Ightham Mote (pronounced "item moat") is a medieval moated manor house close to the village of Ightham, near Sevenoaks in Kent. Originally dating to around 1320, the building is important because it has most of its original features; successive owners effected relatively few changes to the main structure, after the completion of the quadrangle with a new chapel in the 16th century. Nikolaus Pevsner described it as "the most complete small medieval manor house in the country", and it remains an example that shows how such houses would have looked in the Middle Ages. Unlike most courtyard houses of its type, which have had a range demolished, so that the house looks outward, Nicholas Cooper observes that Ightham wholly surrounds its courtyard and looks inward, into it, offering little information externally.
The house has more than 70 rooms, all arranged around a central courtyard. The house is surrounded on all sides by a square moat, crossed by three bridges. The earliest surviving evidence is for a house of the early 14th century, with the Great Hall, to which were attached, at the high, or dais end, the Chapel, Crypt and two Solars. The courtyard was completely enclosed by increments on its restricted moated site, and the battlemented tower was constructed in the 15th century. Very little of the 14th century survives on the exterior behind rebuilding and refacing of the 15th and 16th centuries. The courtyard, gatehouse at left The structures include unusual and distinctive elements, such as the porter's squint, a narrow slit in the wall designed to enable a gatekeeper to examine a visitor's credentials before opening the gate. An open loccia with a fifteenth-century gallery above, connects the main accommodations with the gatehouse range. A large kennel built in the late 19th century for a St. Bernard named Dido is the only Grade I listed dog house.
Having moved here in about 1360, Thomas Cawne (also shown in the records as Couen, de Coven, Cawen) is the first known owner of Ightham Mote. Thomas, Richard and John were the sons of Richard de Coven, a tailor from Staffordshire. Owning a number of tenements in Wolverhampton, Richard was ‘town gentry’ and relatively well off. As a young man, Thomas and his friends used to get up to a bit of mischief. In 1345, he, along with his brothers and 4 other men were charged with the serious offence of hunting and poaching deer in John de Sutton’s park at Sedgely in Staffordshire. They were also charged with stealing money, and the less serious crime of assaulting de Sutton’s servant. Leaving his family home in Staffordshire, the ambitious young Thomas Cawne decided to seek his fortune in the military rather than follow in the family business. There is no evidence of his early military service, but by utilising the political instability in France during the 1350s to his advantage, he became a prominent soldier. By 1357, as captain of the fortress of the Neuberg, just outside Rouen in Normandy, he had a pivotal foothold in the region. As only a small number of captains were recorded during the 100 Years War, the fact that Thomas Cawne is amongst them shows just how important he was to the war effort – both in France and back home in England. He was also knighted for his services.
Cawne’s network of friends and acquaintances originally centred near his home in Staffordshire, however, after he enlisted in the military, his circle of friends moved to London and its neighbouring counties. The business of war often required people to travel between the capital and the channel, which made Kent an attractive place to live. It was in Kent that he married Lora Moraunt, daughter of Sir Thomas Moraunt of Chevening. They settled at Ightham Mote with their two children, Robert and Thomas. In 1369, Cawne and his army occupied a house in the village of Etienne Dupree near Rouen. The owner of the house William de Cordier payed Cawne 70 francs to ‘protect’ his house, on the condition that Cawne’s army left the village and his house would be spared from the fire. Unfortunately, when Cordier returned home, he found it razed to the ground. When Cordier complained, Cawne stole his horse, which meant he had to buy another horse (from the English) to get home. After Sir Thomas Cawne died, his eldest son Robert inherited Ightham Mote. He was certainly a character – he was sent to the Tower of London for trying to kill his wife Marjory by throwing her into a well. He was eventually pardoned by the king, but little is known of him afterwards.
Owning several estates, including Ightham Mote, the Hautes were a prominent and influential Kent family. Appearing in county records as Sheriffs, Justices of the Peace, Members of Parliament, and in royal service. They were well read, well educated and well connected. Nicholas Haute became one of the wealthiest men in the county, aged just 16 years old, as heir to his grandfathers estates, but it wasn't until 1379, when he became 21, that he could inherit the knighthood. His mother retained a lifetime income from the family estate, so it wasn't until her death in 1391 that he received his full inheritance. In 1389, he married Alice Cawne, who would eventually inherit Ightham Mote from her brother Robert. After Alice died, Nicholas married Eleanor Tyrell, thus allying himself with another important landowning family. Throughout his life, he held important offices both in the county and in the King's service, and served as Sheriff of Kent, and as Member of Parliament for the county. Sir Nicholas Haute died c.1415 / 16 and his eldest son William inherited the family estates, including Ightham Mote.
William Haute Esq inherited Ightham Mote in 1416, although he probably lived at Bishopbourne, near Canterbury. in c.1419, William married Margaret, the daughter of Sir Hugh Berwick, bringing more land and income into the Haute family. Margaret died in c.1427, and in 1429, William remarried. His second wife, Joan Woodville, was from another powerful family, which in 1469 would see her become aunt to the Queen of England in 1469. As a condition of the marriage, William agreed to disinherit his daughter by his first wife, although he did say she didn't have to join a convent. Richard Haute inherited Ightham Mote in 1462. As cousin to Elizabeth Wooville, who married King Edward IV in 1464, this close connection to the royal family made Richard an important figure in the county and at court. As his status rose, Richard embarked on the programme of building works, which would turn the 15th century manor of Ightham Mote into a property of considerable distinction. A fashionable home with inner and outer courtyards, reception rooms and guest accommodation of very high quality.
