Scotney Old Castle (Kent, England)
A beautiful day to visit a truly beautiful estate! Scotney Old Castle is very close to Bodiam, and if you're visiting Bodiam Castle you'd be daft to miss out on this nearby romantic ruin.
The earliest recorded castle on the site was built in 1378-80 by Roger Ashburnham, although the first owner of the estate in 1137 was Lambert de Scoteni, who gave it his name.
The castle occupies two islands surrounding by a lake moat fed by adjacent River Bewl. It began as a roughly rectangular fortified house with towers on each corner, however by 1558 only the southern tower remained. In 1580 a south wing was built in Elizabethan style and in 1630 a three-story east range was also constructed. This east range was dismantled in 1842, on completion of the new Scotney House (Scotney New Castle), and was left as a romantic ruin garden feature.
From 1591 to 1598 the Catholic owner of the castle, Thomas Darrell, hid a Jesuit priest by the name of Richard Blount within the castle. Catholicism was illegal in England at this time under Elizabethan laws, and priests caught ministering the catholic population were often executed for treason. For this reason many wealthier catholic properties had what were known as ‘priest holes’, hidden rooms where priests could hide if the property was raided by the Queen’s forces. Scotney Old Castle was raided twice, and on the second raid Blount evaded arrest by swimming the moat and fleeing. The priest hole can still be seen on one of the staircase landings.
The castle never saw any military conflict. In 1778 Edward Hussey bought the estate and his grandson, also Edward, built the 'new' Castle from locally quarried sandstone. In 1970 the estate was left to the National Trust, with various apartments in the New Castle let out by the Trust to people such as Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister.
As is very much a standard fare with castles, Scotney is rumoured to be haunted. After the owner Arthur Darrell’s death abroad in 1720 his body was bought back for burial at the nearby church. The story goes that as the coffin was being lowered, a mysterious stranger was stood amongst the mourners….
Today the estate is still managed by the National Trust, and both the Old Castle and the New Castle are open to visitors, along with the impressive landscaped gardens.
Site visited February 2019
Photos © Completely Castles 2019