Here we meet Chiddingstone Castle’s Mark Streatfeild, whose family have resided in our beautiful Tudor village for some 500 years and helped preserve it for future generations, to discover what he loves most about living here.
As regular visitors to Chiddingstone will know, this historic village is a very special place in more ways than one. Not only is it one of the best-preserved Tudor enclaves in the country, but the buildings are also a perfect example of the famed ‘Kent’ style.
What people are perhaps less aware of, however, is the fascinating backstory to the village – and how it comes to be so perfectly preserved today.
National Trust village
To find out more, we need to travel back in time to the late 1930’s. At that time, the village was owned by one of the oldest families in Kent, the Streatfeilds, who have resided here for some 500 years. However, in 1939, wishing to see Chiddingstone village safely preserved for the nation, Henry Streatfeild, then High Sheriff of Kent, signed it over to the National Trust – and the rest, as they say, is history.
“It means we now have a perfectly-preserved Tudor village that everyone can enjoy,” says descendant Mark Streatfeild, who himself lives in the village with his own family. “We can also rest safe in the knowledge that it will be safely preserved for future generations.”
Tudor heritage to visit
Born and bred in the village, Mark is also the Chairman of Trustees at Chiddingstone Castle, the former family home, which has a fascinating history of its own.
Dating back to Tudor times originally, the building was later remodelled by Henry Streatfeild in the fashionable ‘medieval castle-style’ of the early 19th century. More recently, it became home to avid collector Denys Eyre Bower, who amassed an impressive collection of everything from Buddhist objects and Japanese lacquer to Ancient Egyptian treasures.
Today, Chiddingstone Castle is an acclaimed museum, open to the public on selected days from April to October, and run by a charitable trust – and, if you’re very lucky, you might just get to meet a Streatfeild yourself.
“I like to be very hands-on at the museum,” says Mark, who is also chairman of the local cricket club. “So, as well as helping out in the shop, I also do the occasional tour. It’s a wonderful place as it’s that rare combination of a former family home and an accredited museum, and then there’s the beautiful grounds. I’d encourage everyone to come and pay us a visit.”
Furthermore, this extraordinary heritage village also offers a wide array of other attractions too. For a start, it is also home to what is believed to be the oldest working shop in the country, The Tulip Tree, dating back to 1453. Then there is the fascinating church, dating back to the 13th century, and that’s not to mention the mysterious ‘Chiding Stone’. Regarded as a hallowed site by ancient druids, this intriguing natural feature is thought to be the inspiration behind the village’s name.
Quintessential English village pub
Then, on top of all that, there is our wonderful historic pub, The Castle Inn – where, in-between all of the above, you can enjoy a delicious meal, a light snack or a refreshing drink. Housed in a Grade II* listed building, which dates back to the early 15th century, we have a beautiful garden too.
“In summary, Chiddingstone is a wonderful place to visit for all these reasons – but it also has so many hidden gems as well,” adds Mark. “For example, there is our wonderful cricket club, at the top of the village, where you overlook all of Kent. So, you can watch a game against a backdrop of the most magnificent views.
“Then, there’s all the beautiful surrounding countryside, and the many walks, and afterwards you can enjoy some refreshments in the historic inn. All in all, it’s like a little bit of old England really.”
Insider’s Tip: There is a gate to Chiddingstone Castle right next to The Castle Inn, which takes you on a short, picturesque walk over the lake to the car park where you are very welcome to park your car – there’s just a small charge of £2 which can be left in an honesty box there. In fact, there are 35 acres of grounds to explore for free at Chiddingstone Castle if you want to work off your lunch at The Castle Inn.