Westenhanger Castle, Kent
Stone Street, Off A20
Westenhanger Castle sits snuggly tucked away next to Fokestone Racecourse, barely visible from the main A20 road between Ashford & Hythe. How many times i must have passed by this hidden treasure as a kid without any idea what lay behind the trees. This is until one day my curiosity led me off the main road into the village of Westenhanger, almost out the other side down a track beside the racecourse, and behold a fabulous castle set beautifully in its manicured lawns, framed with ancient trees.
It is understood that there may well have been a Royal Palace on the site as far back as the Saxon age in the days when Kent had its own King. A castle started to take shape during the 12th century and it is from this era the northern wall Rosamunds Tower takes its name. Rosamund Clifford was a mistress to King Henry II and was described as the 'most beautiful woman in the world', and is reputed to have stayed here and received secret visits from the King.
The current castle we see today was built in the mid 14th century and was defended by a wet moat, walls some 4 feet thick and at its peak is said to have 365 windows and 126 rooms.
At one point the now dry moat was fed from damning and re-routing the River Stour and measured some 50 feet across
Today the castle is a private home, used for wedding venues and conferences, but is open to the intrepid explorer if you ask nicely!
Years after finding this lovely castle, we returned to choose this as the venue for our wedding, which as you can see from the photo's, is the perfect setting for a Castle Finders Wedding.
~ History ~
1100 ~ The manor of Westenhanger is owned by the Auberville family, descendants of William de Ogburville, knight of William the Conqueror.
1343 ~ John de Kiriel is licensed by Edward III to fortify his manor house.
1460 ~ Sir Thomas de Kiriel is slain at the second Battle of St Albans whilst fighting for the House of York.
1461 ~ The castle passes to Fogge of Ripton, near Ashford.
1503 ~ Ownership of the castle reverts to the descendants of the Kiriel's, Sir Edward Poyning, who makes further improvements to the castle in the latest Tudor fashion
1509 ~ Sir Edward Poynings re-unites the estates of Ostenhanger and Westenhanger. As Lord Deputy of Ireland, Governor of Dover Castle and Lord Warden of five ports and Knight of the Garter, Sir Edward uses his position and friendship with King Henry VII, and later Henry VIII, to further improve the accomodation and defences of Westenhanger Castle.
1585 ~ Following a period of Crown ownership, the castle is granted to Thomas Smythe, but following a visit by Queen Elizabeth I, the castle is given to Sir Thomas Sackville
1648 ~ Following an unsuccessful Royalist uprising, prisoners are kept at the castle.
1701 ~ Most of the buildings are demolished for the value of the materials and a farm house is built nearby, with a Tudor house built in the north-east corner of the castle. This is later demolished and in its place a Georgian house is built