and decided that he would display his numerous possessions in Chiddingstone Castle and open it up to the public, so that visitors could also take pleasure in his works of art in the comfortable surroundings of a 'private' home.
It is these works of art that the castle is now renowned for, and they include:
- The Egyptian collection, which extends from Pre-Dynastic to Ptolemaic times, and contains statuettes or 'shabti' and models;
- The Japanese collection, to be found in the north Gothic Hall and other rooms, and comprising swords, lacquer work and fine art; and
- The Stuart collection, which consists of several mementoes and paintings displayed in rooms styled from that period.
Chiddingstone Castle also houses a substantial Buddhist collection, emanating from Eyre Bower's particular interest in Japanese culture and the influence this form of religion had in their society. The formal gardens, also landscaped in keeping with the castle 'style', take the form of a park with woodland areas, as well as open heathland, a lake, the ruined Orangery, and the octagonal Gothic Tower of the old well-house. These gardens are now Grade II listed.
This charming spot, deep in the Kent countryside, gives pleasure to all kinds of visitors throughout the year. There are those who come to marvel at the Oriental antiquities in the house, others who come to explore the grounds and enjoy a sunny family picnic, and some, like us, who arrive with a battery of fishing tackle to try our luck in the splendid, lily clad lake. Whatever your interests, Chiddingstone Castle is simply a delight, and the village also boasts several fascinating buildings, including a lovely church.