history The House

The House - Four centuries of change

Michael H Peters

The best-known features of the mansion completed by Sir Dudley Digges in 1616 are its location, its outside appearance and its highly unusual shape.

The location is easily explained; the bailey of the original castle, sited for good military reasons on a bluff overlooking the valley of the Stour, offered an ideal site for a fine house with wonderful views.







The Italian Renaissance style of the exterior was fashionable at the time with a symmetrical front, a tower at each corner and a central porch with an oriel window.  Flanking the porch on both main floors were flat windows, each flanked in turn by twin double-storey bow windows. Another matching pair of bow windows fronted each of the main side wings at whose outer corners were decorative hexagonal buttresses made of white stone capped with slim finials – hexagonal buttresses on a hexagonal house.  Such buttresses, a vestigial remnant of the Gothic style, are not uncommon on church towers.

The accommodation layout followed immemorial precedent – the hall with screened passage or vestibule and entrances to front and back, two private rooms at the high end and two service rooms at the other. At each end of the hall were stairs, stores and subordinate entrances; that much was normal.

Chilham's distinction is its adaptation of the norm: though the entrance faces the village, the private wing is bent round to face the incomparable view - an early instance in England of important rooms deliberately facing south. Warm sunshine was shunned by mediaeval house-builders as likely to foster disease. Access to the private wing was from the foot of the main staircase, through a curved corridor on the courtyard side known as the “circular gallery.” For symmetry, the kitchen wing was also bent back, facing north-west. In the angle of the kitchen wing, matching the south wing's “circular gallery”, was another curved room in which was the butler's pantry (to use its later name).
Click here to visit section about Inigo Jones.


Adding symmetry to the mediaeval plan, Digges equalised the space either side of the front entrance by inserting, between the kitchen wing and the north end of the hall, a small parlour or book room, probably for his own private use. This north-facing room was graced by one of the large bow windows, to capture some sunlight in the mornings. A matching bow at the far end of the castle's front gave extra light to the “high” end of the hall. The upper storeys of these twin bows lightened the bedrooms above.







The resultant plan is not an E shape, nor an H like several other great houses of the time; viewed from above, Chilham castle forms an angular letter C – a polygonal horseshoe on which several geometrical shapes can be imposed.

This unique design combines mediaeval tradition, classical fashion, sensitivity to the site and the mathematics in Sir Dudley's blood.

Over the centuries, many changes have taken place, but the style of the house remains the same. After 400 years and four major renovations, few of the original Jacobean interior fittings remain.  The most notable survival is the grand staircase.  Otherwise we are left with only three (or four) bedroom fireplaces and two ceilings, identified by Dr Claire Gapper as probably the work of Edward Stanyon (1589-1632) who worked at Blickling and perhaps at Forty Hall and Apethorpe. 

Though aspiring to respect Sir Dudley's original design, subsequent owners have changed the fenestration several times, and the dining room has been housed successively in every wing of the house.





Major alterations were made in the late 18th century by Thomas Heron and his Wildman successors, in the 1860s by Charles Hardy and finally in the 1920s by Sir Edmund Davis.




In 1775–76, Heron refitted the Jacobean house almost throughout in Georgian style. Rectangular chimney stacks replaced the original column flues to the kitchen wing, and flat windows replaced the stylish bow windows on the main front. Extra crenellation filled the gaps where the gables surmounting the bow windows had been. A new corridor, on ground and first floors in the courtyard behind the hall, connected the adjacent rooms with another performing a similar function in the cellar. In either Heron's time, or more probably that of the Wildmans who followed him, the original oriel over the porch and all the surviving bay windows (except those on the kitchen wing) were replaced with flat fenestration. This faddish folly, indulging some Georgian quest for simple “purity” of design, made Chilham's principal rooms smaller and darker.



In 1862–3 Charles Hardy, with his controversial architect David Brandon, enlarged the house and reversed the Georgian changes with a Victorian version of Jacobean.

