A magnificent close-studded building dating from the early 16th century, Smallhythe Place is best remembered as the last home of Dame Ellen Terry. Famously associated with Henry Irving and the Lyceum Theatre, this great Shakespearian actress purchased the old Kentish farmhouse in 1899.
The early history of Smallhythe Place is somewhat vague but it is believed to have been built shortly after 1514, the year that a huge fire swept through Smallhythe destroying much of the village. During this period there was a thriving shipyard industry and the new building served as the Port House, possibly occupied by the harbour master. Reflecting the changing conditions, as maritime activities diminished and land was reclaimed for agricultural use, the house became known locally as The Farm.
Despite several structural alterations over the years, the core of the Tudor house is essentially unchanged. Smallhythe Place is a superb example of a high-quality house of the period. Externally it represents a substantial rectangular building, the upper storey overhanging the whole of the front elevation, and with a red-tiled pitched roof and homely brick chimney stack. Inside, the main room on the ground floor is the huge heavily beamed former farmhouse kitchen. When Ellen Terry lived here she preferred to use this spacious area with a large open fireplace as a dining room. Today it resembles a cosy memorial room, where numerous portraits and treasures of past performers are displayed. In one of the rooms upstairs, a collection of some of the lavish costumes worn by Ellen Terry during her acting career are exhibited, and in another her wonderful times at The Lyceum are remembered. The simplicity of her bedroom, shows a more private and sentimental side to the woman, wife and mother.
This delightful country house holds an appeal to satisfy most visitors. Whether it be a fascination for the lifestyle of a famous person, or a morbid curiosity to see the place where Dame Ellen Terry died in 1928, or perhaps just to enjoy the fabulous architecture of a bygone era.