Chiddingstone Castle is situated in the village of Chiddingstone, near Edenbridge, Kent, 35 miles south of London and in the upper valley of the River Medway. The castle itself dates from the early 19th century, but incorporates elements of earlier buildings on the same site. The first significant building to occupy the site of the castle was a timber-framed dwelling, inhabited from the early 16th century by Richard Streatfeild, an iron master and wool merchant. Little remains of this first structure as, in 1679, Henry Streatfeild (1639-1719) had the house rebuilt in red brick in the Restoration style. The building was known as High Street House or High Street Mansion since it fronted the village high street. Remodelling of the house's grounds in the 19th century resulted in the current diversion of the road through the village. In the early 19th century, Henry Streatfeild (1757-1829), the son of Henry Streatfeild (1706-1762) and Lady Anne Sidney, commissioned William Atkinson to rebuild the house in the Gothic style however Atkinson's design was not completed and, in 1835, Streatfeild's son, also Henry Streatfeild (1784-1852), engaged the architect Henry Kendal to carry out further work. Although the Streatfields owned the house, now renamed Chiddingstone Castle, until it was sold to Lord Astor in 1938, the family did not live there after 1900. During the Second World War, the castle hosted members of the Canadian Forces before becoming Long Dene School until 1954.
In 1955, the castle was purchased by Denys Eyre Bower (1905-1977), a former bank clerk and antiques dealer, in order to display his collections. Bower was born in Crich, Derbyshire and started collecting at a young age. Bower initially worked as a bank clerk before taking over Cavendish Hood antiques dealers in Baker Street, London in 1943. The redevelopment of Baker Street led to Bower moving to Chiddingstone Castle where he intended to show his collections to the public. However, in 1957 Bower was convicted of attempted murder of his girlfriend and attempted suicide and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Released in 1962 after successful efforts by solicitor Ruth Eldridge to prove a miscarriage of justice, Bower returned to Chiddingstone Castle which, with the help of Eldridge and her sister Mary, he continued to open to visitors until his death in 1977.
Bower's decision to collect objects from Japan was inspired by his father's own interest in Chinese porcelain. The collection of lacquer is considered to be one of the most important in a private collection, whilst displays at the castle also feature swords, armour and haniwa figures. The Ancient Egyptian collection spans the whole history of the civilisation and includes both grave goods, such as ushabti figures and amulets, and items from everyday life, including food and drink vessels. In 2013, items from the collection were lent to the Houston Museum of Natural Science for display in their Hall of Ancient Egypt. In British history, Bower was most interested in the House of Stuart and Jacobitism and was a member of the Royal Stuart Society. His collecting in this area included portraits of members of the House of Stuart, swords, objects with hidden Jacobite symbols and royal manuscripts. There is an extensive collection of antique books on the subject in the library, on display at the Castle. As with other areas of his collecting, Bower's interest in objects relating to Buddhism was driven by personal reasons; Bower was a Buddhist. Despite this, the collection does not focus on any one particular school of Buddhist thought or on any particular country. Amongst items currently displayed at the castle are thangkas and images of Buddha.
In addition to Bower's collections, the castle's 19th century kitchen still retains many of its original features, such as three cake ovens, and is used to display a collection of kitchen utensils and an ice chest, reflecting the fact that the castle once had an ice house. There is also a servants’ hall and a servants’ bedroom. The Castle also holds some archives of local history. The Castle lake measures around 3.5 hectares. It divides the village of Chiddingstone from the grounds of Chiddingstone Castle. It is naturally stocked with wild Carp, Bream and Perch. It held the record for the largest Bream for 37 years, from 1945.
As all Denys Bower’s collections are sited on the ground floor at Chiddingstone Castle, they are easily accessible for wheelchair users. The newly opened Library and Streatfeild Room (showing the history of the Castle and the village) are to be found on the first floor just off the Gallery - regrettably there is no lift to these exhibition rooms but interpretation of the Streatfeild Room can be read in the ground floor Housekeeper’s Room. Four specially reserved disabled car parking spaces are located in the car park (a one minute walk from the main North Door) and a spacious disabled washroom is sited in their Tea Room courtyard. All principal entrances and exits can be fitted with wheelchair access facilities. Assistance dogs are welcome.
Location : Chiddingstone Castle, Hill Hoath Road, Chiddingstone, Edenbridge, Kent TN8 7AD
Transport : Edenbridge Town (National Rail) then bus (232). Bus Routes : 232, 237, 631 and 632 stop near by
Opening Times : Sunday to Wednesday, Good Friday through October 31st 11:00 to 17.00
Tickets : Adults £9.00; Children (5 - 13) £4.00
Tel. : 01892870347