Heron's oblong chimney stacks were replaced with more suitable cut-brick columnar flues much like the original but (for reasons no longer apparent) instead of the eight-light windows from Jacobean and Georgian times, new, smaller six-light sliding sashes with plate-glass were installed, restricting still further the daylight in the north-facing front rooms.



The south wing was made about 10 feet longer, making the horse-shoe shape lopsided and it was faced with new angular bay windows (of Brandon's own design) resembling, more or less, those which the Georgians had removed. One of Brandon's angular bays also replaced Digges's sole surviving double-storey bow on the servants' hall. The room above it was given a flat window instead.


Two-storey extensions were added to the sides of the courtyard, housing corridors and various small rooms.



On the corner towers, the windows were left alone, but ogee pyramids replaced the original caps and finials on the top and, though reproduced meticulously on Brandon's plans, both the elegant hexagonal corner buttresses on the outer wings disappeared - seemingly ignored and forgotten - until now.

 

























Writing in 1912, long after the event, Arthur Bolton, a grandson of J B Wildman (See the Owners) objected strongly to the changes which had been to his mother's birthplace. Many of Brandon's drawings of Chilham have been lodged in the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of the British Architectural Library. These and the photographs taken of the building before and after the alterations provide clear and definite evidence.  Having examined this material Bolton was able to describe as “an evil afterthought” the replacement oriel window which Brandon set over the front door - drawn on a flap gummed onto the original drawing.  Roughly resembling the original, but adapted according to Brandon's own “heavy” design, it emulated the Digges display on the tympanum below with an additional motto.  Capping all this was an escutcheon with the Hardy monogram and the date when the remodelling scheme was completed. (See the Owners).

 





The south wing was lengthened by about 10 feet, making the unique hexagon of Sir Dudley Digges’s house lop-sided. The extension provided two extra south-facing flat windows (in the library and the bedroom above) with a door to the garden on the west face and matching angular bays at both ends of the wing.



By extending the south wing Brandon blocked the ancient vista between the central courtyard and the Chestnut Avenue.  (See the Grounds).  It was perhaps to provide a substitute focal point that, high on the south corner of his extension, Brandon set a whimsical bartizan which Christopher Hussey (writing as Architectural Editor of Country Life in 1924) called a “horrid little turret”.


Brandon replaced both Digges's courtyard curvatures with larger rectangular structures serving the same purposes and he changed the windows of Heron's corridor. The original servants' door to the courtyard, beside the butler's big new pantry, now led to a new bedroom for the butler. Beside it, (but accessible only from the hall corridor) was one of two ground floor WCs. Facing the butler's rooms across the service passage, the former footmens' pantry and the servants' “common entrance” to the front were merged to form a gun room.





In Georgian days the kitchen wing and the adjoining castle yard contained a scullery and housekeeper's room, with wash house and laundry in outbuildings, all enclosed by crenellated walls with arched entrances to front and rear.

The well-known archaeologist Edward King examined the keep in 1785 at the invitation of Thomas Heron "the then worthy Proprietor of the castle".  When he returned in 1795 the year after Heron had sold to James Wildman, King intended to correct a plan which Heron had sent him after his previous visit.  He was "assisted by Mr Graves [sic] a gentleman who resides near the spot"  - evidently Heron's multi-talented steward Christopher Greaves was still around, but perhaps not serving as steward to the new owner. (See the Grounds and the Owners). King recounts that, between his two visits "the rude modern little buildings" in the courtyard "have been removed; and larger and more regular ones constructed, by Mr Heron, as appendages to his offices" namely the kitchen and servants' hall in the original building 











Replacing all this and completely unbalancing the 17th century hexagon, Brandon added a large wing to the north-west, giving the house the shape of a spanner. The extension (approached through a new corridor where the old kitchen oven had been) contained scullery, bake-house, still-room, wash-house, (capped by a tall cupola for ventilation) a laundry (with extra ventilation through a cross cut in the roof gable), two larders, a second WC, a coal store, housemaids' sitting-room and a housekeeper's room (now with a rather battered old Reigate stone chimney piece), with 3 bedrooms for menservants above and cellars beneath.

