Brit Travel,  Country,  South East

Three great things about Penhurst Place and Gardens in Kent

Penhurst Place is a historic house and gardens, located near Tonbridge in Kent. It was first considered an estate in the 13th Century, and the manor house was built in 1341. Much of it is in its original state. Now, it’s a tourist attraction, with a café and small garden centre, a perfect place to visit on a sunny afternoon and the first historic house I took Chunks to. My mum, grandmother, Chunks, and I arrived at late morning on a hot August day. It’s a bit of a tradition for us to visit a historic house each summer – last year we all spent some time at Hever Castle, but since we had the baby, we didn’t want to stray too far from Essex.

Related: Fall in love with Hever Castle this year

The History

Penhurst Place has a long history. For a relatively unknown estate, it’s been owned by numerous important figures: in the early 1400s, it was owned by John, Duke of Bedford – son of Henry IV; by 1521 it was property of King Henry VIII and the crown, and handed to Anne of Cleves following their divorce. Then it became home to the Sidney family, who were close in favour to Elizabeth I.

Penhurst Place and Gardens in Kent

By the 17th Century, it was handed down through five Earls of Leicester; in 1781, the uncle of Percy Bysshe Shelley (husband to Frankenstein author Mary Shelley) owned the house which was passed down through subsequent family members to the current owners in 1991.

It’s incredible that some of the most recognisable figures of history have walked in the very same gardens in Kent as we did when we visited.

Fascinating house

The first thing you see when you enter the house is the large 13th Century banquet hall, with the original roofing in place. At the far end of the room are two staircases: one leading down to the crypt, and one up to a long room dressed as a dining room. There are large portraits on the walls, and crystal on the tables.

Italian Garden in Kent
Italian Garden at Penhurst Place

In the next room is smaller, but has costumes from the production of The Other Boleyn Girl, starring Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman, which was partially filmed at Penhurst Place. Chunks was quite interested in the colours of the clothing, and I was quite surprised at how small the outfits were. Just off the room is the ‘Page’s Room’, a tiny room where servant messenger boys would wait for orders. Now it is used to display a collection of plates – or in my eyes now, a collection of things my child would destroy.

We then moved into a gallery room, with more historic portraits on display, and also stills from the BBC production of Wolf Hall starring Damian Lewis, filmed in that very room. So, not only have Kings and Queens walk the halls, but A-list celebrities too.

Afterwards, we moved into a room dressed as a bedroom, and onwards into the final gallery room. This final room has armoury and weaponry on display. It was once the sculleries, where kitchenware was cleaned.

Beautiful Gardens

The obvious draw of Penhurst Place is its 11 acre gardens. Sections are separated by large hedges, like some sort of Alice in Wonderland maze, and you pass through hidden gaps to cross the gardens towards the house. In one section there is a collection of trees bearing apples in late August; in another section there are flower beds of bright lavenders, pinks and reds arranged to resemble a Union Flag. Hidden away nearby is a rectangular, stone pond with fountain.

Gardens at Penhurst Place in Kent

The pathway up to the gatehouse is decorated with beautiful flowers planted alongside the stone wall. Perpendicular pathways are similarly decorated with splashes of colour from roses and an array of other flowers. Arguably, the most impressive part of the garden is the Italian Garden (pictured above) directly in front of the house. Whichever section is your favourite, it’s certain that these are some of the most beautiful gardens in Kent.

If you’ve seen all the gardens but are still itching for nature, there are 48 acres of grounds to explore. Two walking routes cross the parkland which also offer beautiful, but slightly less curated sights.

So, next time you’re itching to see some gardens in Kent, think of me and consider Penhurst Place!

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