Rental Details for Allington Castle

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Name
Allington Castle
Country
England
Rental Phrase
It is a grade I listed building and is used as a wedding venue, though there is no public access otherwise.
Wikipedia page:
Allington Castle
Web site
Official web site
  • Allington Castle from across the River Medway
  • View of Allington Castle
  • 1890s view of Allington Castle, illustrating its riverside location
  • View of Allington Castle, 1735, by the Buck brothers.
  • The ruins of the castle in 1905
  • View of Allington Castle from the River Medway
  • Plan of Allington Castle in 1906
ConstructedYear
1350
Type
Fortress,Castle
Features
Battlement,Gatehouse
Special:
filming, movie

Description
Restored in 1905–1929.

Allington Castle is a stone-built moated castle in Allington, Kent, just north of Maidstone, in England. The first castle on the site was an unauthorised fortification, built during The Anarchy of the early 12th century and torn down later in the century when royal control was reasserted. It was replaced by a manor house, which was fortified with royal permission in the 13th century. Various alterations and expansions were made by successive owners over the following two centuries. The property was developed into a fortified compound with six towers at irregular intervals along the curtain wall and domestic buildings in the interior, including one of the first long galleries built in England. In 1554 it was seized by the Crown in the course of dispossessing its owner, Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger, after the failure of his rebellion against Queen Mary.

The castle subsequently fell into a state of decay that was accelerated by damaging fires, neglect and vandalism, until it was largely ruined by the start of the 20th century. It was saved and restored by the efforts of Sir Martin Conway and his wife during the first half of the century. After nearly fifty years of occupation by a community of Carmelite friars and nuns, it returned to being a private residence in 1999 and is currently the home of Sir Robert Worcester, the founder of the MORI polling company. It is a grade I listed building and is used as a wedding venue, though there is no public access otherwise.

The first castle was built by William de Warenne, 2nd Earl of Surrey during the reign of King Stephen in the first half of the 12th century. It took the form of a moated mound (possibly a motte and bailey) built on a site adjoining a bend in the River Medway about one mile (1.6km) north of Maidstone. The fortification was subsequently expanded but as it was an unauthorised adulterine castle, its demolition was ordered in 1174 during the reign of Henry II. It was replaced with a small unfortified manor house.

The present castle was built between 1279–99 by Stephen de Pencester, the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, who was granted a licence to crenellate the existing manor house by Edward I. It was inherited by Penchester's daughter and passed via marriage to the Cobham family, who owned it until 1492. The building's development was continued in the early 13th century by Sir Henry de Cobham, incorporating the remains of the old manor house into the new castle. Although it was fortified, it was more of a residence than a fortress, as indicated by its extensive – and early – use of brick, which may have reflected Stephen's interests in a brickyard in Essex. It seems to have been neglected subsequently; it is described by documentary sources as being in a very bad condition by 1398–99.

Allington Castle was acquired in 1492 by Sir Henry Wyatt, a prominent supporter of Henry Tudor, who was later to become King Henry VII. He undertook major alterations, dividing the courtyard into two unequal parts by constructing a two-storeyed building which contained what may have been one of the first long galleries in England. He also added a half-timbered block adjoining the curtain wall, which was used as the castle's kitchens and stables. Henry VII visited it during Wyatt's tenure. Henry VIII also visited in 1527, 1530 and 1536, as did Cardinal Wolsey in 1527 and Catherine Parr in 1544. Henry was said to have been so concerned for his personal safety while staying in the castle's north-east tower that he had the single entry, a spiral staircase, blocked off by a dry stone wall each night that he was there.

His son, the poet Thomas Wyatt, was born there in 1503, but in 1554 Thomas Wyatt the younger forfeited the castle after his unsuccessful rebellion against Queen Mary. The plotters had held their first meeting at the castle before marching to London; after the rebellion had been crushed, many of the failed rebels were imprisoned in the castle. Sir Thomas was executed, the Wyatts were deprived of the rest of their extensive estate, and the surviving members of the family emigrated to America.

The castle and manor were granted in 1568 to John Astley, Queen Elizabeth's Master of the Jewel House, though he did not live there. Around 1600, two farm houses were subsequently built in the grounds of Allington Castle while the rest of the castle gradually fell into ruin.

Most of the Great Hall and the north-east wing were destroyed in a disastrous fire in the second half of the 16th century. An early 17th-century lessee named John Best pulled down the battlements and added a half-timbered gabled second storey to the east and west wings as a replacement for the fire-damaged areas of the castle. The Bests were Catholics and used a room in the east tower as their private chapel. There is still a priest hole in the lodge of the gatehouse, a sign of the persecution that Catholics faced at the time.

Allington Castle was bought in 1720 by Sir Robert Marsham, the 2nd Baron Romney and a descendant of the Wyatts, but he did not live there and let it deteriorate. Its decaying appearance was recorded by JMW Turner in sketches and watercolours made in 1798.

The top of the Long Gallery was destroyed in another fire in the early 19th century and the rest of the castle was nearly demolished a few decades later by Charles Marsham, 5th Earl of Romney. He was dissuaded by opposition from local residents, notably the Rector of the nearby Church of St. Lawrence, but by this time the castle was totally ruined. The Penchester wing was abandoned and used as a quarry for building materials, while the ground-floor remnants of the Long Gallery were converted into a pair of farmhouses.

In 1895, a retired London barrister named Dudley C. Falke rented the castle from Lord Romney and began the lengthy task of restoration. However, this proved too expensive for his resources. In 1905 he approached the distinguished mountaineer and cartographer Sir William Martin Conway (later Lord Conway), who he had heard was looking to buy an old castle or manor house. Conway had posted an advertisement in The Times stating: 'Wanted to purchase, an old manor-house or abbey, built in the 16th century or earlier.' The castle made a great impression on Conway and his American wife Katrina when they saw it for the first time:

Neither of us will ever forget the lovely June morning when we set forth to visit this faery castle on our way to Brighton. ... No sign of any castle could be seen (though we were evidently close up to the Medway) till we turned a corner, and there it was near at hand. Its walls and five visible towers were buried in ivy. Most of its moat had been filled in, but its reflection lay upon the calm face of the remaining fragment. ... The beauty of it all was entrancing. It took our breath away, and for a moment we were speechless. Then we both gasped out, Of course we must have it.

Conway decided to purchase the castle's freehold from Lord Romney at a cost of £4,800 and spent the next 30 years restoring it with the assistance of the architects W. D. Caroe and Philip Tilden. He was able to draw on his own and his wife's wealth, and his efforts were also supported by his wife's wealthy stepfather, a businessman named Manton Marble. Corbens, a local building firm, was hired to carry out the work and provided traditional craftsmen to undertake the restoration in an architecturally and historically sympathetic style. He and his daughter Agnes, an archaeologist, also undertook extensive research into the history of the castle.

Much of the restoration had been completed by the start of the First World War in 1914. The gatehouse and the Penchester wing had been completely restored and most of the old keep had been completed as well. The Long Gallery was rebuilt and the Tudor house within the castle walls was linked to it. An ol...









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