The old bell-cote on the gable of the Jacobean kitchen wing (see the 1825 engraving by Neale & Roberts) was replaced by a new turreted one under a conical roof beside the new servants' entrance at the front. Sadly this has now gone, leaving just an arrow slit under a flat stub.












Sixty years later in the nineteen-twenties, Sir Edmund Davis employed the famous architect Sir Herbert Baker to remodel the house from top to toe, undoing most of Brandon's adventurous, idiosyncratic changes.  The builders were Trollope & Colls.









To balance the Victorian extension of the south wing, Baker lengthened the other wing of the hexagon, enlarging the old kitchen and the room above. He took out most of Brandon's plate-glass sliding-sashes returning the front windows to leaded eight-light design, close copies of the Jacobean originals. Over the main entrance, the oriel window was replaced by a smaller version, more like the original, flanked by flat windows and the windows on the sides of the porch were widened. Brandon's single-storey angular bay at the front of the morning room was replaced with a two-storey bow in the original style serving also the bedroom above, but his matching angular bay in the servants' hall has survived.
 


The side bays to the morning room and library were retained but a flat window replaced Brandon's angular bay on the west end. The adjoining south-facing windows on both floors were filled in, making more wall space for pictures, books and furniture.

The bartizan on the corner also disappeared, leaving the Chestnut Avenue without any obvious focus.


The doorway from the library passage to the garden was blocked. To provide alternative access to the garden, a new doorway was made from Heron's rear passage to the central courtyard, roughly where the original door from the Great Hall had been before the corridor was built.

In 1938, the year before his death, Sir Edmund made his  last change to the exterior - replacing Brandon's pyramids on the corner towers with copies of the original domes and finials.

Thus the fenestration changes of the 18th and 19th centuries have been largely swept away, and the external elevations must look today substantially as they were originally in 1616 – assuming that we can disregard the bow windows now missing from the front, the vanished servants' entrance near the back stairs, the discreet corridors in the courtyard, the short extensions to the hexagon and, of course, the substantial Victorian service wing.




 


 





Interior

Hall
The grand symmetry of the entrance block leads to a Jacobean-style Great Hall.

We are told by Thomas Heron that, before his alterations, the “marble hall” as Colebrooke had called it, was divided by a “screen of wood ornamented with carving, having a circular opening in the centre and open at the top”. In 1775-6 Heron installed a fireplace and replaced the wooden screen with a solid wall creating a new “eating room” with a cupboard for glassware in the adjoining tower. This new room with doors in opposite corners (one by the front door, the other by the stairs) would have provided the only access between the principal entrance, the grand staircase and the important rooms beyond – hardly convenient.

Heron's solution was a "gallery on the parlour floor" and on the "chamber floor" above - a new corridor at the back of the Hall, connecting all parts of the house - the only major feature to have survived from his period. Access from the entrance hall to this corridor was through the original courtyard doorway, into which Brandon later on inserted an arch in his own “classical” style. The simple convenience of a door between the new corridor and the “eating room” had to wait until the arrival of the Wildmans 20 years or so later. Meanwhile food from the kitchen was still carried across the vestibule to the old entrance beside the main front door.


Providing winter warmth in this entrance vestibule for the first time, Heron inserted a fireplace in the aperture of the back window, which his new corridor had blocked off. Brandon gave it an overmantel with scenes of Flemish origin from the Biblical Book of Esther. Though the Flemish panels are thought to be 17th century, the main structure may be Victorian, put together perhaps by the craftsmen who refurbished the main staircase at Chilham & the overmantels in the turret bedrooms.




