Local businessmen to the rescue
Ightham Mote may have been lost forever if it wasn’t for the interest of three local businessmen, who banded together at the last moment to save the house.
Everything must go
Ightham Mote and its contents were put up for sale in October 1951. Furniture and other items from the house were stacked in the courtyard for the sale, which took place over three days. The two farms on the estate were sold quickly, but the dilapidated house was less of an enticing proposition to buyers. It was in danger of being demolished in order to sell the lead from its roofs.
Three local businessmen came to the rescue. William Durling, John Goodwin and John Baldock bought Ightham Mote for £5,500, saving it from destruction. Durling had carried out repairs to the house, Goodwin owned the neighbouring farm, and Baldock ran a nearby chemist’s shop. The three men had no real idea of what they would do with the house; they felt compelled to rescue it purely out of their love of its ancient charm.
They obviously knew that they were just temporary guardians and needed to seek a long-term solution with an owner who would care for Ightham Mote, but how else could the house be protected?
The Town and Country Planning Acts of 1944 and 1947 created 'Salvage Lists' to protect bomb damaged buildings with special architectural or historical interest. Ightham Mote hadn't been damaged by bombs, just the ravages of time, but on 1 August 1952 it was recognised as being of national importance and given Grade I Listed Building status. This offered the highest level of protection, meaning that it couldn't be demolished, extended or altered without special permission from the government.
Were the local businessmen responsible for Ightham Mote being recognised as a building of exceptional interest? At present, we do not know, but their temporary ownership allowed time for the house to receive government protection, and for a buyer who was passionate about Ightham Mote to come along.