Visiting the house at Ightham Mote

Ightham Mote isn’t a place of grand avenues and imposing vistas: though it was built to impress, it now seems understated with a quirky charm of its own. The buildings and gardens evoke a deep sense of history, with the people who have lived here all leaving their mark.

Ightham Mote represents continuity: the architecture and decoration of the principal rooms show the development of the English country house over 700 years. Yet for all the changes it has seen, it somehow managed to create harmony out of its different architectural styles. This is a house of great variety: from the medieval Great Hall and Crypt to the Victorian Billiard Room, each of its spaces is different. Being enclosed within a moat and fed by springs, you’re never far from the sound of running water.

" Ightham Mote is like an island in time. When you cross the moat and enter its venerable walls, you feel like you leave behind the fears and fads of a modern world. "
- Dr Ian Mortimer, author of the Time Travellers history series

Time travel

By standing in the middle of the courtyard and looking around, you can trace the different building phases of the house. Originally built with just one range, and an out building, Richard Haute and his son remodelled the house into a courtyard house during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Can you spot the pattern on the courtyard? If you look carefully, you will see the cobbles have been laid out in a pattern.

Hoping for a royal visit

Richard Clement was an owner with connections, working in the court of Henry VIII. Wanting to show everyone who visited who his powerful employer was, he displayed symbols of the king throughout the house.

It was probably just as well that King Henry VIII never visited here (certainly after 1533) otherwise Richard Clement may have had a sore head. If you look at the stained glass in the Great Hall, or the magnificent painted ceiling in the New Chapel, you will spot a major problem...Catherine of Aragon.


You either love it, or hate it

When you look in the Drawing Room, you'll be confronted by an enormous fireplace surround. Taking up almost one wall, the fireplace was the pride and joy of Dame Dorothy Selby in 1612.
With family emblems, a variety of styles and even a series of eyes which follow you around the room, the fireplace was a pick'n'mix from a design book. The ceiling even had to be raised for it to fit in.

Close-up of the Drawing Room fireplace
A close up of the drawing room fireplace, with its plaster male and female busts with heraldic shield between
Close-up of the Drawing Room fireplace

When gentlemen get caught short

When Sir Thomas Colyer-Fergusson bought the house in 1890, he set about turning it into a Victorian Gentleman's ideal home. As well as the repairs and alterations, he added central heating and a bathroom.

As the sale catalogue suggested, he also turned the carpenter's workshops into a Billiard Room. In the corner of the room you will see a door leading to the Mote... well I guess if the game is that exciting or the political discussions that riveting, it must have been too far to go to the bathroom.


Special exhibition

Until end June 2018 we are telling the story of one of our previous residents, 'Queen' Palmer, who was the wife of General William Jackson Palmer, the founder of Colorado Springs USA. Queen lived here, with their three daughters, for three years in the late nineteenth-century. During this time, Ightham Mote became a hub for the elite of the Aesthetic movement. Some of the most notable people that 'Queen' entertained were the artist John Singer Sargent, actress Ellen Terry, costume designer Alice Strettell and Henry James.   

Throughout the house, you will find hand-sewn quotes, which help tell the story. The main exhibition space is upstairs, where you will find out more about 'Queen' Palmer, her family and friends. You will also see two of John Singer Sargent's finished paintings, which were set at Ightham Mote. His 'Game of Bowls' feature's Queen Palmer and some of their friends playing bowls on the north lawn, whilst the other painting is the famous portrait of 'Queen's' daughter 'Elsie Palmer: A Lady in White' which was set against the linen-fold panelling in the tower corridor.