In general, under Davis and Baker, there was a movement back to the 17th century plan and style, but the Hall (one of the few features remaining from Digges's time) succumbed to a quest for internal symmetry to match the exterior. This was achieved by moving the dining room partition away from the centre to create a smaller room which is now the study - Davis intended to reserve the fine view for his own enjoyment.  The dining room was relocated to the smaller room at the opposite end. Until then, through the first three centuries of the house, with its “strong closet” in the adjacent north tower, this seems always to have been the master's private room – as it has become once again - now used for card and games room. These days, the morning sun, once captured by the vanished bow window, will not be missed – few card games are played before lunch. For easy access to the kitchen wing, Heron had made another entrance to this room beside the fireplace. In the same corner, for access to the hall, Baker put another door and closed the original one by the front window. To limit draughts and sound both doors were doubled.

Copying the Digges mausoleum in the church, a new floor was laid to the hall in black and white chequered marble. The new strapwork ceiling was copied from the Cartoon Gallery at Knole.
















Baker centralised the hall fireplace opposite the front door (blocking the original courtyard entrance and Brandon's “classical” archway) and a Jacobean overmantel, brought in from elsewhere, replaced the Victorians' Flemish one, which is now in Portsmouth museum.

Access to the corridor was then provided by a pair of doors completing the symmetry.

The door to the WC in the south wing is the sole survivor from the Jacobean house.  Found walled-up during work to the partition between the great hall and the present day card room, it provided Baker's template (with variations) for many doors throughout the building - though the copies are 1.5 inches thick - twice the thickness of the original, whose bottom rail has been substantially, rather brutally, cut down.

Nearly all the castle's doorways (numbering well over a hundred) have been moved at one time or another.  On the ground floor, perhaps only those to the front entrance and the morning room are in their original locations.  The antique appearance of the front door and knocker are deceiving - it dates from 1922.  Until then, the porch was open to the elements.

Staircase
The grand staircase is the most significant 17th century feature of the house, providing ceremonial access - a grand route - to the Great Chamber above the hall.  The half-landing at ground-floor level, an original feature, was reconstructed in its present form - with steps at both ends - in the 20th century. 

Originally the half-landing and the south wing floor were level. Brandon, wanting more room-height in his enlarged south wing, lowered its floors to the same level as the hall and, levelling the floors throughout, destroyed the half-landing with the brick vault of the cellar beneath. The extra stairs then required at the foot of the main flight blocked the corridor, so Brandon built an extra passage alongside, decorated with more “classical” arches with columns and carved capitals in Sicilian marble.


By the 20th century, what Baker termed “a lavatory and two WCs” were installed in Brandon's corridor, and the half-landing was reinstated with oak panelling replacing Brandon's white arches and new panelled tunnels at each end.


Old panelling was installed elsewhere in the house. That in the Hall and corridors came from the north of England, but the previous location of the linen-fold on the study walls is unknown. The study's oak ceiling is known to be local – reputedly from Badlesmere castle, though latterly it was in a Chilham shop. The library panelling came from a house in London, perhaps the one in Tower Hill which provided the very fine William and Mary woodwork in the card room.

Leading down from the half landing are steps to the garden door. A Jacobean door found walled up in between the card room and the hall, became Baker's pattern for all new doors, lightweight copies of the original. His frames were copied from the front porch.

In Georgian times the staircase was painted white but, under Brandon's direction, it was grained. The Victorians' laborious removal of all that white paint may account for the “restored” appearance of some of the carving.

Having restored the original design, Baker stripped and polished the entire staircase afresh, renewing all the treads to match his new half-landing floor.

South Wing
With kitchen and other service accommodation tucked away to the north-west, the south wing, looking over the valley, was always reserved for private rooms. Those on the ground floor have had their present uses (more or less) since Thomas Heron’s time. In the Wildman days they swapped functions, but it was soon realised that a morning room should face east !

