Skip to content

The history and owners of Ightham Mote

A photograph of Charles Henry Robinson on a desk at Ightham Mote
Charles Henry Robinson | © National Trust/James Dobson

Ightham Mote is one of the oldest medieval manor houses to survive in England. It had a number of owners, who made a series of alterations and additions throughout the centuries. Discover who they were and what changes they made.

A changing house

The core of the house dates from the 1340s, although a complicated series of alterations and additions were made in the late 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. A moat surrounds all four wings of the house, which in turn is built around an open courtyard.

Ightham Mote bears few external signs of change in architectural style. This is partly due to the modest ambitions of its successive owners, who expanded the house as their needs dictated, only doing so in a manner sympathetic to the medieval origins of the house.

The original builder, although unknown, was clearly someone of wealth. On the site of the South Lake would have stood a mill pre-dating the house. The subsequent owners were squires, sheriffs, MPs, even courtiers, but they never aspired to higher office or lavish entertainment and were mostly indifferent to changes in fashion. But who were they and what legacy did they leave?

A timeline of the residents at Ightham Mote

1360 onwards

The Cawnes

The Cawnes are the earliest known owners. Having moved here in about 1360, Thomas Cawne, also shown in the records as Couen, de Coven, Cawen, is the first known owner of Ightham Mote. 

Early years 

Thomas, and his brothers Richard and John, were the sons of Richard de Coven, a tailor from Staffordshire. Owning a number of tenements in Wolverhampton, Richard was ‘town gentry’ and relatively well off. 

The hundred years war 

Thomas Cawne was ambitious and decided to seek his fortune in the military rather than follow in the family business. He became a prominent soldier during the political instability in France during the 1350s and by 1357 he was captain of the fortress of the Neuberg, just outside Rouen in Normandy. As only a small number of captains were recorded during the 100 Years War, the fact that Thomas Cawne is amongst them shows just how important he was to the war effort, and he was knighted for his services. 

Social network 

Cawne’s network of friends and acquaintances originally centred near his home in Staffordshire, however, after he enlisted in the military, his circle of friends moved to London and its neighbouring counties. 

The business of war often required people to travel between the capital and the channel, which made Kent an attractive place to live. It was in Kent that he married Lora Moraunt, daughter of Sir Thomas Moraunt of Chevening. They settled at Ightham Mote with their two children, Robert and Thomas. 

Robert Cawne 

After Sir Thomas Cawne died, his eldest son Robert inherited Ightham Mote. He was certainly a character and was sent to the Tower of London for trying to kill his wife Marjory by throwing her into a well. He was eventually pardoned by the king, but little is known of him afterwards. 

(Based on research by PhD student Gemma Minnihan)  

Visitors at Ightham Mote, Kent

Discover more at Ightham Mote

Find out when Ightham Mote is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

You might also be interested in

A view through a tunnel to the courtyard at Ightham Mote, with long windows visible on the other side of the courtyard

The house at Ightham Mote 

Enter this medieval half-timbered house across a cobbled courtyard and into the hushed interior. Discover dark wood panelling, huge fireplaces and a mix of furnishings inside.

Daffodils at Ightham Mote

The garden at Ightham Mote 

The garden is at its most colourful during the summer months. With vibrant colours, the buzz of wildlife and space to relax in the historic pleasure grounds, it’s time to make the most of nature.

Scathes Wood in Spring Paul Simons

The estate at Ightham Mote 

As the weather becomes warmer, wildlife, trees and wildflowers come alive across the Ightham Mote estate, while and birdsong fills the air.


Unlocking the future at Ightham Mote 

Find out about the project to develop a new visitor centre and restore the walled garden. Discover how these exciting plans will improve facilities for visitors.

Garden volunteers helping to clear Gunnera manicata (Giant Rhubarb) at Ightham Mote, Kent

Our work at Ightham Mote 

From the annual winter clean to one of the National Trust’s largest conservation projects, find out more about how Ightham Mode is cared for and what goes on behind the scenes.

Overhead view of an octagonal table with the figure of Silenus, a drunken follower of Bacchu, in The Library at Claydon House in Buckinghamshire


Learn about people from the past, discover remarkable works of art and brush up on your knowledge of architecture and gardens.

A picture of an older Sir Thomas Colyer-Fergusson on a desk at Ightham Mote

Ightham Mote's collections 

Explore the objects and works of art we care for at Ightham Mote on the National Trust Collections website.