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The house and castle at Scotney

A view of Scotney old castle and moat
Two unique buildings creating a harmonious whole | © David Sellman

Scotney is not one but two houses, united by art and nature. Surrounded by the moat at the bottom of the valley are the romantic ruins of the medieval castle. Perched at the top of the hill sits the 'new' house, a Victorian country home designed to take in the surrounding views of garden, castle and estate.

The old castle

Rising from the moat, the last remaining tower of the original medieval castle is one of the iconic images of Scotney.

In its nearly 650-year history, the old castle has had many reincarnations, with each successive owner adding their own mark. It was first built by Roger Ashburnham in the 14th century as a fortified manor house to protect against possible French invasion. Around 200 years on, in 1580, the south Tudor wing adjoining the Ashburnham Tower was added - only to be largely destroyed 80 years later in the 1630s when the new three-storey east wing was added. The Ashburnham tower's distinctive tiled conical cuppola was added in the 18th century.

When Edward Hussey II inherited Scotney, he decided to make the old castle the central feature of his grand design for a new house and garden. By largely demolishing the 17th-century three-storey wing, the older and more striking features of the Ashburnham Tower and south wing were allowed to dominate. The lion crest of the Darell family on the outer wall of the ruined eastern range however was left intact.

A view of the Victorian mansion house at Scotney with lavender in the foreground
The Victorian mansion house at Scotney | © David Sellman

The Victorian mansion house

Built in the mid-19th century, the Victorian mansion at Scotney Castle was a later addition to the estate. A well-loved family home to three generations of the Hussey family, it is filled with objects collected through the decades.

A country home

The house was built in 1837 by Edward Hussey III from sandstone quarried from the grounds. It was designed to capture the views out over the garden, castle and estate, and become part of the Picturesque landscape and views itself. House, garden and estate were designed to work in harmony as one, creating a perfect country home.

The wood panelling and some of the significant furniture items - the imposing four-poster bed in the Salvin bedroom, and the circular table and desk in the Library - were also designed especially for the house by its renowned architect, Anthony Salvin. This gives a flow and continuity to the home.

Edward Hussey III spent many happy years here with his wife and six children, but only two more generations of the family lived here since then. It is perhaps for this reason that the house has been little altered, and you seeing it today much as it was in the 19th century.

Its last residents were Christopher Hussey, one of the most influential and significant writers on architecture and landscape of the 20th century, and his wife, Betty (née Kerr-Smiley) who inherited Scotney in 1952. Christopher died in 1970 and it was then that the gardens passed to the National trust. Betty continued to live at Scotney until her death in 2006 whereupon the house took came into the Trust's care.

Scotney has always been a welcoming and sociable place, filled with books and paintings, many of which were created by the Husseys themselves. The family were great collectors and you will see influences from the different generations as you walk around.

About the house

  • Although Victorian, the house is built in the Elizabethan Revival style. Internally, you will see Betty and Christopher Hussey's 1950s' modernisations.
  • The tower, with its crenellated battlement, provides a visual link to the original castle at the bottom of the hill.
  • The family motto 'Vix ea nostra voco' ('I scarcely call these things our own') is carved above the front door.
  • Also above the front door is the couplet: "Health and happiness attend / the coming and the parting friend" suggesting that Scotney was a warm, welcoming and hospitable place.
  • In the library is a secret door which is decorated with false book spines with made-up humorous titles.
  • For symmetry, the dining room has four doors, but two are in fact just shallow cupboards, one of which contains a record of the Hussey children's heights as they grew up.
  • In 1979, the house was used as a location set for the film ‘Yanks’ starring Richard Gere and Betty used the location fee to re-fit the kitchen. The house (and castle) also featrured in the Netflix series 'The Sandman'.
  • Christopher and Betty converted part of the house into flats. One of these was used by Margaret Thatcher during her time in office as Prime Minister.

Pieces from the Hussey collection

Take a look at some of the fascinating objects in the house.

Wood chimneypiece, Library, Scotney Castle. A chimneypiece with Solomic columns terminating in Corinthinan capitals to either side of the fireplace, the upper section with two shelves, comprised of figured uprights and decorative panels, to the centre is the quotation 'Since word is thrall / and thought is free / Keep well thy tongue / I counsel thee'.
The chimneypiece in the library at Scotney Castle | © National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel


The carved chimneypiece in the library includes the quote ‘Since word is thrall / and thought is free / Keep well thy tongue / I counsel thee’.

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The mansion house at Scotney Castle in winter

Discover more at Scotney Castle

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

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Discover our glorious spring/summer range in our main Courtyard shop. Pick up a perfect new accessory for yourself or your home - from gorgeous garden goods and wonderful printed scarves to embroidered cushions and beautiful ceramics. And do pop into the second-hand bookshop by the Visitor Entrance before you leave to discover some bargain recycled reads.

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