Originally access to the library was through an archway from the morning room. Heron, having blocked this with new bookcases, created an entrance through a new lobby beside Digges's curved corridor or “circular gallery”.  This lobby was designed by the prominent architect Sir Robert Taylor - his second project at Chilham, but on a different scale from the previous one - in the 1750s he had designed the magnificent Colebrooke mausoleum at the church)  As a lawyer, Heron may have encountered Taylor at Lincoln's Inn, where he was engaged in the design and construction of a new block of chambers known as Stone Buildings.

Here, as elsewhere, Brandon went further: removing the walls either side of the library fireplace, he created two more of his Sicilian marble “classical” archways opening onto his new passage with its door to the garden. In old photographs of this room, draught screens are prominent; the discomfort caused by this impractical open-plan layout is all too apparent, and the reopened archway between library and drawing room (although it had doors) would have made it all worse. Moreover, with three arched entrances and three large windows, the Hardy library was rather short of space for bookshelves.

As mentioned above, Sir Edmund Davis changed much of this arrangement. The end of the draughty garden corridor with its arches became a cosy inglenook with a stone chimney-piece from London dated 1640 and a wooden overmantel from Faversham.  Unfortunately, as the colour of this ancient stone now bears witness, the adaptation of the flue required by the new layout made a smoky fireplace, which has foiled many an expert in the past 85 years.

For a while, the library was to be the billiard room - a role now assumed by the former housekeeper's room at the far end of the house.

The ornate coffered ceilings which Brandon had installed were replaced by plain plaster though small ceiling roses remained for a while in the morning room. Once again, the opening between these rooms was blocked by a bookcase.

The fine marble mantelpiece in the morning room was introduced by Davis

Kitchens, Service Wing and Swimming Pool
Following its enlargement under Hardy, the service wing underwent further change in Davis’s time. With fewer servants and more convenience in the house, room functions evolved.

In a clear sign of changing times, the bedroom above the kitchen, once reserved for Mr Wildman (though one does wonder why) now enlarged, became a sitting room for the maids. The housekeeper's room downstairs was used by all the servants; the former servants' hall was now a dairy. The butler's bedroom and pantry combined (and slightly contracted to resume symmetry in the courtyard) became a new laundry room – the butler now slept upstairs. The adjoining WC became a “servery” for the dining room nearby.

At the far end of the Victorian wing, the old housemaids' sitting room, laundry and wash-room were demolished and Davis built a grand hall about 60 feet by 20 feet accommodating a large swimming pool lined with marble in “Roman” style under an open timber roof in a kind of crown-posted vaguely mediaeval style.  The architectural quality of this structure does not match Baker's work elsewhere; his plans (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of the British Architectural Library) indicate no change in this area.  Probably this work was carried out after Baker had closed his Chilham files and was engaged elsewhere.

The old passageway leading through the service accommodation was suitably upgraded with panelling and elegant doors, but the old stone floors remain, along with the stone steps down to the service wing, which provided extra height to disperse hot air and steam in the Jacobean Kitchen. This a lofty room, of adequate proportions for castle dinner parties, is now the Wheelers' dining room - their 21st century answer to the question confronting successive owners “Where is the best place to eat ?”

Next door is the new kitchen (the former scullery and bake house combined) – a bright room which, since the removal of the wall enclosing the Victorian kitchen courtyard, enjoys fine views across the park. Sun loungers are now arrayed where kitchen rubbish once accumulated.

The servants' hall had the same lofty pitch as the Jacobean kitchen but no large fires and, with big windows to north and north-west, this room could have been rather chilly in winter. Still largely unheated, part of its floor space is now occupied by a new WC off the corridor, with a hidden void above, to which access is provided by a mysterious high-level door.

Upper Floors
Immediately above the Great Hall is a slightly smaller room, a grand upper hall, solar or gallery. In Heron's time and when Jane Austen came with her family from Godmersham to visit the Wildmans, it was called the “ballroom”. In later, more sober, days it became the Wildmans' drawing room – the name it has to-day.

