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Castles of the British Isles

Photo Focus: Allington Castle

by Linda Weeks, 3 April 2022

 

Allington Castle in Kent, by Linda Weeks
Photo © Linda Weeks

Allington Castle was built by William de Warenne as a moated mound. Further building took place in the twelfth century but the castle was overthrown in 1174, and a manor house was built on the site between 1279 and 1299 by Stephen de Penchester of Penshurst.

Parts of both of these structures are still present in the castle, such as a section of wall and the kitchen fireplace, which was built in 1174, and the lower parts of the gatehouse.

In 1281 Stephen de Penchester was granted a licence to embattle the manor house and added crenellations. It subsequently passed to the Cobham family and then to the Wyatt family in 1491.

Allington Castle in Kent, by Linda Weeks
Photo © Linda Weeks

The Wyatt family converted the castle into a mansion house. Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn dined there in the great hall with Sir Thomas Wyatt around 1530. The castle has also been visited by Henry VII, Cardinal Wolsey, and Catherine Parr.

It was forfeited to the Crown in 1554 following Sir Thomas Wyatt's rebellion, subsequently to become two farmhouses, and eventually falling into ruin.

In the late sixteenth century it was damaged by fire and then abandoned until Sir Martin Conway purchased the freehold of the ruined thirteenth century castle in 1905 from Lord Romney for the sum of 48,000, thereby saving the dilapidated structure from being demolished.

Allington Castle in Kent, by Linda Weeks
Photo © Linda Weeks

In 1949 the Order of Carmelites bought the castle, adding workshops and reception centres, and carrying out further renovation and repair work. They lived there between 1951 and 1999, after which they sold it. The building is now a private home which is licensed for weddings and other events.

Allington Castle in Kent, by Linda Weeks
Photo © Linda Weeks

The castle sits in forty-two acres of land and is surrounded by a moat. A large lake (a modern feature) on either side of a causeway leads up to the castle entrance. It has beautifully restored gardens with ponds and fountains and a tiltyard garden.

Inside it has been furnished in character with its medieval past.

Allington Castle in Kent, by Linda Weeks
Photo © Linda Weeks

The castle consists of buildings which are arranged around the inside of the courtyard, with a curtain wall connecting them, and semi-circular towers facing the moat which itself connects with the River Medway.

The largest tower is at the south-west corner, a four-storey-high construction which is known as Solomon's Tower. The gatehouse with its restored battlements and machiolation is in the north-west corner, and its medieval iron-studded double doors are approached by a barbican and stone bridge crossing the moat.

Allington Castle in Kent, by Linda Weeks
Photo © Linda Weeks

The wing which divides the courtyard in half was built by Sir Henry Wyatt. It contained a long gallery, probably one of the first to be built in England. It was later destroyed but was restored by Lord Conway.

Sir Henry Wyatt added the two-storey and attic timber-framed buildings in the south-eastern corner of the castle which were used as a kitchen and offices. The ground and first floors are of stone with two timbered gables above, rendered and overhanging on bressumers with moulded bargeboards and pendants and a gabled dormer. The windows are casements with small square leaded panes.

 

All photos kindly contributed by Linda Weeks, with five taken in August 2018 and one from a digitised slide.

Main Sources

Allington Castle website

Parks and Gardens website

Maidstone River Park website

Historic England

 

Images and text copyright © Linda Weeks except where stated. An original feature for the History Files.