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Things to see and do at Owletts

The red brick house at Owletts with large sash windows against a blue sky
The house at Owletts | © National Trust Images/Jo Hatcher

Explore the rooms and grounds of Owletts, an impressive 17th-century manor house and a fine example of Kent vernacular architecture. The influence of celebrated architect Sir Herbert Barker, born here in 1862, is evident throughout the house.

Living room

Sir Herbert's connection to the British Empire is very much in evidence in this room, with his 'travel blog' watercolour and the impressive empire clock – one of only five ever commissioned.

Dining room

When you look at the finials on the chairs in this room, Sir Herbert’s sense of humour becomes clear, as each was designed as a 'caricature' of the different family members.

Alfred, who was always naughty, is depicted as a little monkey, whilst Ann is shown with a bible as well as with her tongue out to show she was both naughty and nice.

First floor ceiling

The plaster ceiling on the first floor has the date 1684 in the centre, along with the initials of the original owners. It ornately depicts scrolls, leaves, flowers and fruit.

With all these intricate details, it’s a painstakingly slow process to clean the ceiling – when our conservation team last did so, it took them over a week to complete.

The garden

The lawns are highlighted by some signature trees, such as the Cedar of Lebanon that Sir Herbert planted on Christmas Day, the winter before he died. His son, Henry, planted a walnut tree in the 1990s.

There is a grass tennis court, and if you explore beyond into the Filbert Platt you'll find apple and cobnut trees, a willow dome planted in 2013, a wishing tree for hanging ribbons on, and a swing large enough for adults to enjoy.

View along a path at Owletts, with flowering plants alongside it
Explore the garden at Owletts | © National Trust Images/David Sellman

Although the kitchen garden is closed to restore the planting, you can explore the Gertrude Jekyll border and the sunken herb garden, and also have a look at the wildlife living in the pond.

Garden buildings

There are many buildings around the garden, including a greenhouse, potting shed and the remains of a hothouse in which the previous ladies of the house grew ferns and exotics.

The structure of the hothouse is now uncovered, and you can see where the pipes fed through to the boiler. A very old grapevine still grows, which a family legend says originated from a vine at Hampton Court.

Suggestions for enjoying the grounds

Bring along a blanket and picnic on the lawns for after you’ve finished exploring the house and gardens; watch the sheep munching in the fields; meet the free-range chickens; or have a go at croquet on the grass tennis court.

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Discover more at Owletts

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

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