One of the reasons Tunbridge Wells is so popular is because of the large number of National Trust properties in close proximity to the town. When tourists visit they often ask us which is the best National Trust property near to Tunbridge Wells.
A close friend of mine has just returned to work for the National Trust on their surveying team. We had a brief conservation a few weeks ago and our chat inspired me to visit some National Trust properties over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.
I am lucky enough to live in Tunbridge Wells and there are a good number of National Trust properties nearby. I could have gone down the ‘Castle’ route and visited Sissinghurst Castle (with its Cottage Garden and ‘Sunset Garden’) or Bodiam Castle surrounded by its own moat. However, since Google Maps informed me of long delays due to traffic to both of these properties, I quickly discounted both options.
This was a real shame because I had recently read how Sissinghurst’s Assistant Head Gardener, Helen Champion, had helped plan the Spring planting to reflect Vita Sackville-West‘s ‘sunset themed’ garden from the 1930s/1950s. Vita created this sun set garden for her husband Harold Nicholson to admire from his book room between 1930 and 1950. Helen Champion and her team have worked tirelessly to re-create Vita’s vision. The sunset garden will burst into life in April and should peak late summer. I therefore plan to visit later in the year.
I was also very disappointed to miss out on visiting Bodiam Castle because my young toddler is currently obsessed with castles and Bodiam is archetypal with its 600-year old portcullis, peep holes, a moat and gun loops. Having said that, the steep winding staircases may have been tricky for the little person!
Chartwell House, with its rich history, became an obvious choice. We visited on Good Friday and there was a lovely atmosphere. Sir Winston Churchill purchased the estate in 1922 with his wife, Clementine. It became their family home for the next forty years. Clementine Churchill presented the house to the National Trust in 1965 after Winston’s death. It then opened to the public in 1966.
There are several walks to enjoy throughout the estate and the gardens are beautiful at this time of year. The Walled Garden has been meticulously looked after and furthermore, at the top is a well placed coffee shop. Here, one can enjoy fine views across the countryside whilst enjoying drinks and cake.
The house itself has an interesting aesthetic. It benefits from unusual architecture with red-brick elevations and stepped gables. This is not to everyone’s taste. For example, Oliver Garnett wrote in 2008 that the house is an example of Victorian architecture at its least attractive.
Whatever your view on the architecture of the property, it can not be denied that the imposing house has grandeur. Furthermore, the fact that Sir Winston Churchill owned the Estate for over 40 years, cements it as one of the most interesting houses in the National Trust.
Perhaps my favourite National Trust property near Tunbridge Wells, is Scotney Castle, which seems to have it all. One can choose to admire the Regency / early Victorian Manor House or wander down to the castle ruins. There are fantastic walks across the countryside and the formal gardens have huge variety.
The main house dates back to the early 1830s when Edward Hussey III transformed the estate. A new house was built at the top of the hill overlooking the valley and the castle ruins. The National Trust website explains that Scotney Castle is now celebrated as one of the most significant survivals of a ‘complete picturesque landscape’.
The Victorian Manor House is built of sandstone quarried from the grounds of the old castle.
Scotney remained in the Hussey family until 1970 when Christopher Hussey bequeathed the estate to the National Trust. Christopher’s widow, Betty Hussey remained in residence until her death in 2007 when the house first opened to visitors.
For more information about what we believe to be the best national trust property near Tunbridge Wells do not hesitate to contact our Tunbridge Wells team or the Tunbridge Wells office on 01892 533733.