Chiddingstone Castle
Chiddingstone Castle
A country house in the style of a mock castle, Chiddingstone Castle houses the eccentric collections of Denys Bower. Far Eastern and Egyptian artefacts share space with the handkerchief born by Charles I at his execution, among other oddities.
The first Chiddingstone Castle was built in the early 16th century by the Streatfield family as a timber-framed house. Around 1670 the Tudor house was rebuilt as High Street House, then in the early 19th century, the house was transformed yet again by Henry Streatfield, a former High Sheriff of Kent. Streatfield wanted a house that looked like a medieval castle, and he hired architect William Atkinson to oversee the design. Part of Atkinson's design including moving the course of the High Street to make way for a lake. The new castle was begun, but money ran out before it could be completed. Then in the 1830s Henry Streatfield's son, also named Henry, completed most of the earlier plans.

The Streatfield family left Chiddingstone in 1900, but it was not until 1938 that they sold the property to Lord Astor. The castle was used as a military base during WWII, and then as a school until 1955 when it was sold to eccentric collector Denys Bower. Bower wanted the castle, not as a home, but as a place to house his eclectic collections of oddities.

The Collections
Though the castle has a long and colourful history in its own right, it is the collections of Denys Bower that will attract most visitors. Bower collected practically anything he liked, but one of his passions was Japanese art and swords. The bulk of the collection covers the Edo period (1603-1868) and there are also a large number of swords made especially for export abroad.

Bowers also collected Egyptian antiquities, and you can see things like a 5000-year-old funerary boat, pottery, painted steles, and a letter from famed Egyptologist Flinders Petrie to Denys Bowers. The Egypt theme is reflected in the gardens, where an Ancient Egypt Garden has been designed, with a grass maze echoing the pattern of the River Nile and its tributaries.

Denys Bowers is thought to have considered himself a reincarnation of Bonnie Prince Charlie, and he was an avid collector of Jacobite and Stuart memorabilia. Included in the Jacobite collections are swords used at the Battle of Culloden, a bill to Prince Charlie for drinks, and a piece of the Garter ribbon of James II. There are also items containing hidden Jacobite symbols, including a compass and drinking glasses. There are also a large number of documents and letters written by the Stuarts.

In the gardens is a restored Victorian orangery, a formal rose garden, and woodland walks leading to nearby Chiddingstone village.