In 1483, after being accused of rebellion, his estates were seized by order of King Richard III and Ightham Mote was given to James Haute for good service. However, in 1485, Richard Haute was pardoned and his estates returned. If you thought Nicholas was young to have inherited at 16, Edward was a mere 11 years old in 1487 when he inherited Ightham Mote. Edward either did not have a head for business, lived outside his means or perhaps a combination of both, as he amassed large debts. In 1514, some of his property was confiscated, whilst he had to sell other properties in 1518. He mortgaged Ightham Mote, but was forced to sell later that year, and a little while later he ended up in Ludgate debtors prison before fleeing to Ireland.
If you were to write a novel about Richard Clement you would not need to create fiction. This man, an owner of 'the Mote' for just 17 years from 1521 until his death in 1538, led quite a life. Two wives, at least two mistresses, three illegitimate children and a career at court; he made himself known in the area. A self- made man, with a lot of influential friends that saw him move from a ‘gentry’ birth in East Sussex, to the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII. As a page in the Privy chamber of Henry VII he was paid ‘rewards’ and was buying and accepting merchandise and gifts on behalf of the King. One such example in 1506, showed that he received 30 shillings for ‘vij yerdes of crimosyn sarcenett at iiij s the yerde’, making a profit in the process. He was listed as a page at the funeral of Elizabeth of York in February 1503, but by the time that Henry VII died in April 1509, he was not only present at the deathbed, but was named at his funeral as ‘a gentilman of the household’. With the accession of Henry VIII, he lost his post at court, but before July 1509, his financial future was assured by marrying a rich older widow – Anne Whittlebury, from Northampton.
In Northampton, Clement took the role of landowner and was also a ‘Commissioner of Sewers’. Back at Court he was a ‘Gentleman Usher’ and he fought at the Battle of the Spurs in 1513. By 1521, he was back in Kent, purchasing Ightham Mote for £400, with the assistance of a consortium of local friends and important names of Kent. During the 1520s he embarked on a frenzy of building work at The Mote, stained glass windows, the painted ceiling in the guest suite, all to show allegiance to Henry VIII, or perhaps to expect a Royal visitor? Who knows? In November 1528, his wife died, but by 1530 he had acquired the hand of the Lady Anne Grey – widow of Lord John Grey, hoping to gain further connections at court. An ambitious man, he was keen to react to any local disturbance or disorder. He used his knowledge of the law throughout his land purchases and sales, always to try to gain his advantage. And make his name known, so by 1529 he had done sufficient notable works to ensure that he was knighted by Henry VIII. He was appointed ‘Commissioner for the Peace’ a number of times, firstly in 1531. Something of an irony, when in 1534, he summoned 200 men to ‘peacekeeping’ duties at Shipbourne, ending up in the Star Chamber as a defendant and being dispatched to the Fleet! He was also present at the magnificent Coronation of Anne Boleyn in 1533, then had a hand in her demise in 1536. He died in 1538, making provision for his ‘bastard’ daughters, and others, leaving the residue of his estate to his wife, the Lady Anne Grey, and was buried next to his first wife in Ightham Church.
Designated parking spaces available for disabled visitors in the Walled car par - next to Visitor Reception. There is a volunteer-driven shuttle buggy between Visitor Reception and the Shop (depending on availability of drivers). For those dependent on motorised mobility chairs, it might be easier to drive down to the disabled entrance next to the shop. Please pay at Visitor Reception first. Please note: some motorised mobility chairs are too large to go round the house due to size / width of rooms and corridors. Manual wheelchairs available to borrow from Visitor Reception on a first-come-first-served basis. Accessible toilets available at the top of the property, behind the Mote Café; and the Old Coach House Shop near the house at the bottom of the slope. Walking sticks / stick seats are available to borrow from Visitor reception on a first-come-first-served basis. Gardens have a mixture of gravel and grass paths, some steep slopes, undulating terrain and steps. Suggested level access map around the gardens available from Visitor Reception. House has uneven floors, steps and doorways of different widths. Only the ground floor is accessible. Induction loop. Large print and Braille house guides available to borrow from the Conservatory. Assistance dogs welcome throughout house and gardens.
Location : Ightham Mote, Mote Road, Ivy Hatch, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN15 0NT
Transport : Sevenoaks (National Rail) then bus (Go Travel 404). Bus Routes : Go Travel 404 (Mon. - Fri. ask driver) stops outside. Autocar 222 or Arriva 308 have 2 mile walk
Opening Times : Daily 10:00 to 15:30 (Exhibition and Gardens) House open weekends 11:00 to 15:00.
Tickets : 29th February to 30th October Adult £11.00; Child £5.50. Winter Adult £5.50; Child £2.80
Tel. : 01732 810378