Ightham Mote: The History of the Famous Grade I Listed Building

Ightham Mote is a manor house with a long history. The house got its name from the small village of Ightham, located near Kent, England near Sevenoaks. The building is owned by the National Trust and currently enjoys a Grade I listing. Many parts of the manor are considered a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

1320 Origins and Ownership

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The building, the main parts, can be traced back to 1320. This is a significant period because this is when a lot of the original features were built. The manor house’s owner can be traced back as far as 1330 when Isolde Inge owned the home. Inge is responsible for building many of the home’s oldest parts, primarily the main building before the prominent wings were added.

Ownership under Inge ended in 1360. Inge only lived from 1330 – 1360, and it’s not clear who owned the home prior to Inge. The home would have looked very different under Inge’s ownership and truly got its current look from Sir Thomas Cawne. Sir Thomas Cawne built the home as we know today, or the basis of the home.

Selby Ownership

The home would be purchased from Charles Allen, owner of the home, in 1591. Sir William Selby purchased the home in 1591 with the home remaining in the family for nearly 300 years. The home would be passed to Sir William’s nephew of the same name. A significant event happened under the ownership of Sir William’s nephew. When James I was on his way south to take over the throne, William gave him the keys to Berwick-upon-Tweed being one of the many historical events to take place at Ightham Mote. Sir William would go on to marry Dorothy Bonham, but the two never had any children. The Selby’s would continue their ownership of the home until Elizabeth Selby. Thomas Selby, Elizabeth’s husband and owner of the home at the time, disinherited his only son which allowed the home to be passed on to Prideaux John Selby.

John Selby was a naturalist, scientist and sportsmen that kept the home until 1867 when he left the home to Mrs. Lewis Marianne Bigge, his daughter upon his death. Married twice, his daughter’s second husband Robert Luard changed his name to Luard-Selby. Mrs. Lewis Marianne Bigge died in 1889 and left the home to her son Charles Selby-Bigge. The home was put up for sales by her executors in July 1889 ending the Selby’s ownership of Ightham Mote.

Colyer-Fergussons Ownership

Thomas Colyer-Fergusson purchased the home and started repairs and renovations in 1890 and 1891. This allowed the home to remain in its current state after being neglected by the Selbys for centuries. Bathrooms were added, the dining area and kitchens were reorganized and a lumber room would be turned into a billiard room. The manor would then be opened to the public once per week in the early 20th century. During World War II, servants would hide in the crypt during bombings in the area. The staff dwindled at this time.

Charles Henry Robinson

Charles Henry Robinson purchased the home in 1953. Robinson would make urgent repairs and refurbish much of the home with 17th century English pieces. Robinson announced that upon his death, the home would be transferred to the National Trust. Robinson died in 1985 and the National Trust acquired the home the same year. The ashes of Robinson were scattered near the crypt. He fell in love with the manor, according to documents, when he was stationed near the manor during World War II. The National Trust still maintains the home and is in charge of its restoration. The home underwent a conservation process that dismantled parts of the home to view construction methods before rebuilding it. The conservation project revealed many building methods and ornamental features that were covered up by numerous additions.

Historical Layout and Features

Ightham Mote has four wings and a cobbled courtyard. A footbridge across a moat is the entrance to the home and its four wings. The original home would have been a great hall with one building giving access to the west range and a variety of other buildings. A second bridge was added in the 15th century as well as the home’s four wings. The west range included the addition of the Gatehouse Tower in the 16th century. The courtyard still features a dog kennel that is a Grade I listed kennel. The moat surrounding the home is filled with water.

The home is rich in history with many knights owning the home, and Tudor painted ceilings remaining. The surrounding gardens are vibrant with colors as lakes can be heard from the property. High society Victorians would be found dining in the home and many of Henry VIII’s courtiers were also found at Ightham Mote. Tours of the manor can be enjoyed with numerous tour options. The home and grounds are open to the public.

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