1607 - 1639
Sir Dudley Digges (Father)
Sir Dudley Digges, the builder of the house, was its best-known owner. He was a pioneering entrepreneur, pursuing merchant adventuring to the limits of the known world, a fearless politician, not afraid to challenge even the King, a senior member of the judiciary and an author of several serious tomes on subjects of the day.
1639 - 1687
Thomas Digges (Son)
In 1639 the Chilham Castle estate passed to Thomas Digges (Sir Dudley’s eldest son) who married Mary, daughter of Sir Maurice Abbott.
1687 — 1717
Leonard Digges (son)
Thomas bequeathed the estate to his only surviving son, Leonard Digges, who married Elizabeth Mary, daughter of Sir John Osbourne of Chicksand, Bedfordshire.
718 — 1720
John Digges (son)
In 1718, on Leonard’s death, Chilham passed to his eldest son, John Digges, Sir Dudley’s great-grandson
1720 — 1724
Thomas Digges (brother)
On John’s death, childless, in 1720, the estate went to his brother Colonel Thomas Digges
1724 — 1752
James Colebrooke (creditor and purchaser)
Thomas was not good with money and, having accumulated overwhelming debts, soon found himself forced to sell Chilham to his principal creditor, James Colebrooke, a wealthy and powerful banker from the City of London.
1752 — 1774
Robert Colebrooke (son)
In 1752 on James’s death, (when he was reputedly worth £800,000) the estate passed to his son Robert Colebrooke
1774 — 1794
Thomas Heron (purchaser)
He bought Chilham in 1774 (it must have amused him to acquire an estate with a centuries-old heronry).
1794 — 1816
James Wildman (purchaser)
In 1794, James Wildman, a Lancastrian from Barking Geat, near Ormskirk, prospered in Jamaica as agent for the fabulously wealthy William Beckford of Fonthill. Having bought from his master some land which he described as ‘waste’ upon which he built a sugar factory, Wildman had within 12 years become wealthy enough to buy Chilham. Apart from undocumented changes to the fenestration, he seems to have done little or nothing to the place – perhaps Heron’s expenditure made further expense unnecessary.
1816 — 1861
James Beckford Wildman (son)
In 1816, James’s son, James Beckford Wildman, inherited Chilham from his father with an annual spending income of £20,000
1861 — 1867
Charles Hardy (purchaser)
In 1861, the estate was bought by Charles Hardy, of Low Moor Yorkshire, a Bradford iron-founder, whose father Sir John Hardy owned Dunstall Hall, Staffordshire. The family had done well in a short time – a recent ancestor had been a gardener.
1867 — 1914
Charles Stewart Hardy (son)
The estate passed to the eldest son, Charles Stewart Hardy, (known as Stewart). Aged 28, a qualified lawyer, he became in due course Member of Parliament for Bradford, in the family’s former home county
1914 — 1918
Charles Hardy (son)
Young Charles Hardy, his son, became owner of the estate, which at the time comprised 3,270 acres with 14 farms, 420 acres in hand and 650 acres of woodland. Over 60 dwellings – most of the village – were rented out or occupied by workers on the estate
1918 — 1941
Edmund Davis (purchaser)
In 1918, Edmund Gabriel Davis bought what was left of the estate.
1944 — 1949
Somerset de Chair (purchaser)
Somerset de Chair, politician, writer and collector of art and antiques, was drawn to Chilham by events, though ambition also played a part while he was here.
1949 — 1992
Hon. John Skeffington (purchaser) (Viscount Massereene and Ferrard)
In 1949 Chilham was offered for sale by auction with its remaining 400 acres and bought by ‘Jock’ Skeffington for £94,000. With his wife Annabelle McNamara née Lewis, he lived there until his death in 1992.
1992 — 1997
Viscount Massereene and Ferrard (son)
At Lord Massereene’s death, the property passed to his son
1997 — 2002
Giorgiou Petrou (purchaser)
In 1997 the mansion and park were sold to Giorgiou Petrou
2002 - 2020
Stuart and Tessa Wheeler (purchasers)
Stuart and Tessa Wheeler bought the castle in 2002 and immediately began the work on the restoration. They were guided by Mary Keen in the gardens and Christopher Gibbs and Jane Ormsby-Gore in the house. Stuart Wheeler died in July 2020.