Hardy and Brandon had other ideas.   Moving the end walls inwards to their present positions, they enlarged the adjoining tower bedrooms, whose ancient plaster ceilings, extended to fill the gap, were picked out in chocolate, blue and gold. This colouring has now been removed, as have Brandon's Victorian fire grates, but the oak over-mantels and the Jacobean Reigate stone surrounds of the fireplaces remain. The surround in the room above the study is of particular interest, showing the Digges heraldic eagle with wings displayed grasping a sheaf of corn from the Kempe coat of arms – a clear reference to Digges's claim on the wealth of his wife's family. Wallpaper sandwiched behind the overmantel, reveals that it was not an original fitting, but the date of its installation is not known. The same applies to the overmantel in the other tower bedroom.

Fine though these two rooms are, they would have been grander still, had Thomas Heron not taken their bow windows away, or had Davis provided replacements like that in the morning room.

Brandon split the remaining space of the upper hall into three – a dressing room for each tower bedroom and between them, extending over the entrance porch, a “boudoir” lit by a new oriel (rather bigger than the original, which the Georgians had taken away). To heat the boudoir and the northern dressing room, a hefty new chimney disturbed the symmetry of the castle's front.

Davis and Baker left the enlarged tower bedrooms more or less unchanged, but they merged the three central rooms once more to recreate a slightly smaller Salon (or Solar as they called it at first). The obtrusive Victorian chimney was removed, the central fireplace reinstated (with a marble mantelpiece from elsewhere) and a new smaller oriel graced the entrance porch, with side windows resembling the original design.

When Brandon extended the south wing, he enlarged both bedrooms and made the two dressing rooms into one. A replacement dressing room was created at the west end of his courtyard extension with another in the west end of the kitchen wing. The fireplace in the south west bedroom had to be moved and there is some uncertainty about when the mantelpieces in both the south bedrooms were installed.

That in the south west bedroom is carved with flowers and fruit including the pomegranate – a symbol of fertility and hope, fashionable in England after its introduction by Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first queen.

The fireplace in the south-east bedroom (now named after its cow parsley pattern wallpaper) is decorated simply with blank shields – originally intended perhaps to record illustrious marriages made by Sir Dudley's descendants.

The sale particulars of 1914 mention a "Bethersden" marble [sic] fireplace in the South west bedroom, but, in the nineteen-forties, W S Willan (an architect from 18 St George's Place Canterbury who had worked on Chilham with Baker) recollected that one of the fireplaces in the bedrooms of this wing came from “the old dairy by the back door” - originally the Servants' Hall. The other, he said, came from the Billiard Room in the keep. He could not recall which was which and, after some 25 years, perhaps his memory was not altogether reliable. Given their fine quality, it seems unlikely that either of these fireplaces was ever in the Servants' Hall.

Though for a century and more, some of the fireplace surrounds have been described as Bethersden marble, Bernard C Worssam DSc FGS, an expert geologist whom I invited to the castle in 2008, identified them as Reigate stone.

More suited to servants' accommodation is the plain much-weathered chimneypiece (of Reigate stone) now in the billiard room (the former housekeeper's room in the Victorian extension). This ancient mantelpiece, some 2 centuries older than the Victorian room in which it stands, must have come from elsewhere; perhaps this was the one which Baker removed from the Jacobean servant's hall.

On the top floor, some charming, most suitable Tudor style stone mantelpieces have been installed, but we do not know when.

The central room at the front on the top floor, like the ballroom beneath, was divided into three by Brandon's adventurous and idiosyncratic alterations.  Davis and Baker removed the partitions making it into a single room once more.  In Lord Massereene's time, roof leakage in this area led to dry rot.  Following removal of the floor timbers and the ceiling of the ballroom beneath, the work stopped.  For many years, until the property was sold, the underside of the roof was in full view through the open void above the principal room of the first floor.

