Whitstable Castle
Whitstable Castle
Not so much a castle as a castellated manor house, Whitstable Castle dates to the last years of the 18th century. It was built by Charles Pearson, a successful London businessman and entrepreneur, and is now operated by a charitable trust for the benefit of local residents.
The history of Whitstable Castle go back much further, however, to the medieval manor of Tankerton. Whitstable was a centre for 'copperas', a mineral extract used in fixing dyes in cloth, and Tankerton Manor owned much of the land on which the profitable processing of minerals took place.

In 1773 Elizabeth Radford inherited Tankerton Manor, and bought up still more land in the area. When she married a wealthy London merchant named Charles Pearson in 1780 he bought up several copperas works. Unfortunately, Pearson's timing was poor, for the once thriving industry was in decline. Pearson set about tearing down the copperas works and using the stone to build an octagonal tower called The Manor House, which forms the core of the current Castle.

Pearson was always a man with an eye for an opportunity, and he helped launch the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway, with the planned terminus of the line at land he owned near the harbour. After Pearson's death the Manor House was used as a summer home by the Pearson family, and then sold to a cousin named Wynn Ellis.

Ellis was a fascinating character; a successful silk merchant, MP, and friend of Prime Minister Robert Peel. Though married to a great niece of the first Charles Pearson, Ellis also kept a mistress. In 1836 he purchased Tankerton Tower for his mistress, restored the tower, and built a new west wing and Bell Tower, as well as adding extensive garden features including a flower garden, kitchen garden, ice house, summerhouses, and stables.

When Ellis died the estate passed through his illegitimate children, then fell into disuse after development plans fell through. It was then used by a wealthy paper manufacturer as a summer residence, before it was purchased by the local council in 1935. It was used for a time as council offices, and the gardens opened to the public. It is now owned by a local trust, and operated as a wedding and conference venue, and as a centre for community activities.

The gardens at Whitstable Castle date in part to the late 18th century. Some of the plants growing here now came from seeds brought back by the owners from trips abroad. There is a terraced garden, rose garden notable for its scent, colourful herbaceous borders, and lawns looking towards the Thames Estuary and the sea.