Monday 7 April 2014

Scotney Castle

I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed in Scotney Castle before I even got there, purely on account of it not being called SCONEY CASTLE. Such a shame.

I'm going to let them off that oversight though, because Scotney is a fantastic place. It has two main parts - the 'new' house completed in 1843 and the old house which dates back to medieval times. 

The old part was originally built by Roger Ashburnham in 1378-1380. The tower in the photo below is known as the Ashburnham Tower and there used to be four of them, just as there is at Bodiam Castle. 

Scotney Old Castle Tower

The Darell family came along after that - they owned Scotney for 350 years, during which time they knocked down bits of the Old Castle and rebuilt the place to suit their needs. Their needs included a priest hole, as they were Catholics and they needed somewhere to hide Father Blount during tricky times. 

The house was then bought by Edward Hussey in 1778. He lived in the Old Castle until he committed suicide. His grandson, Edward Hussey III, had been brought up in St Leonards but he moved back to Scotney and decided to build a new home that used the old place as part of the Picturesque landscape. 

(I don't mind admitting that I had absolutely no clue what Picturesque meant until I went to Scotney. I've since found out that it was an aesthetic concept that reacted against the neat and tidy garden layouts of Capability Brown and co. Having a ruined castle within your view of a landscape was a positive, according to Picturesque thinking.) 

Scotney Old Castle

The house that Hussey built was designed by Anthony Salvin, who was expert in building homes in the Elizabethan style. It's really very pretty while also being a little bit I'm-going-to-pour-boiling-tar-on-your-invading-head foreboding:

Scotney Castle

And that's what I loved about Scotney - it's a real contrast of styles. You can go from medieval to real Elizabethan to faux Elizabethan to the 1950s in 10 minutes. And the house has a lived-in homely feel - Betty Hussey, wife of Edward's great-nephew Christopher, died just a few years ago but she asked that the cat was allowed to remain and so its food bowls are sitting in the kitchen as if Betty had just popped out.

(I've mentioned before that National Trust guidebooks always contain at least one WOWSERS! factoid and Scotney's WOWSERS! factoid is that Betty did the kitchen up with the proceeds of the place being used in the Richard Gere film, Yanks. Richard Gere at Scotney Castle. Who knew.)

The Scotney Castle scone
It was a cold, wet day at Scotney but the one advantage of a cold, wet day when you're visiting a National Trust property is that you are really, really, very, very pleased to see a cup of tea and a scone. 

The Scotney scones looked the part and my goodness did they live up to expectation. Soft, full of fruit, tasty as anything - it was a unanimous 5 out of 5.  

Scotney Castle scones

Scotney also gets extra merit for having a Scone Of The Month. April's SOTM was banana and walnut and it was ruddy delicious. 

Banana and walnut scone Scotney Castle

So go to Scotney and get a ruined castle, a Victorian house built in Elizabethan style, an illusive cat, an Aga funded by Richard Gere, fabulous scones, AND a Scone of the Month - what more could you possibly want?

Scotney Castle: 5 out of 5
Scones: 5 out of 5
Banana & Walnut Scone Of The Month: 5 out of 5

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