Adjoining the back stairs, the television room is lined with panelling which is said to have come from the house in the St George's district of Canterbury where the playwright Christopher Marlowe was born.  It is said that Sir Edmund acquired it from a Mr Jennings from Tunbridge Wells after the Marlowe Society had turned it down.  This architectural vandalism was redeemed in June 1942, when Marlowe's house and much of the surrounding area of Canterbury were destroyed by German incendiary bombs.

The same applies to other historic panelling which was brought to Chilham from districts of London which, within a couple of decades, were devastated in the blitz.

Beside the back stairs, to hoist coal from the cellars the Hardys installed a lift, which Sir Edmund Davis replaced with one to carry people – now working well.

A staff flat occupies the rooms over the Victorian service wing. Lord Massereene created a flat on the top floor of each wing – both now re-absorbed in the main house.

Otherwise, since Sir Edmund's time, few changes have been made upstairs – except for sanitary arrangements.

The castle's first bathroom was beside the dressing room in Brandon's courtyard extension to the kitchen wing, supplemented in due course by another serving the nurseries and housemaids' pantry nearby.

Brandon's extensions within the courtyard also contained small storage rooms and WCs, one to each side of the building, beside the two staircases. Over the next forty years or so, the castle's complement of WCs grew to seven. Today, including several en suites, there are nineteen.

In Sir Edmund's time, the Hardys' first bathroom was taken out, but the other in the kitchen wing survived, supplemented by eight more, paired off around the house – two in the first floor spare room beside the main stairs, one for the principal bedroom at the far end of the south wing, one in the old first floor WC by the back stairs, two in the south-east tower (on the first and second floors) and two off the top floor landing – nine in all.

Today there are twelve - four on the top floor, seven on the first floor, plus one in the staff flat.

Since at least the 18th century the castle has had efficient drains – a plan surviving from 1784 shows the layout at that time. Drinking water used to be stored in a cistern in the keep where Charles Stewart Hardy installed an “oil engine” to pump water from the mediaeval well.

The 1774 inventory gives us some insight into the use of the top floor in Colebrooke's days.
The billiard room occupied much of the kitchen wing – imagine lugging the table up there ! The menservants slept in the turret bedrooms on the top floor and their female colleagues, including the housekeeper, slept over the south wing. Plenty of space was available for visitors' servants.

And finally...........the Cellars

The twin cellars beneath the service wing, complete with slate shelves & hooks for hanging game, are good functional examples of the Victorian period. The Jacobean one is very different and much bigger - once it included five wine stores, one for beer, one for coal and others for game etc, as well as a “boot hall”, but this prosaic schedule gives no hint of its true flavour.

Sadly, even here, the damage done by David Brandon is apparent – to lower the south wing floors, he destroyed the cellar vaulting and, with it, the crypt-like atmosphere in that area, forcing some of us to crouch as we move about below.

Below the new bedroom which he provided for the butler beside the enlarged pantry, Brandon did create more cellar space, but the lop-sided protrusion of these rooms into the central courtyard spoilt the geometry; by combining them and reducing the floor space, Davis & Baker restored the correct shape.  In the process they also destroyed the butler's cellar.

Heron's corridor at  cellar level has been mentioned already; at the south-east end is a substantial recess, echoing one on the ground floor which was removed when Baker cut his panelled tunnel through to the main staircase. 

Counting the cellars, there are more than 100 rooms (including some perhaps more properly described as broom cupboards). Were he to wander about now, Sir Dudley Digges, (though probably regretting the loss of the fine bow windows from the front), might still feel at home in the bedrooms with his carved stone chimney pieces and surely he would recognise the drawing room upstairs, the morning room downstairs and of course his private parlour.

He would doubtless be impressed with the electric light, the running water, the central heating and surely the swimming pool.

Overall, one can be confident that he would approve of Chilham castle to-day, and, in particular, the sensitivity and care with which his 17th century masterpiece has been refurbished in the 21st century.
















©  Michael H Peters 2008


 

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