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17,Aug,17 // Written by Mark Burnett

Architectural Visit to Ightham Mote & Knole House

For our fourth “architectural visit” we spent the day exploring two National Trust properties in Kent; Ightham Mote and Knole House.

Ightham Mote

Ightham Mote is a medieval moated manor house, surrounded by peaceful gardens with an orchard, water features, lakes and woodland walks.

Built nearly 700 years ago, this 14th century house has some very striking Tudor architectural features, including;

• Tall decorative brick chimneys. A row of 7 hexagonal chimneys can be found on the east elevation of the house.

• Timber and stone brackets supporting jetties to the upper floor. Jetties provided extra room on upper floors, but were also a sign of higher status.

• Close-studding (timbering) and render to the first floor of the house, the excessive use of timber was a sign of wealth.

• Interesting examples of lead flashings and lead rainwater chutes and downpipes.

The house at Ightham is a Grade I listed building (this includes the reasonably large tiled dog house in the central courtyard), and parts of it are a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The architectural writer John Newman describes it as “the most complete small medieval manor house in the country” because it still has most of its original features, due to successive owners effecting relatively few changes to the main structure.

Knole House

Knole House, which sits proudly within Kent’s last medieval deer park (still populated by wild deer), was originally built as an archbishop’s palace about 600 years ago. The property has been passed through royalty and is now owned by the Sackville family, who still live there today.

The property is a stark contrast to Ightham Mote which we visited earlier. It is much larger and grander; and is overpowering with opulence. In terms of architecture, the property has a castle-like appearance, with;

• Tall decorative brickwork chimneys. 4 clusters of 6 octagonal chimneys can be found spread across the west (front) elevation.

• Castellations (or crenellations) atop the parapet walls. These gaps in the walls enabled arrows or other weaponry to be shot at attackers.

• Stone-topped curved dutch gables with tiled roofs behind.

• Exquisite examples of rolled lead roofs and lead rainwater goods.

At Knole House, we climbed the steep spiral staircase to the top of “The Gatehouse Tower” which dominates Knole’s west front. At the top we were met with panoramic views of Knole Park and the opportunity to get a closer look at the imposing chimneys, complex roofscape and the carved stone leopards (the Sackville family’s emblem) which sit at the top of each dutch gable.

Inside the property we visited “The King’s Room” (viewed from within a glass enclosure) which contains items of solid silver furniture and a 4-poster bed with gold & silver threadwork, topped with ostrich feathers, which is believed to have been made for James II when he was still Duke of York.


Of the two properties we visited, although Ightham Mote was a smaller property and estate, it was a much more interesting building architecturally. Tudor features are definitely a favourite of the team here at Blue Sky CAD.